Striking the Balance in Ad-Supported Content

There’s been lots of talk about the bright future for ad-supported, versus paid, mobile content. I’m generally pretty bullish on the idea — if it’s done correctly. A big point to consider is the balance between content and advertising, and making sure that you’re not overwhelming your customers with too many ads, outweighing the value of the content you’re giving them, or making it too difficult for users to actually get the content.

What spurred this was seeing a post over at Symbian-Guru about a software company that’s made its whole catalog “free.” To get the “free” content, users have to earn credits by viewing ads — and the ads are prompted by phone events like ending a call or getting an SMS (heh, brings to mind something like: “This hangup was brought to you by Coke! Have a Coke, a smile, and shut the hell up!”). Ricky from Symbian-Guru says he didn’t find the ads too intrusive, but personally, I feel like having common phone events generate ads would bother me.

Another example comes from US operator Cricket, which recently launched its Myperks program. Users can sign up for it and get content delivered to their idle screen, along with ads and coupons. This sort of thing’s been mulled over for a long time, and lots of people seem to feel like a phone’s idle screen is fair game for ads mixed in with some content. Again, I’m not so sure, both personally, but also because the ads don’t take any sort of context into consideration.

What do you think? How best should content providers balance this? Do these examples go too far?

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