Dear Facebook. Please let me pay you.

There is probably nothing more debated, despised, and dissected on the social web than Facebook’s ever-changing scheme to monetize its vast audience.

One of the newest ploys — attaching advertisements to our specific personal posts — seems remarkably invasive.

My Facebook mobile stream is now dominated by banner ads. I have to pay extra to assure the people who like me actually see what I have to say (and I still can’t reach ALL of them).

Tom Webster has written humorously and accurately about some of the non-sensical “targeted ads” that are pretty far off the mark.

This all adds up to a really stupid business model. Facebook, you’re just pissing off people every day. Just let me give you a monthly fee to make all this go away, OK?

I understand the company needs to make money (and I WANT them to make money) but why not at least honor your customers by providing an option that allows us to stop being annoyed? Let us give you a few bucks a month to end the insanity.

Recurring revenue, with zero customer acquisition cost. Sounds like an enviable plan to me!

I can’t think of a reason why Facebook would not create this option … other than perhaps they have done a calculation showing the potential to constantly annoy people and stir controversy will be more profitable over time than being good to its customers.

Another reason of course, and perhaps the primary one, is a source of pride that Facebook promises that “It’s free and always will be.”

OK, I get that. But I really, really, really want to give you money. More than a few of us would. What if your customers DON’T WANT IT TO BE FREE?

Let’s assume that the people who would pay for Facebook, like me, never click on ads any way. They’re just folks who don’t want to be bothered by the latest monetization scheme. So their current ad revenue potential is zero. If 1 percent of Facebook’s users paid $20 a year to make the ads disappear, that is $200 million to the bottom line from people who were contributing nothing, and probably would contribute nothing forever.

Heck, you can still charge us to water our Farmville crops, ping us to suggest a gift to send, or charge us for any other “extra” you come up with. Just get rid of the ads, let us access ALL of our friends, provide some measure of privacy — and the money is yours. Please. Take it.

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  • Manish

    If Mark Zuckerberg is reading this post I must say this a pretty good option to monetize Facebook by not bothering the people.

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  • As a temporary solution, if you’re using Chrome, you should install AdBlock. I don’t see any ads anymore, whether it is on Facebook, YouTube or other websites.

  • Thanks for making me smile Mark.
    The thing is I’m not sure that we are his customers.
    Perhaps we were once.

    Aren’t we just the commodity now?

  • As long as they do not do the thing Hulu Plus does – they charge you and still show the ads. I tried the third party blockers – but they do not work. Oh well – guess I’ll just have to live with it.

  • *Like* I use this extension also!

  • I believe at this point, they will take money from anybody. From commodity to customer … feel our power!

  • I have the same ‘issue’ with magazines. Some are quite expensive and completely stuffed with advertisement. Thus, I do not buy the magazine.

  • Just like Spotify: pay to avoid ads – heaven!

  • mhammo

    Perhaps one way Facebook would get the message is if people stopped using the service. Even a temporary period of time for those that feel they couldn’t breathe without their Facebook. We get far more leads from our LinkedIn and Blog posts, so, there are other options out there.

  • Is there a way forward for Facebook? Trying to monetise a site that was never set up to be used that way and with no buy-in from its’ audience, reminds me of that well known definition of insanity.

  • When I started using Facebook, it was like everyone else, to post personal messages to my ‘friends’, nowadays however, I hardly ever post anything personal and simply use the site to promote my blog posts to my Facebook page followers.

    I don’t think that I am alone in my reduced use of the site for ‘what is is supposed to be used for’ and can only assume that tactics, such as those you detail in your article, will only drive more people away from the site. There are plenty other social sites to choose from.

    I don’t think that Facebook know how to monetize their site but experimenting on live members is not the best way to test out ideas!

    The earlier Spotify comment is ‘spot on’! 🙂

  • Bravo! If only Facebook would take the approach. I fear, though, that $20 a month is WAY lower than the money they’re actually making off us. We probably can’t afford to match THAT revenue.

  • Well, this just made me smile.

    I keep wondering what the tipping point is going to be for Facebook — because I doubt it’s going to be the first company in the history of the universe (okay, at least commerce in our age) to never have real competition. When that happens, it will be interesting to see “why” — and whether part of the solution is to let us “buy out” of the very annoying online ads.

  • I’m thinking that FB probably views all media as potential competition, at least in the long term? Thanks for the thought-provoking comment!

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  • Completely agree Mark. And there’s a subscription model there for business too — beyond ads but in analtyics and CRM integration.

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  • Very good points Frank!

  • It’s the start of the negotiation : ) Thanks Andy!

  • it is quite interesting to think about how it would be different if it were actually set up as a business in the first place! Great point Barry!

  • Don’t see that happening as usage continues to climb despite the problems! : )

  • Good point Tricia. I do think they could be smart about it if they listened to their customers.

  • Mark it seems your looking at Facebook as You are not as it is . Facebook charges anything even $20 I would bet 25%+ of the people would be gone overnight . As the ROI of Social Marketing gets tweaked . Facebook will begin it’s slide where they try everything but will be another MySpace in less than 10 years . The business structure can’t support the 50+% that never buys a thing (add another 30% that can’t afford to…) & When they admit there are not 1 Billion But more like 600 Million (I am being nice Zuck) Real Accounts, the #’s may look better but the ROI except for a Few Niches is and will be dismal . So they will try everything and soon enough Uncle Goog will be the Top dog in this market also & Facebook will be the New “you have a Facebook Account ? You on Myspace also ? lol , I believe the Model will be companies that are designed to make $ as part of the Business not an afterthought . Facebook’s focus is on adding people but you can have every person on the planet see an ad, Super Bowl ads are a good example , what matters is who will buy or in reality who can buy ! Now add the shady BS “Marketing” Facebook allows and what that is doing to TRUST & consumer confidence to purchase anything online. Many I know will not even sign up for anything on FB … Auto start apps that all but pull your pants off … The slide into the has been Pit begins !

  • Usage is up sure But that is NOT translating into $ growth. Look at the audience . Look at Walmart with 26,446,334 likes that is Facebook’s Demographic . There is a saying “People with $ have a big Library. Poor people have big TV’s” . No doubt many bought at Walmart . Maybe that should or soon will be, poor people are on Facebook all day ! No doubt wondering why they are poor .

  • What Like Cable TV Subsidised By a Monopoly to “build infrastructure” & now they have as many ads as “Free” TV. 20 min an hour of “Brainwashing” In a 65-year life, average person will have spent 9 years glued to the tube. That equates to 3 years of nothing but ads 24/7/365 & some wonder why America is in the toilet .

  • Amen professor. I love the idea. The shareholders may also love it.

  • Great post Mark! I’m sure a lot of people wouldn’t mind paying to get rid of the ads.

    The only thing I want to point out is that you made the assumption that users are the customers. I would say that the paying advertisers are the customers. An average user, to Facebook, is essentially only another data point in their network. I know it kind of feels weird to think of ourselves as data points, but really, that’s what we are. Same thing when we do a Google search – the user isn’t the customer, they’re just the data that Google collects. Advertisers are the company’s customers. It’s a different way of thinking about it. It’s not a pleasant thought, but it is a realistic thought, unfortunately 🙁

    I like the idea of paying for Facebook to get rid of some of the more intrusive ads in the newsfeed (personally, I don’t mind the sidebar ones), but how many subscribers would Facebook need to recoup the lost revenue. Some brands have Facebook budgets in the millions – that equals a lot of subscribers.

    As usual, great post, great thoughts Mark! 🙂

  • Jennifer Bourn

    AMEN! I’d rather pay a small fee and skip the ads … and access ALL of my friends. It’s so weird to me that a platform who encourages people to be friends, then makes it so hard to see what all your friends are up to!

  • Personally, I think it’s a horrible idea and here is why. MOST people on Facebook are there because it is free. What will happen is a mass exodus. Look at what happened with the NING platform. Most people abandoned it.

    Also, as soon as Facebook were to become paid only membership, another social network will be the top dog almost overnight. Remember Myspace? People go where the people go and the popularity of facebook IS it’s appeal.

    They would definitely not be the number one or two websites in the world anymore!

  • JoAnn Ross

    My readers “like” my page to find out about what books I have coming out and what’s going on in my life. Periodically I’ll pay to promote an important event, only to readers who’ve liked the page so it won’t be like SPAM, and will inevitably get responses from “fans” that they’d thought I’d left FB because I was no longer showing up in their news stream. I would so rather pay just to let all the readers who go to the trouble to seek me out read all my daily posts! Great idea!

  • Not sure i follow you. Facebook is the biggest media channel in history. They have a massive, growing, captive, global audience. And really it cuts across all demographics

  • Thanks very much. An insightful comment.

  • I am not suggesting that FB charges users. i am suggesting they create that asn an OPTION. If something replaces FB, it will face the same problem. How are they going to pay for the staff and servers and technical infrastructure? There is no sustainable free model, so in theory, every company will sink into the abyss you mention because every company will face the same problem. In the Internet space, the gaol must be — dominate a niche first, then figure out how to monetize. If you only focus on monetization, the competitor who offers the service for free will kill you — then monetize.

  • Thanks Robin!

  • Very interesting thoughts Daniel. Of course you are correct in that the customers are the ones giving you money. But customers are also the people who you serve.

    The FB/Google business model is built on two principles — they must collect personal information they can convert into targeted ads, and they must get you to spend increasing amounts of time on their site so you can see the ads.

    It’s really a customer “eco-system.” FB can’t survive without advertisers. Advertisers won’t be there without vast numbers of people and the personal information used to target the ads.

    Many thanks for the superb comment!

  • It is a very, very weird business model. If you described Facebook to somebody in a conversation 10 years ago, you would predict that it would never work ; )

  • I think you misunderstand, or perhaps did not read carefully. I am only suggesting that it could be an OPTION. Im guessing 95% of the people would still go for the free version. Both LinkedIn and Slideshare have pay and free versions and they work just fine. The difference with Ning is they got greedy and eliminated the free version. That is not what I am suggesting for Facebook. No way. Hope that clears it up.

  • There you go. Great example. A little nuts that we have to pay to connect to our friends when there are other options.

  • Ross Quintana

    Amen, you and me both have a distaste for the horrible attempts at monetization and disregard for users that Facebook does. The fact is they don’t have good ideas and they don’t get it. They own the space and like a rich kid who is a poser, they don’t know how to actually make it work. I don’t know how to get started but I would so like to build an alternative to them that is private as well as better for the user. I have ideas but not sure how to go about such a huge task.

  • Hi Mark

    Great post – I share most of your sentiments, I am beyond fed up of the adverts now popping up in my stream (I’m actually more annoyed with the brands using it continuously so I see the same ads day in day out which now has damaged my perception of the brand).

    I do wonder though that if you’re in the online marketing industry whether these things annoy us more than an average user? They annoy me because I look at my stream a lot more than the average user…

    I think giving the opt-out option would be great for me personally as I’m in Facebook a lot, I think you’re right that it would be a small percentage who take it up BUT the main issue I see is those brands using Facebook advertising who would then have a smaller audience (they wouldn’t necessarily get that they are getting a smaller, but stickier audience) to advertise to, and they might pull their advertising. This might be what is holding Facebook back, fear of introducing one feature that overall might lose them more revenue….

    I live in hope, ad-free facebook feels like a long distance memory…..

  • Very interesting thoughts indeed,
    I have used facebook on and off for a while but I am not one of those people who is on it all the time so I don’t know that I would pay to be ad free. I guess that other thing is that as more and more people go mobile facebook with have to find other ways to squeeze those ads into mobile and noone wants to be paying extra data charges just to look at adverts that they didnt want in the first place…

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