Is 2018 the beginning of a post-advertising internet or phase of profound transformation in how the ad-supported media work? Ad-blocking, consumer trends and impending regulation are forcing new business models to emerge, but this might amount to a paradigm shift.
It’s the end of the world as we know it, sang R.E.M twenty years ago and that’s pretty much the chorus in the digital advertising world as we enter 2018, with the publishers singing with the highest pitch. Preparation for the imminent ePrivacy and GDPR legislation – feared, misunderstood and often procrastinated in 2017 – will now start in earnest. The industry is set for a big shake up as marketers are devising solutions to reach and engage their customers in a different way. However, a clear sign of the turmoil amongst publishers has been, over the course of 2017, the proliferation of business models that forwent advertising altogether and experiment solutions based on some form of payment for content. In 2018 these solutions will look extremely attractive, but are they viable?
Back in March 2017 Ev Williams, the founder of Medium, one of the fastest-growing publishing platforms, declared the ad-supported media a “broken model” and switched to a $5 a month subscription paywall for featured writers, stories and publications that allegedly made “writers work for readers instead of advertisers”. Medium has described the change not only as embracing a different business model but as a paradigm shift for which they have become evangelists. The problem Medium faced is common: with advertising spending flowing into the coffers of predominantly two actors and a couple of runners-up, a drastic change is needed to avoid those giants calling all the shots. Post-advertising publishing leverages also on consumers’ fatigue of irrelevant and intruding ads at the same time as companies increasingly question the efficacy of each dollar spent on digital advertising and look for engagement rather than advertising plans. The zeitgeist has been captured by Andre Essex’s book, ‘The End of Advertising: Why It Had to Die, and the Creative Resurrection to Come’ – an impassioned call to advertisers to change their habits or become extinct.
Patreon is the other subscription, no-ad, success story that will influence 2018. Its growth in 2017 has been stellar: users have flocked to the idea that one could be a patron of quality writing, art, music, film and else. Contrary to the idea that everything on the internet should be given away for free, Patreon has allowed a growing share of savvy users to emerge. They want quality rather than diluted free content and ads. While other platforms were trying to block ad-blockers – a futile effort – Patreon was removing ads altogether. In the course of 2017 new patronage platforms have followed suit, such as Drip, and this model is here to stay in 2018. Brave take this model at a browser level by combining ad-blocking with a system that distributes users’ voluntary contributions to their most visited websites (a customisable list). The system is still a bit wonky, but the idea might catch on.
2018 is going to be a time of fast change in digital advertising in which a choice will emerge between more quality, engaging, transparent and relevant advertising – the kind that Teavaro is positioned to facilitate – or, as in the cases above, no advertising at all. In 1987 R.E.M were concluding It’s the end of the world with the qualification, and I feel fine. Through a combination of regulation and customer trends, there will be positive outcomes for the users – those who eventually buy the goods advertised – and eventually for the industry as a whole.