Carleton College's student newspaper since 1877

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Living in the age of advertising

<w Nature at its purest. The dogwoods had turned red. The maple leaves were scarlet and gold . . . . And not one foot of it was marred by a single unsightly man-made obstruction--no advertising signs." President Lyndon Johnson, on the Highway Beautification Act of 1965.

“You know, it’s a little embarrassing to talk about E.D., but it’s so important to millions of men and their partners that I decided to talk about it publicly.” Senator Bob Dole, on Viagra.

A music service called SpiralFrog opened last fall. Kind of like iTunes, you go online and download music. But you don’t have to pay. SpiralFrog is “ad-supported.” To get its music, you just have to sell your soul.

Want something for free on the internet? Subject yourself to advertising., offering “free” online TV, just opened. Again, ads interrupt the content, but they are short and far between. EA Games is planning to release ad-supported video games this summer. SpiralFrog is joined by services like Ruckus, which offer the same sort of deal.

What distinguishes these ads from “normal” online ads? They’re unavoidable. You can’t simply brush them off, as you can pop-ups or banner ads.

After trying out a paid model,, the online magazine, has settled on this option. You either watch a short ad and then get free access to the site for a day, or you pay a subscription.

And as computers spread and get smaller, maybe you’ll get this chance in real life. Want to go to Taco Bell (I’m getting paid to mention them)? Watch a few minutes of ads, though probably not in the drive-thru. In the digital age, advertising is currency.

In fact, its not too much of a leap to an online advertising system that pays you to watch ads. Advertisers pay TV networks so you can watch ads. Cut out the middle-man. Before the internet, mass media was the only real way to deliver advertising. You couldn’t force anyone to watch ads. Now, why not just pay people to watch ads? Make them provide some proof they actually watched it– a quiz, etc.– and hand over however much thirty seconds of human attention is worth.

But does all of this make sense for the viewer?

“Someone who spends five minutes viewing and replying to ads each day would earn 25,000 frequent-flier miles in one year, enough for a round-trip ticket,” says the president of e-Miles, a company that offers frequent flier miles in exchange for your eyes. Why don’t you just work an extra five minutes a day and avoid the mental anguish? At a Carleton salary of 9.23 dollars an hour, that works out to about an extra 300 dollars a year, effectively negating the frequent-flier advantage (at a higher salary, you save money).

In 1965 a sitting president called for “control of outdoor advertising, including removal of certain types of signs, along the Nation’s growing Interstate System.” He expended much effort in making this happen. Hard to see anything like that happening today.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Carletonian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *