The Economic Benefits of the Free Internet

It has been more than twenty years since the Internet became widely available to computer users nationwide, and in that time, it has become so ingrained into our society that we often fail to stop and ask ourselves: What if I had to pay for all of the free services that I take for granted?  With products such as Skype, we can make free computer-to-computer audio calls that we would otherwise pay the phone company to make (to say nothing of the ability to make video calls).  Wikipedia allows us to access more community created information than an expensive set of encyclopedias could ever hope to deliver.  And many sites which provide entertainment, information, and useful tools are entirely free to use despite the cost it takes to maintain, run, and update them continuously.

In a recent blog post, Lou Mastria of DAA gives perspective on this issue, showing the economic impact which advertising’s enablement of the free internet model has had on communication, society, business… well, on everything.  Consumers are well aware of the economic benefits of a free internet supported by advertisers, according to the Zoqby poll commissioned by DAA in April. The Economist, in an article of its own, also notes research that shows the “consumer surplus” granted by free internet services.

Of course, other studies have shown that the internet subtracts value from the economy as well, in the form of productivity lost to refreshing Twitter, for example, or in the money lost when a business model vanishes overnight to free web content or to illegal web piracy.  But for the most part, these losses cannot match up to the gains which the free internet model gives, including intangible non-monetary benefits such as saved time, ease of access to important information, and the ability to find and interact with many people without the barrier of distance.

Consumers understand that advertising is what makes the internet possible as we know it, and the Advertising Options icon program from  DAA as well as the DMAChoice.org  opt-out service give consumers the opportunity to exercise control over whether or not they see advertising that is relevant to their needs and interests.  That’s why it’s so important for every DMA member – working with DMA and in every public message you communicate – to continue to emphasize the value of our data-driven services and marketing.

I’ve written about some ways to do this, and Lou highlights others in his DAA blog post.

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