The Trouble With Monetizing Infinity - InformationWeek

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Commentary
10/16/2009
03:23 PM
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The Trouble With Monetizing Infinity

Yesterday, Facebook said 90% of the ad demand market not served by Google was ripe for its profits, and Sony debuted a PlayStation 3 with twice the storage previously available. There's a common theme to both news stories:

Yesterday, Facebook said 90% of the ad demand market not served by Google was ripe for its profits, and Sony debuted a PlayStation 3 with twice the storage previously available. There's a common theme to both news stories:I think both brands are trying to monetize infinity, and how they're going to do it isn't terribly clear.

Facebook's gift is also its curse, in that the zillions of people who spend endless hours on its pages have not been indoctrinated into the wiles of advertising. Yet the underlying premise of the analyses that compare Facebook (or social media usage in general) with other media is that social users are just a new type of ad consumer. So the challenge is to reinvent the stuff they miss from the old days of TV and print.

Do you miss commercials? I certainly don't, and I don't think anybody else does either, so successfully inserting them into the Facebook experience -- however creatively, interactively, or glowingly described -- is far from a slam-dunk inevitability. The strategy is rife with opportunities to alienate users, and thereby pave the way for another start-up to give away infinite social goodness sans any hope of making money.

Sony faces a similar challenge, in that it has to find ways to monetize all of that space on its new PlayStation 3 hard drives. 250GB on a game console is kind of like telling somebody in a one-room shack that their backyard has been expanded to the size of Texas; it's great and all, but somewhat hard to come up with things to do with it. It's not enough to simply offer movies or whatever content Sony thinks should go on it. There'll always be a cheaper and easier way to play games, which is why people buy the gizmos in the first place.

In both cases, there's no proof that consumers want to pay for this infinite chatter or unlimited storage, which makes them seem all but free, right? I know that's the angle that excites some people, but there was a time when having stuff to which you couldn't put a dollar sign would have been considered worthless.

Are these two brands examples of the serious challenges inherent in making something out of what users have valued at just about nothing?

Jonathan Salem Baskin is a global brand strategist, writes the Dim Bulb blog, and is the author of Bright Lights & Dim Bulbs, coming in November.

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