This week’s discussion about monetization was an interesting topic to me. Even last week when we were discussing the issue of copyright, I touched briefly on the impact of monetization and ad revenue on content creators.

We constantly hear from content creators for example, on YouTube, complaining about ad revenue, or trying to get their viewers to subscribe to some sort of premium content. It makes sense from their perspective; a lot of them have devoted their lives towards putting out content, and without proper financial support, it really is difficult to keep putting out content on a regular basis.

Trevor Bayette certainly raised some good points about monetization, in particular his illustrated diagram of how donations and subscriptions are at the top of the ladder, only after well establishing social media and keeping readers on your site.

I think that’s the area that a lot of content creators should be aware of. A lot of the benefits of monetization come about through growing your platform, especially with things like ad revenues. YouTube creators, for example, typically only get around 1-3 cents per ad view, which is only around $5 per 1,000 views. Random clicks will only go so far – it’s important to build out a loyal base and offer some sort of monetizing action.

The lengths that people will go to in order to monetize their platforms, like the example that Suzanne showed us about the sponsored content was quite surprising. The way it was created made it look like it was part of the newspaper itself, fully formatted and written like a regular story. Personally, I wouldn’t want to run something like that on my site.

Although you’re making a buck for now, your readers are certainly not going to appreciate being duped into thinking an advertisement was a real story. In the worst-case scenario, they may even choose to stop visiting your site altogether, concerned that they wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between real content and sponsored content.

I feel that it’s always important to level with your audience and let them know clearly whether something is sponsored content or not. That way you can monetize your platform without turning off those who aren’t interested, and without potentially damaging your brand. This goes back to the initial point, which is that monetization is not about squeezing every last dollar out of visitors, it’s the outcome of audience growth and reach of your site.

In a related discussion, I was reading Suzanne’s post about her trip to an Amazon store and data trails, which raises some good questions about the digitization of our economies. In her post, she talked about the concern about leaving digital breadcrumbs, which is actually a real problem. In fact, as I was doing a review of CBC marketplace, it turns out they also did a story about how online retailers keep track on individual shoppers and discriminate based on their spending habits.

Some of the price differences were actually quite significant. One test of a hotel booking site found the price dropped from $734 down to $712 on the same posting, but viewed from a different user’s perspective. Sometimes prices were lower even when simply using a different device, like your phone instead of your computer.

Things like this is what makes people concerned about the level of information that online retailers collect about us. Just as they boast about the revenues that they can offer sites that rely on this type of tracking information, on the flip side, it’s troubling the extent for users the level of tracking and personal information they try to collect.

I do almost everything I can to limit the amount of personal information that sites collect about me. For starters, I always explore the settings menu to see what’s there – often there are toggles for all kinds of information that the app or site is collecting, which requires you to turn them off manually. I’m also careful not to keep clicking next when you’re installing something, because sometimes they opt you in for extras that you don’t necessarily want.

Although I do my best, there are certainly lots of information that you can’t prevent from being collected. Major social media sites, for example, often have written into their terms of service the ability to collect quite substantial amounts of information, and something like that is unavoidable.

That’s the way it is on the internet – people are increasingly less willing to pay for services, so sites try to make up the difference some other way. And if it’s through subtle ad placement or tracking, some site administrators will do it. The key for me is to not emulate that kind of bad behaviour should I decide to monetize my site, and try to do it in an honest way.

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