Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The curse of monetization

Two weeks ago, the Internet was all abuzz over Ramin Shokrizade's great article about how some games try to use various psychological techniques to convince you to give them money: The Top F2P Monetization Tricks.

In order to improve the efficacy of the soft gate, these games also make it so that resource generation in-game increases faster than the player's ability to spend these resources (because building/spending takes so long). Thus these “earned” resources are lost (taken away) if real money is not spent. This is a method of combining reward removal with a soft gate to increase the pain level while at the same time layering, as the consumer may be gullible enough to assume these effects are coincidental or due to some strategic misstep they took earlier.

Then last week, the Internet was all abuzz over Gmail's Promotions feature, reported by media like Wired months ago (Gmail’s New Inbox Sorts Emails Into Tabbed Categories), but suddenly and breathlessly noticed by the rest of the world when Gmail rolled out their new inbox on a larger scale last week: Google uses Gmail's promotions inbox to promote a new kind of ad.

Google was very clear that while the new ads look like email, they're not actually emails, and advertising partners don't have any more access to your email address or other personal information than they did before. They merely get prime real estate compared to every other advertiser who tries to email you.

Now, this week, the focus moves to Linked In, with Nick Corcodilos's great article describing how Linked In is monetizing the job search world: LinkedIn Payola: Selling out employers and job hunters

LinkedIn sells positioning to job hunters while it sells database searches to employers. Talk about getting paid on both ends of a deal! Meanwhile, the “Basic” applicants (those other suckers, who ride free) are relegated to the bottom of the list.

I wrote back to LaToya: “Don’t the employers get upset when they see someone ‘paid’ to get bumped to the top?”

That was taken care of, explained LaToya: Employers “have the option to turn on and off the setting.”

So I buy top positioning in recruiting results for $29.95 per month, and the employer has the option to render my payment a total waste. The only winner is LinkedIn — higher revenues, higher stock price, higher corporate valuation, and more suckers paying. This is the leading website for recruiting and job hunting?

But as Derek Powazek describes in his superb deconstruction of the "If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product" meme: I’m Not The Product, But I Play One On The Internet, this is nothing new, just the continual re-discovery of the fact that you have to be aware of what sort of relationship you're entering into with all the various organizations you deal with.

We can and should support the companies we love with our money. Companies can and should have balanced streams of income so that they’re not solely dependent on just one. We all should consider the business models of the companies we trust with our data.

But we should not assume that, just because we pay a company they’ll treat us better, or that if we’re not paying that the company is allowed to treat us like shit. Reality is just more complicated than that. What matters is how companies demonstrate their respect for their customers. We should hold their feet to the fire when they demonstrate a lack of respect.

And we should all stop saying, “if you’re not paying for the product, you are the product,” because it doesn’t really mean anything, it excuses the behavior of bad companies, and it makes you sound kind of like a stoner looking at their hand for the first time.

On we go.

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