Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Why does free internet mean 'exploitation'?

It goes without saying that the majority of content and services on the internet are completely free for users: e-mail, social networks, news portals… Yet have you ever thought 'why'? Maybe you pay for free internet content a great deal more than you can imagine?

The illusion of “free”

Facebook, Google, news website – this is a simplified version of most internet users' everyday itinerary. This route is completely free and absolutely safe: you move from one destination to another almost automatically. But what would happen if one day you visited your favorite (free!) news portal and found out that you were could not read a single article. Instead, you would be asked to pay if you want to access the materials. 

Your nice walk would definitely be spoiled. “Why, for God’s sake, do I have to pay for it?” – many users would exclaim. “Why can I use Google or Facebook completely free? Who do the editors think they are, asking me for money?” A lot of people think that those who work in such large corporations, like Google or Facebook, are passionately dedicated and enthusiastic volunteers, who everyday sacrifice themselves in the name of “the user-oriented internet”. Well, numbers speak louder than words: in 2014 the annual Facebook’s profit was 12 billion dollars, Google – even more, 66 billion dollars. Do you still believe in the “the user-oriented internet” mission?


Our news portals can barely imagine such sums. Not my problems, sorry” – a typical, brought up by the miracles of the free internet user would state. “The fact that there are people who read their portal is already a big achievement for them”. Such logic proves that users do not realize that they are involved in the process of capital accummulation – and in this “game” their role is truly unenviable. The internet, as a matter of fact, is not a place where everyone is equal, but a hierarchical pyramid governed by those at the top.

The Internet Pyramid
The examples of Google and Facebook (there are much more of them) are the examples of those at the top”. They create the illusion of “free”. “So, what’s wrong with it?” – one more possible question. Paradoxically may it be, but the root of the problem is nothing but the fact that everything is (at first sight) free.

To prove yourself that “everything is free” is a mere illusions you may wonder how come these “free” services get so much money. The rule is simple: if you do not pay, somebody else does. This somebody is not a generous daddy, ready to pay his last cent so that you could scroll through your news feed on Facebook or find where to spend your evening on Google. This somebody is… advertising.

To clear it up, if the websites dictate the rules from the top of the pyramid, advertising is its owner, who create these rules. Were you looking for the place to have dinner? Awesome! Google will offer you a bunch of romantic venues so you would for sure find what you had been looking for. Is that all? Sure it is not: the next time you will be scrolling through your news feed, you will (surprise-surprise!) stumble into the pictures of the place you have visited, sending you quite a linear message: visit us again! Alternatively, you can see the pictures of other places, implying that it is high time you went somewhere out. It is the first trap of “the illusion of free” – you are tracked and your personal information is used without your permission.

The second trap is even more dangerous – probably you do not even know that but you are a means to produce capital for websites placed at the top of the pyramid. Yes, nobody pays your for that. The stolen information is used to steal your attention – and it is advertising that does it. Ads are everywhere: on your personal page, in your news feed, in search engines, even in your e-mail – nobody warned you about it and nobody asked whether you allow to use your personal details for such purposes. Google and Facebook made this decision on your behalf and on behalf of millions of other people: well, guys, we provide our services for free, we neglect your attention and get our billions for that. As simple as ABC.

Just use the services Google, Facebook and others offer you for free. But is it fair?

How the audience is transformed into traffic  
The mechanism of exploitation on news websites is even more uncanny. If before the internet was a promise of the platform where everyone is equal, everyone can express their opinion (and would definitely be heard), where local and global problems are solved cooperatively, and accessible to all people media foster civil society, today, as so much time has passed, this only puts a sad smile on our faces. All of the mentioned goals could be achieved only on condition that a human being would be respected. From the very moment you open the news portal, you are not a human being anymore – you become a part of traffic.

“But is it so? I can comment, argue with others, finally, I can stop visiting this site!” – one might argue. It is true, but, unfortunately, your opinion and arguments you provide are no big deal: in the existing system you are either 1, or 0 – either you are, or you are not. This is one more trap of “the illusion of free” – the illusion of participation. You are nothing but 1 – and there are plenty of such 1s. You are neither a client nor a user, you are never right nor are you wrong, you are just a figure, a part of traffic. And yes, you got it right: your favorite news portal everyday sells you to advertisers stealing your attention.                    

Should we blame the owners of news portals for it? No. In such a system they have no choice. Should we blame journalists for a low-quality, ill-prepared and sometimes even silly content? No, they do their job as long as the results satisfy their employer – advertising. You visit the site – you become 1, you read the material – once more time, you become 1, you like or do not like what you have read and you have decided to share your thoughts – yes, you become 1. The quality means nothing in the pyramid, what really matters is quantity, your attention, you as 1, which can be easily converted into bucks.

The outcome is that journalism as the fourth power does not perform its main social function – to inform the society and form its self-consciousness. Instead, it offers the illusion of participation which is, as we know, a traffic generation tactic to attract advertisers. So, do you agree to hand over power to unfair advertising?

The system must be reformed

As we can see, a safe walk on the internet can be potentially dangerous: advertising steals your personal data as well as your attention, corrupts quality journalism, transforming it into one of its manipulation tools. Yet we can change this. We need to get rid of the illusion of free.
First and foremost, paid subscription has to be brought back (as it was with newspapers). We need to understand that, as long as somebody else pays for us, somebody else decides who you are and what you will read. To bring back paid subscription means to rehabilitate quality analytic journalist and to give back journalism its legitimate power. Paying for the content, you become one of the responsible for the news portal. While journalists will be motivated to meet high standards, you will get only high-quality content.

Second, we need to change how advertising works and is perceived by others. APM Agentur (www.adpays.me) has already been doing that, trying to change the existing advertising system.
We provide everyone who joins us the APM Board – Own Advertising Board, where users see only those advertisements they personally are interested in, and only when they wish to. Most importantly, we believe that every user is a human being, for this reason advertisers, who have chosen our website, will pay you 90% of the cost of the ad you will see.

We are against pyramids and labels put on us by the owners of the pyramid. Advertising is not by nature evil, it is a helpful tool for you to find what you need. Journalism is not a traffic generator, it is an essential social institution, which has to be financed by those for whom it works. Trust us: to create the user-oriented internet, the internet where you respect others and others respect you is still not too late.

Monday, December 14, 2015

How will collaborative consumption change the world: Airbnb, Uber. Who’s next?

How will collaborative consumption change the world: Airbnb, Uber. Who’s next?

The outcome of sharing economy is challenges traditional market faces with the emergence of collaborative consumption. For example, Uber, a service that finds you a driver, has alreay caused taxists' mass protests in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and London. The idea beneath such services – to share what you have with other people and get paid for it – alters our understanding of contemporary economy.  

The conception of owing things itself is not relevant anymore

Numerous research has demonstrated that the generation of so known millenials”, people, who are around 30-35 now, rarely buys houses, even more rarely – cars. As a matter of fact, they never buy something expensive – except for Apple products, for sure.

These people are quite often called the generation of renters”. The contemporary young have reconsidered the concept of success. If before a successful person owned a private house and a car, now success is more linked with the investments into experience and impressions: travelling, extreme sports, startups.

Young people intentionally abandon the idea of buying real propert and even furniture, they would rather rent it. The idea is that people do not want wealth and stable status anymore, but a flexible schedule and financial as well as geographical independence instead.

By 2008-2009 crisis, we had a lot of stuff that had become dusty because it had been kept in our attics and garages for too long: bikes and household appliances, gadgets and dresses, cars and houses – once we paid a fortune for these things and now they are just kept for nothing.

And just after two years, in 2011, “Time” magazine included sharing economy in the list of top ten ideas that will revolutionize the system of consumption.

Economy of trust

The allure of the collaborative consumption model is its financial stability based on human relationships, generousity and trust” – Jonathan Gillton, the co-founder and executive manager of Roost service, believes. The Roost service enables people to share parking spaces and places to keep their belongings.

Some spare square meters of the road by your house can be turned into a source of income, if you offer it on Parking Panda. DogVacay gives you the chance to make a penthouse appartment for a dog from the spare room where nobody lives. Are you a passionate adventurer, but recently you had a baby? You can rent your tent for $10 per day using the Rentoid service. Is there an out-of-use drill in your garage? Get 10$ more on SnapGoods. With the Liquid service you will earn 20$ more, just offer your old bike to the tourists who come to your country.

Let's meet… without the agent

During last four years at least 100 private companies, offering owners to make a profit of the property they possess without the need of extra payment, have been set up. Yet Uber and Airbnb have brought consumption to a brand new level. These innovative companies have offered reasonably priced solutions for consumers who save as well as unique sources of income for people who want to earn more or are looking for a flexible work schedule. Their commission is: Uber – 20%, Airbnb – 6-12%, depending on the cost of the order.

Until the very last moment private taxi companies had a monopoly in transportation industry. Yet there are hundreds and hudnreds of ordinary drivers, who go the same way as you do and who can pick you up and drive for a lower price. Why not? Uber helped a lot of people transform their personal vehicles from financial burden into a source of income. 

Everyone who has a car can download Uber, get registered and collect . The product is a high-quality drive, the passenger pays the driver directly. Since the emerge of the application, taxi drivers have been leaving private firms and have started to work on their own.

Why bother buying a house in a picturesque location if a place to spend your vacation in can be easily found on Airbnb? There is no need for overpaying for rent or buying an estate overseas. The site offers a platform that helps establish a contact between the host and the guest, so the guest pays the host directly. 

Airbnb и Uber provide access to estates and cars. The fact that these companies faced with resistance and pressure of those, who are used to making hay of licensing, does not surprise at all. Municipalities have been hectically creating the laws limiting short-term rentals from private traders. In some countries car rentals that do not have a licence are brough to responsibility. Not to mention potential problems concerning taxation.  

Economists have not decided yet whether sharing economy is beneficial or not. 

They are to find the answer whether there is a surplus value, or new services are taking the place of already existing businesses. Either is correct. There is always a threat for economy, as the consumer does not buy a new car. However, in a long-term perspective, everybody wins. Last year Airbnb hired researchers to find out the influence of their services on San Francisco. The result was astonishing: because Airbnb offers cheaper rentals than hotels do, guests lived in a rented estate longer and, consequently, spent more money in the city: on overage, $1100, while tourists, living in hotels, spent $840. 14% of respondents stated that they would have never come to San Fransisco but for Airbnb.

The most valuable thing we have… is not a thing

Airbnb and Uber's experience inspired to expand the horizons of sharing economy. In 2014 the company APM Agentuur entered the market. APM Agentuur has given value to something that was not valued before – people's time and attention, and they pay people real money for it. Advertising Pays me is APM Agentuur's slogan.


As a matter of fact, advertisers pay now as well, but they pay not agents like search engines, website owners, TV channels, radio stations, etc. Anywhere there is a crowd, there is advertising. That is why it causes rejection and negative emotions, by all manner of means people try to avoid advertising. Still, it is nothing but “mission impossible”, and by the age of 65 an average person has seen 2 million of commercicals only, not to mention banners, posters and other forms of advertising.

APM Agentuur stands for the idea that this would be over and advertising funds would be allocated without agents, among people who see ads. Besides, it is a must that advertising is targeted. That is why we have created a platform that is bound to become a place where the advertiser and the consumer meet.

This is how APM Board looks like. Users get to their account 90% of the cost which the advertisers pays for the display of their ads.

Any good or service needs advertising. We found about the things we have now by virtue of advertising.

The passenger pays the driver, the renter pays the owner, the advertiser pays the viewer – these are examples of fair relationships that make our life easier.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Bring new life into old things: a revolutionary mailbox

What helps us get information about the world?

The radio? Internet? The cellphone? Any answer is corret… But what had linked them before new all these tech booms? A mailbox!

Do you know many people who do not have a mailbox? No matter if it is an ordidary or an electronic one – its function remains the same regardless of its apperance and form. Before a family shared one mailbox, whereas today everyone can get more than one personal mailbox.

In contemporary world a life without a mailbox is scarcely possible. Every day newspapers, magazines, letters, postcards, bills are sent to a million of mail addresses… accompanied by print ads.

Advertisers seek to break into our personal space, even though nobody waits for them. You do not wait for them, either. You do not wait for pointless advertising leaflets, going downstairs with a cup of morning coffee, you do not wait for irritating spam, checking your email on your smartphone during a lunch break.

Which thought pops out in your mind when you see dozens of colorful flyers, stuffed into your milbox? When you see dozens of incoming messages, seven of which are special offers and discounts. Again? Enough is enough!”. You find these leaflets scattered on the floor. You block e-mail addresses, you move letters to junks... And you will never know that this nice shop near you is offering 50% off the good you’ve been looking for so long.

The other side of the coin…

 Imagine you did something handy, something tasty or nice. You spend your money on advertising so that people would hear about your product. In this case, would you like your efforts to be acknowledged or ignored? Maybe your friend/neighbor/relative also advertizes his or her small business, the only source of income? What do they do to be heard? What do they do to reach their target audience? How can advertizers, who by default are perceived as nasty spammers, attention stealers, break through all the negative things people do not like about advertising?

What should be done so that advertising leaflets would not lie under your feet?

All of us should have a special space, where advertisers would be seen and heard – they have this right. We, APM Agentuur, want to change the existing systems of the relationships between the customer and the business. We do our best to rehabilitate advertising. In all people's minds, advertising has to be categorized as useful, not vice versa. We provide everyone who joins us with the Own Advertising Board, where users see only the advertisements they are interested in. Besides, as users spend their personal time, the Own Advertising Board will pay for each ad seen on it.

We are not for entertainment, nor we are for making money – we are your new mailbox. A special mailbox for good ads. And we can guarantee that your attention will be rewarded.