The web has had a luxury since its existence: free content. As a society, we gave up on the $4 per magazine model in favor of free content where we were the product being sold. It’s neither good, nor bad. It’s the way it is. I read an article that I didn’t pay anything for. This goes beyond walking into a Barnes and Noble and skimming articles for free. This happens billions of times a day. I read an article, and I’m tracked for the next day, month, year.
It’s a chicken or egg problem. Did I expect free content without caveats before publishing companies were willing to give their content away? Whether we want to admit it or not, we all created this environment. Publishers, Advertisers, Consumers.
Picture a world where you walk into a store to look at a product, you walk out and carry on your way. What you don’t realize until later is that an employee of that store has followed you around while grocery shopping to tell you go back and buy that product. This is the world we’re living in.
What’s frustrating for me (and a lot of people) is that there is no solution yet. I love certain sites, but I don’t get the choice to opt-out of having my internet history tracked. Would I pay top dollar for the sites I love? Probably, but that’s not an option right now. That’s just the way it is. I don’t have the luxury of saying, “Here’s my $4 a month, please stop following me.” Even paywall sites like WSJ and New York Time still track you after subscription fees. Users are starting to fight back (again) and it will be interesting to see what happens next. Maybe we’re asking for even worse ads that are even more poorly implemented, but we all have to do something. The current model is broken.