How many times do we see social networks struggle along, build user bases and raise endless amounts of venture capital, only to get to the point where they have to come up with a business model that will keep them going for the long term?
Twitter is a great example. Even now it is scrabbling around trying to find revenue opportunities to make it viable. And what do we get, as users? We get half-baked advertweets inserted in our timelines. We get to suffer the output of some lowly marketing executive’s imagination bypass.
And it’s not just Twitter. All the platforms are at it. Little boxes selling unwanted crap on Facebook, tedious promotional overlays on YouTube videos. It’s tacked-on-at-the-last-minute inconvenience, a “monstrous carbuncle on a much-loved friend”, to quote some guy who’s been passed over for promotion.
But it doesn’t have to be like this. Advertising doesn’t have to be an afterthought, a last ditch attempt to salvage the solvency of a bunch of amateurs that got lucky and made something popular when they were just trying to make an online shopping list or hipster photo album.
What if, just if, we could put advertising at the heart of it? Instead of scrabbling around for the next social networking money pit we stopped for a second and thought about how much we all loved advertising. Truly. We can’t get enough of it.
We stop in the middle of films because we want to know more about toothpaste. We stop reading tedious articles about science to look at beautiful flashing graphics of anti-virus software. We’re obsessed. And the only thing getting in the way of all this glory is our friends trying to have conversations with us. Or people trying to write informative stuff that nobody cares about, like the environment. Or health.
So, here’s the opportunity. Instead of trying to shoehorn advertising into the next big thing, why don’t we just make advertising the next big thing? Why not build a network of advertising? We could have websites with advertising that filled the whole page instead of being relegated to the side, or sheepishly inserted into articles.
We could have apps that laugh in the face of tiny adverts at the bottom of the screen. They could fill the screen. They would be the apps. And there would be no apologetic business model. There would be no scrabbling around for money. This would be all about money.
So, twenty-something men (because you will be men and you will be twenty-something), next time you want to make something truly awesome, think about this. Start with a plan. Make an advertising network that everyone can be part of. Give us what we really want. And if some years down the line your investors make you tack on features like “sharing” or “liking” then that’s fine. Because you’ll be making money. And so you’ll have already won the internet.