What many internet users don’t realize is that most content is paid for by advertisers. Most websites don’t charge for their content because advertisements displayed on each page are used to cover costs, and hopefully, if the site has sufficient readership, make a profit.
Three problems with internet advertising are 1) ubiquity (ads are everywhere), 2) technology (advertisers and publishers can track users while they’re online, and readers can add technology which blocks advertising), and, 3) ad rates (which nowhere equate to traditional print and broadcast revenue and profitability).
Advertising is ubiquitous on smartphones and tablets, embedded in both applications and websites, and now, advertising is coming to Apple Watch and other wearable technology. The iPhone displayed few advertisements until Google pushed a free Android OS to mainstream cell phone makers, and the App Store launched (with embedded advertising to help pay for applications).
Generally speaking, technology gadget users these days have a razor-thin tolerance for advertising on their devices so how will users react to beeps and buzzes on a Watch that turn out to be little more than a grab for attention by an advertiser? To be fair, and in deference to the title above, online advertising is not going away, but it is likely to morph into a different beast, one more closely tied to branding (old fashioned advertising) vs. simple ad impressions. Advertising on Apple Watch or other wearables will need to be subtle rather than in your face, discrete vs. bold, and that is uncharted territory for many online advertisers and ad distribution networks.
What I fear is that the public, already complacent about view online ads, or clicking through ads to visit a sponsor, will become increasingly complacent about being tracked by advertisers on every device they own, and while they may ignore traditional online ads, they may forget they’re being tracked by those advertisers. Today’s gadgets and communication devices are gathering ever more personal information; health stats, personal location, spending and purchases, dining establishments, shopping locations, as well as tracking interaction between family members, friends, and co-workers through social networks.
How is that good for a Mac, iPhone, iPad, or Watch user other than it helps to pay for free content? With an increase in blocking technology (more of it coming in iOS 9’s Safari update) only a percentage of online users will hide ads from view, which means advertisers will double-down against those who do not.
I don’t see how this ends well for anyone.