The downside of pay-to-play (advertising)
As I scroll through my twitter feed (yes, please control your shudder) I notice something that stands out big time: Most of the comments/tweets/stories have no likes or interactions at all, even when the account in question has thousands of followers. I also notice on further perusal that many of these accounts have thousands of followers and rarely post or update their sites. I notice that the amount of interactions is not anywhere near the proportional follows or quality of content in the post. I am a person who despises things done behind the curtain or out of eyesight, just because I have no choice but to take notice of it. If there is something going on and it creates inconsistency in a data set or in real life, I will notice and it will bug me. The funny thing is, I notice lots of things like this in the modern world, And I know the cause of a great deal of it.
The cause of these shenanigans appearing on my feed is pay-to-play, or as most people call it: online advertising.
On a low level, it is rather obvious. Some new site/blog with thousands of social interactions is undoubtedly using a form of advertising to stimulate their growth at an unnatural rate. Some old dog who has been around for years may have low levels of interactions or follows, but they are generic, and on the surface it would appear that they are equally popular or valuable. This is very similar to the modern music industry, sometimes new artists take the world by storm and sometimes old ones make a comeback with a decent album. Nowadays growth rarely happens quickly with plain old fashioned word of mouth, it must be stimulated to some degree.
I would venture to say that even thousands of books have been written about advertising and building a business image. Rightfully so, because there is a very hazy correlation between the various methods people have used to achieve success. There is so much uncertainty involved that it appears on the surface to sometimes be related to luck, and sometimes related to hard work and dedication. And sometimes neither or both.
Let me get to the point: In the modern world you need to be aware of the signs of somebody using pay-to-play advertising. If you were naive enough to think every view on the internet was generated some other way, I also have a bridge I could sell you and you will make money on it immediately. You simply must be aware of what is happening around you if you wish to compete.
Analogy time: bodybuilders make for a great example here. EVERYBODY IN PROFESSIONAL BODYBUILDING is a steroid user. Ignore the legal implications of this for a moment. We have a group of highly competitive people who control the stage. They all take steroids in order to compete at this level and remain relevant. They are all aware of what they are doing, sometimes painfully so. Now here is where we find the greatest and most damaging similarity between steroids and pay-to-play advertising in a nutshell:
Nobody talks about it! Nobody admits using at this level!
No matter how I continue with this article the tone is going in a negative direction and that wasn't my intent. Some things just are not pleasant to talk about, and this is one of those things. I could go into a monotribe about how much ads cost, how much they return, how much visibility they provide, and how much that visibility will multiply the existing value of your product. That would be a perhaps more upbeat article. But earlier I mentioned there are thousands of books on the subject, and I am sure you can pick one up once you are aware of the phenomena.
Here are some damaging aspects of pay to play advertising:
- Little guys with no money stay on the bottom of the food chain
- Big guys stay on the top because they redirect their revenue to the ad stream
- Pay to play creates an atmosphere where your product or site might not be doing as well as it could even though you have decent content. Because nobody talks about using ads, you may not even understand why you can't compete with other businesses of a similar nature.
- Some people invest money in ads, then see little return because their content will not sustain the ads long term. This costs money and damages the market because they take views from good products, while at the same time causing a general devaluation of the adspace they were placed in, which hurts the next ad purchaser.
This type of damaging advertising has been around since precisely one second after the internet was invented. Ads have evolved from simple product based platforms, to ads for internet companies, all the way to click bait - which are ads solely to take you to a page where hopefully you click on an ad! How absolutely absurd is that?! Ads are so prevalent that if you have any product and wish to compete on the internet with it, you must purchase ads to do so. Ads beget ads. Long gone are the days where a product would sell itself without assistance. Now you absolutely need to recognize the game you are in and be prepared to play it.
So yeah. There. It had to be gone over and now I am done. I hope for those of you with a good head on your shoulders you can see this was not a player-hating article driven for the purpose to knock ppl who made it happen using online advertising. This article was written to increase your awareness of the electronic world. Now go out and figure out how to make this knowledge useful, because it is indeed a reality of 2017 that your thoughts and impulses are being sold to the highest bidder.