Will Flipboard, RSS, etc. Kill Online Advertising?

Frédéric Filloux writes at Monday Note:

The social web’s economics are paradoxical: The more it blossoms, the more it destroys value. In recent months, we’ve seen a flurry of innovative tools for reading and sharing contents. Or, even better, for basing one’s readings on other people’s shared contents. In Web 2.5 parlance, this is called Social Reading. For this, the obvious vector of choice is the iPad: it possesses a (so far) unparalleled ability to transform online reading into a cozy lean-back experience.

Filloux goes on to talk about applications ranging from Flipboard to Instapaper that provide users with ad-free, highly curated experiences. (For the fellow non-iPad crowd, I recommend TweetedTimes with Read It Later.)

In other words, between RSS feeds aggregated by mobile apps, “Read Later” features, and ad-free web curators, you can enjoy the web without bumping into ads. Great for users, not-so-great for the publishing business.

This ad-free threat explains the bold move a few publishers just made. If readers (humans) loathe advertising and favor bare-bones reading interfaces, let’s see if we can make them pay for such. That was the idea behind Ongo. This official paid-for aggregator, backed by several news organizations, hasn’t shown a great deal of progress since I reviewed it in a previous Monday Note (see Ongo…Where?). Its nice look aside, it persists in putting on the same page a story on US troops withdrawing from Iraq next to an article featuring a murderer identified thanks to its tattoos. Some editing is badly needed here…

Monday Note: Read, Share and Destroy

At the moment, three things still hold true:

1) Very few readers use browser plugins that block ads.
2) The number of readers using apps like Flipboard and Instapaper is relatively small
3) Far from leaching traffic, social media like Facebook and Twitter (and not-so-social sites like Google News and The Huffington Post) still drive a lot of traffic to sites.

But this could change, especially as tablets become more common. I’m not yet sure what that’s going to mean for publishers. Filloux worries about reduced ad revenue, which is very possible. I think blogs and other online publications have overdone it with ads and sidebars in recent years, leading to cluttered distracted messes (I’m in the process of slowly redesigning my own sites to be less cluttered). But new devices and social sharing are important driving forces for change in how we consume digital media s well.

Some things I suspect we’ll see:

1) More ads embedded into the text of articles so that they’re harder to excise (In my interview with him, Richard Metzger also suggested we’ll see more online video that makes it harder to remove ads as well)
2) More ways of tracking reader behavior off-site to feed the data hoarders
3) More attempts at pay walls

Update: In an interesting twist of events, Flipboard competitor Zite (which received cease and desist orders from publishers) says it will stop stripping ads from content and work with publishers on monetization.

The Best Reason NOT to Buy a Tablet or E-Reader

Justin Bolland wrote at Pizza SEO:

Don’t tell me to get a Kindle or an iPad. Dude, I work on a damn computer. For hours on end, every day. I don’t want to carry one of these demon boxes around with me like a demon child suckling my blood out through my fucking eyeballs, you read me?

I know it’s a pretty simple/obvious statement but… still. That hits home. The best reason to read books and magazines on paper is because they are not on computers.

I don’t own a tablet or Kindle or anything like that yet, but I’ve been wanting something along those lines for quite some time. And I do have an iPod Touch that I use for reading. I also own a lot of books, magazines, and comics. And I’ve been moving them around with me for years. I long for the day when everything’s on a nice simple device, backed up to the cloud, and easily searchable.

But ever since my interview with Ashley Crawford, I’ve been spending more time reading actual physical books and magazines. I’d spent the last several years trying to kick my print habit and go all digital, but I’ve gone back on the pulp – and, I’ll admit, loving it. However, until I read Justin’s post, I still figured I’d pick up an Android tablet or something eventually.

And I still may. I did spend the better part of today reading off of screens, and I doubt I’ll ever be able to get away from screen reading. But I’ve got to say, at least at this point in space-time, print is looking better than ever.

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