Advertising is Obsolete

I’ve been saying this for a while now: advertising is obsolete. For two simple reasons:

1) Advertising is no longer needed for discovery. In the past, without advertising I might not have known that some product or service that I needed was available. However, since the invention of comprehensively useful search engines I can easily find whatever I might actually have a need for. Advertising is simply not required – for anything.

2) Advertising adds no net value to the world. If we turned advertising off, all of what is spent on advertising could be used to make even better products. And, given my first point above, we now have the tools to easily find whatever products we actually need (which of course are far fewer than those products that we might want, think we want, or are told that we want).

A side note on media: the widely-accepting idea that advertising is an intrinsic part of the media business model is misleading and basically false. This idea is typically based on the back-formed conclusion that ‘people don’t want to pay for content’ online because until fairly recently there weren’t good ways to pay for online content. As with any other product, people will and do pay for content that they actually want. Advertising came to be part of the media business model as a way to support the creation of media not that readers wanted, but that advertisers wanted. Media does not depend on advertising.