Scott Karp writes a great blog called Publishing 2.0 and he's talked several times about paying for advertising in a world where lots of content can be created and published for free. What's the point? Why bother? Why not just throw some free ads up and let virality take its course?
It's a great point, but I have a few counters.
In the instance of Wendy's creating a MySpace profile, which anyone can do for free:
"What if Wendy’s won’t pay? Will MySpace have to tear down the page? That would be a great advertiser relations program — policing for unpaid commercial pages and tearing them down."
Actually, that's entirely fair and should be expected. There are lots of instances of software and APIs that are free for non-commercial usage but paid for a commercial license. If you are using MySpace to make a buck, doesn't MySpace have a right to take a reasonable piece of that buck? There would have to be tiers, of course... My local pool hall shouldn't have to pay much more than the price of a Yellow Pages ad for their profile.
Plus, going paid for commercial, just like Craigslist is doing for NYC commercial real estate, gets rid of a lot of spam.
What's the value of paying? Think of MySpace like the RedHat of the ad world. RedHat packages free Linux with a service guarantee and support. That's what I think of when I think of Advertising 2.0... sure, viral videos are free to post, but you want more than just a single number--hits. You want demographics. You want to see what other types of videos people are watching. You need data and there's where the MySpaces and YouTubes should really be ramping up. Give me a whole reporting package that I can show my boss when I create a commercial MySpace profile that tells me a lot about the users. What's the #1 band of the people who friend me? Age? Race? You can't do that with a free profile but that's very valuable data.
That's one of the things we're focusing on with our upcoming consumer product. Anyone can sell a virtual t-shirt direct to consumers or as a sponsored ad buy, but I think the difference is in the data and ongoing relationship you build with the users. Businesses thrive on consumer data and I think that's going to be a major asset of Advertising 2.0. If you can put a viral video in front of someone, cool... but what you really need if you are a business is a call to action to convert those folks into customers or at least some useable data. The platforms have, need, or are definitely working on building out those tools.