What’s in it for them?

SWMBO has been poking around on the Internet as part of her Media business, and had found rafts of interesting websites (such as Pinterest and Ted) and has been prodding me to ‘get involved’.  As a man craving for a quiet life, I did as bid.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I have moments of self-disinterest, but mostly I’m a cynical b******, and I wonder: exactly what’s in it for them?

OK, so they get to know things about you which they probably sell to advertisers, but the amount they’d get can’t be huge: google/facebook and a few others have pretty much got the selling-personal-details-to-advertisers (or, more correctly, ‘being paid by advertisers to target adverts to their users’) market pretty well sewn up.  There’s only a limited amount of advertising budget to go around.

So, I provide a free forum to my users, there’s not a lot of cash coming in from advertisers, and my site goes viral: how to I pay for the terabytes of data storage, the megabytes-per-second of bandwidth and the salaries of the techies to stop it all falling over?

There has to be an edge they’ve got to make it all worth-while.  I know the lines of all the internet-marketing gurus: been to WIS: paid for ‘secrets’ that not only aren’t secret, but mostly don’t work…

Also, there’s the ‘wikipedia effect’: If a site is unmoderated, it quickly becomes a platform for kooks, pushing the latest weird theories, marketers trying to sell their scam products or freaks pushing God in one form or another.  If it’s moderated, then it will inevitably reflect the prejudices of the moderators: even if that’s only to filter out the kooks, marketers and freaks…

This is not meant to denigrate the sites mentioned: they are some of the more reasonable and rational of the sites out there, and are (mostly) up front about what they offer and what they do with your personal details, and the answer to my question is fairly well explained, deep in the small print.

It’s the other sites I wonder about: where do they get their funding to spread their kooky ideas, how do they use their demographic data and what’s to stop them using, for instance, blogs like this to compile lists of who will be first against the wall when the revolution comes….

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