Monday, July 20, 2015

Online Ads and the (Summer) Season of our Discontent

Hello everyone. I have a few things I'd like to say about online advertising and business models. This has been building within me for some time, and has some connection with the release of  A La Maison No. 1 - feel free to go here to view the look book.

Before I begin, full disclosure: I spent over six years in advertising (Madison Avenue, CA, back to Madison Avenue, Connecticut). I have worked pretty much all sides of the TV ad game, back before there was an Internet. While the technicalities certainly have morphed, the basic game remains the same: either the consumer pays for ads at checkout (the current "free" model of running ads), or content publishers expect consumers to pay them directly in one form or another for providing an ad-free environment. 

A little while back, I had a brief Twitter exchange with Abby Glassenberg of the popular site While She Naps. Both Abby and I run ad-free and affiliate-free blogs, and I basically agree with Abby and her approach to business. However, she took a third blogger to task, and here's our exchange: 

  1. This feels like a weak argument to me - "But It's Free? How Copying Free Patterns Hurts the Designer (and You)"
  2. The designer's response. Basically the argument is that you're messing up her stats.

The third party's basic argument: please don't copy my (or anyone's) free patterns because when you do that you're stealing my content, and my content is the bread and butter that drives traffic to my site, and since I make money from my site's traffic (via advertising in various forms), you're basically robbing me of a source of livelihood. While Abby focused on the stats portion of this blogger's argument, I was far more vexed with the free pattern. In this age of the rise of intellectual property importance (folks, it's all about intellectual property in a non-agrarian economic model), giving away designs and patterns for free can be one way to go - if you accept ads. If one doesn't (like, for instance, moi), then free patterns undercut the value of my intellectual property, i.e., the strength of the designs

Please don't misunderstand my position: I have no issue with whether or not someone wishes to host ads or affiliate links on their site. It's one valid way to go (pretty much Madison Avenue 101). However, for me, I am more in the vein of the public television model: pay for the content (or in my instance, designs) directly to me cutting out the middleman, for a price that I have the ability to set; I even have a tiered pricing system (buying a pattern individually as opposed to the entire e-book).

I am particularly concerned that many crochet designers (but certainly not all) give away their designs for free, and even go so far as to advocate to "keep patterns free." While certainly there are some fine designs that are being given away, the overall effect is to somehow diminish crochet, make it less (why pay for it - let's all just make it free). Some of you may have noticed, but most knitwear designers are asking money for their patterns and getting it, with pretty much no resistance, yet crochet patterns are given away like so much design candy, either by some yarn companies or designers who rely on other (and more shaky) forms of revenue. I point to the fact that Vogue Knitting cut their special yearly crochet edition this year (the first time in three years) because of declines in - you guessed it - ad revenue.

I cannot, cannot, cannot stress enough: if you like a design, just pay for the pattern! Please don't force a designer (or publisher) to resort to revenue streams that are on the decline (and yes advertising in many forums is going the way of the dodo). 

George Bailey and I thank you.

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