A better way to pay for 'free' content

Tired of being tracked? Hate paying for news you're used to getting for free? Just answer a few simple questions and all will be revealed.


Let’s be honest. The so-called “free Internet,” the one you’re reading now, the ad-supported model that offers you content without asking for anything more than your eyeballs, is dying. People don’t like ads. They don’t click on them. They do everything they can to avoid paying attention to them.

The reason the online ad industry is so hell bent on ensuring that Do Not Track fails is because it’s desperately hoping that sending ads targeted to your Web surfing habits will make you both more attractive to advertisers and their ads more attractive to you.

Crappy bottom feeder ads for cut rate mortgages, criminal background checks, cheap knockoff sunglasses and belly fat cures --  which used to be relegated to third-tier Web sites and splogs -- can now be found on mainstream sites. Why? Because they need the money.

Many major newspapers are turning to online paywalls to recoup some of the money they spend on original content. Others are experimenting with “sponsored content,” “native advertising,” or “content marketing”– all code words for “advertisements trying to fool readers into thinking it’s editorial.”

Lately, though, I’ve noticed an  interesting alternative to both targeted ads and paywalls. Some sites have begun asking their readers for information – specifically, to fill out a brief survey – in exchange for displaying a story.

Here’s an example I ran across last month from The Financial Times, which is otherwise behind a metered paywall.

There are two ironic items of note here: a) this is a story about Acxiom letting consumers see the information the data broker has collected about them; and b) according to Acxiom, it’s also totally inaccurate.

But this not the only example. A while back I found the Christian Science Monitor doing the same thing. In exchange for displaying me a story about Google, CSM wanted my opinion on a variety of topics.

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