The curse of advertising revenue
There will be an increasing call for advertising revenue at Steemit, something I am dreading but it will most likely arrive. The reason it will arrive is because it will offer money, possibly, lots and lots of money into the system. Why would I dread this? Experience.
There is a very good reason Steemit isn't monetized via add revenue and that is censorship. If you look at Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and associated companies who make a large part of their revenue through advertising, censorship is rife.
It comes in many forms and crosses many boundaries like the political censorship @acidyo wrote about the other day, to the social censoring for societal issues across, the sex, drugs and rock n roll lines. Religious censorship is also an issue as is 'enemy of the state' censoring.
Most censorship though is based either directly or indirectly on add sales and on a centralised platform, anyone that is seen to damage add revenue streams is restricted or, banned outright. Youtube for example has demonetized and banned many accounts that have attracted 'the wrong kind of attention', as has twitter. Instagram blocks accounts for nudity and anything it deems 'too provocative'. This policing of course infringes on concepts of free speech and freedom of expression, something that many Steemians take quite seriously.
The centralised systems like Google will censor content in order to gain access to markets like China. They aren't doing it because they agree with the Chinese government, they are doing it to open up the possibility of access to the mammoth market for their advertisers. More advert revenue.
Now, Steemit is a decentralised service that is largely uncensored (other than flags) but, content is still guided by the rewards. Many people post where the money flows and not what they choose to post. They are looking for whale votes. Some even send memos to the whales asking for votes or gear all of their content towards a big voter like DTube.
Introduce advertising revenue and soon the whale votes are the advertisers themselves and the platform fills with 'high quality' content geared to increase our consumption of product X, Y or Z.
Pretty soon, the only content visible on the platform is one that advertisers approve of and very soon, we have a Facebook-esque view of the world. Sure, people may still be able to post whatever they like for the time being but, unless it polishes the knob of an advertiser, they have close to zero chance of visibility, let alone income.
Even places like Patreon where content providers are rewarded directly censor their users, especially if their views are not mainstream, left-leaning or are somewhat controversial in nature. There is no reason to censor these people unless, they are worried that it will either push advertisers away or, push away the users that will view the adverts.
What I love about Steemit is that I am not bombarded by advertising links and I am not stalked and targeted through every one of my searches. Sure it may happen but, as long as I stay at Steemit like interfaces, I see zero adverts of the manufactured kind saying 'you may be interested in' 3 minutes after accidentally liking a promoted post on Instagram.
There is nothing for free in this world and when we look out at all the things we despise, we will find that a large portion is driven by over-consumption which is in turn driven by the corporations selling the products. These organisations love centralised services as it makes it much simpler to direct them to do their bidding but, it doesn't mean they can't flourish on a decentralised platform for as said, people go where the advertisers tell them to.
Yes, content quality will go up as the advertisers produce manufactured, polished posts designed by a team to engage the audience and sell a product but, where does it leave the average users again? The same place they occupy on other platforms. Cash cow.
This is a bit of a rant and at some point I will look deeper and more officially into the various evils of advertising but, everyone should really think about the costs they are willing to pay to get a few more dollars. Can't help the many by introducing the same techniques that currently help only the very few.
[ a Steemit original ]