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Consumer Survey: Free is Why We Value the Internet


Post Date: April 18, 2013
By: Stephanie Miller

There has long been a covenant for Internet content.  Consumers agree to provide information about themselves, and marketers agree to provide customized content, advertising and messaging so that it’s interesting, helpful and timely.  Most of that content is free.

It’s  a good model!  Turns out that consumers value free content and an ad-supported Internet by more than 4:1.  A new survey, commissioned by the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA), shows that nearly 70 percent of respondents indicated that they’d like at least some ads tailored directly to their interests, compared to only 16 percent who preferred to only see generic ads for products and services. Zogby Analytics conducted the poll of 1,000 US adults.

More than 90 percent of Americans polled said that free content was important to the overall value of the Internet, and more than 60 percent said it was “extremely” important. Similarly, more than 75 percent of poll respondents said they prefer content (like news, blogs and entertainment sites) to remain free and supported by advertising, compared to fewer than 10 percent who said they’d rather pay for ad-free content.

“What the poll makes clear is that consumers prefer ads that reflect their particular interests, which is precisely what interest-based advertising was created to provide,” said Lou Mastria, managing director of the DAA, a self-regulatory body that promotes transparency and user choice for interest-based ads.

DAA operates a consumer education program and choice tool that allows users to tailor how and whether they receive interest-based advertising. DAA’s ubiquitous AdChoices icon is served over a trillion times per month and simultaneously supports ad-funded content while providing real-time transparency and on-demand choice.

This data is particularly interesting when you consider the current and escalating threats from legislators and regulators to our data-driven lifestyle.  DMA created the Data-Driven Marketing Insituate (DDMI) to specifically combat the threats from Congress and the FTC, both of whom want to severely restrict our ability to use consumer data in marketing.  Consumer preference for a free, ad-supported Internet helps demonstrate the value of data-driven marketing.

Survey results include data showing:

  • 92 percent of Americans think free content like news, weather and blogs is important to the overall value of the Internet (64 percent extremely important, 28 percent somewhat important)
  • 75 percent prefer ad supported content to paying for ad-free content
  • 68 percent prefer to get at least some ads Internet directed at their interests
  • 40 percent prefer to get all their ads directed to their interests
  • 47 percent would oppose a law that would restrict how data is used for Internet advertising but also potentially reduced free content availability, compared to only 22 percent that support such a law
  • 75 percent say they should be able to choose the ads they want to see as opposed to 4 percent who say government should
  • Biggest concerns about the Internet: identity theft (39 percent); viruses and malware (33 percent); government surveillance (12 percent); cyber bullying and/or stalking (5 percent); behavioral targeting (4 percent)
  • 61 percent don’t trust the government to regulate how Internet advertising is delivered
  • 41 percent of users think that browser obstacles to displaying advertising will result in less access to free content

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