I’ve been trying to catch up on some reading, and Thomas Friedman’s added content to The World is Flat 3.0 is one of them.  There’s a great section about using social media tools for educational projects that reflects what is my every day reality of collaborating with people I know across the Country and across the Globe.  I’m also reading Cult fo the Amateur by Andrew Keen, and these books have me thinking.

Do we buy newspapers and magazines for their content or for the ads?  It should be the content, right? So what is the purpose of the ads, and how did we get into such an ad-centric and ad-dependent culture?

I’ll assume that the ads provide money to the magazine to help defray printing costs, and pay the overhead at the magazine or newspaper.  But why not charge more for the content and reduce the ads? When I open up a book, it doesn’t look like a NASCAR with brand names all over the cover or inside the covers.  It may have some information about the author’s other work, but no advertising per se.  I pay for the content, not the ads.

I suppose it’s an endless cycle at this point.  Newspapers have come to depend on the ad revenue to such an extent that when Ebay or Craig’s List starts siphoning off business, newspapers get hurt.  But is this in part the fault of looking to ad revenue to subsidize hard news, rather than charging for the content itself in the first place?

So let’s transfer this argument online.  Most blogs, according to the Cult of the Amateur, generate little in the way of ad revenue.  I don’t even bother with ads or pay per post, because my intent here is to serve myself, not someone else, or blog solely as a revenue generating venture.  Are ads something to defray the costs of hosting, akin to the old media model, or because we are too chicken to ask people to pay for content?

I don’t know the answer to any of this- it just struck me that we worry so much about ad revenue, ROI, promotion and targeted audience that we sometimes forget about content, quality and value.  We seem scared about standing up for the value we do add to ventures.

Is this true?  As we move to a conversation and community based system of communication between companies and customers, are we all just focus groups?  What ads work, and which ones are a waste of time and space, no matter how creative (I’d put the ads for TV shows on eggs in the grocery store on that list, personally.)  What do you think?