Monetization Does Not Equal Selling Out
Media can be highly prosperous in many forms. Brands shell out millions on Super Bowl Ads. Coke dishes out big $ to make sure Simon’s iconic coke glass faces with the logo to the Idol audience. Restaurants like Cheesecake Factory line their menus with ads for designer shoes. Even urinals have become a hot spot for in-your-face promotion (don’t look down). Whether it’s in the pages of a magazine or on the wall of a bathroom stall, marketing is everywhere. Most of us are smart enough to know we’re being sold to, and think nothing of turning the other cheek if we aren’t interested.
Enter the Internet, where buzz words like engagement and conversation often provide the misdirected impression that marketing here is offensive, off limits, and we’re all here just to make friends. Twitter executives made several announcements this week, most notably about its new advertising model, which left many users feeling that Twitter was selling out to “the man,” a common theme when a popular start-up decides it actually wants to start, “gasp” generating revenue. New is always hard, but it’s important to remember that highlighting paid search results isn’t a new practice – Google built its machine in a similar fashion.
In the same vein, notable bloggers and social media strategists also come under fire if it’s ever revealed they’ve actually generated money with content of education, and a virtual witchhunt typically ensues. I truly believe Chris Brogan enjoys interacting and sharing through vehicles like his blog and Facebook, but I’m also pretty certain that if he had the same number of followers on Twitter but was making $23,000 a year he’d be working on his resume right about now. And I’d also guess he’ll be chilling in Bali with a mojito when his start-up begins generating millions in revenue. That’s not selling out, that’s smart business. We need to spend less time pointing fingers and more time examining profitable business models for best practices.
The word transparency (one of those overused buzz words) can create hypersensitive emotions about whether or not a type of marketing is fair game. While I wholeheartedly feel that paid editorial disguised as unbiased commentary is unethical (I’m a sucker for journalistic integrity) I don’t believe accepting paid, clearly marked advertising makes the seller a sellout. Just because content moves from the pages of a magazine, a newsletter, or the television to the Internet does not mean it becomes a free for all. If you’ve monetized your online real estate, kudos to you.
Relationships, knowledge, entertainment – they’re all priceless fruits of the social Web. But if you are using the Internet to build your business and you aren’t making money, you are doing it wrong. What do you think? What is the line between creating a revenue stream and selling out? Why is it so hard to swallow when an online entity starts hosting ads or charging for certain elements, when we’ve been watching ads for years?
photo credit: Muffet