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Dateline: 19 January 2000 Early Edition
Read The Previous Edition

Surf For Free? I Don't Think So
The NZ Herald has published a story in which it is reported that yet another "Free Internet" service is on the horizon for New Zealanders.

I say "yet another" because this isn't the first such "free Internet" venture to be touted in this neck of the woods -- but is such a business model feasible here?

Maybe it is -- maybe these guys are going to get filthy rich and show us all how visionary and smart they are being -- but I don't think so.

Why not?

Well the only place such services have really taken off is in countries such as the UK where phone users normally pay for their local residential calls by the minute. In such cases the "free Internet" services not only earn their revenues from keeping advertisers' messages in your face but they also get a cut on the per-minute charge that eventually appears on your phone bill.

To try and run such a system in New Zealand means you'd be solely reliant on finding enough advertisers prepared to fork out the equivalent of $0.75-$1 for every hour that every user spent online.

Now, given just how little money is being spent on Net advertising in NZ at the moment, I believe it would require a major miracle before the agencies and big advertisers suddenly decided to open up their wallets to this extent.

And don't forget -- those who are most likely to use such a service are also likely to be those with the least money to spend -- not exactly a good match to an advertiser seeking to earn lots of money by selling their products or services.

Okay, so they'll demand your full life history, shoe-size, star sign, mother's favourite colour and a whole raft of other information so that they can offer advertisers the ability to accurately target their pitch -- but it still isn't going to help much if 95 percent of the audience are too poor or cheap to spend $10-$40 a month to buy regular Net access.

Maybe I shouldn't dismiss the value of beneficiaries, students and the poor as a market -- but I fear that such groups will be disproportionately represented amongst the ranks of those who USE such a system -- and let's face it, these people don't have a lot of discretionary income with which to buy an advertiser's products do they?

Don't get me wrong, a free ISP service will attract a huge number of subscribers -- but of these, only a small number will be "USERS" with much in the way of available income to buy an advertiser's offerings. And you don't have to look very far to see how annoyed most people are already becoming with the way advertising is becoming a growing component of the Internet -- so for too many people I suspect, free Internet will be just too expensive.

So... good luck to the free ISPs, but to those who might be contemplating the formation of such a venture -- don't give up your day job just yet.

About That Billionaire
A transcript of the court proceedings surrounding the granting of name suppression and the waiving of a conviction in the case of the Billionaire drug user has appeared in today's Herald. I'm providing a link for the benefit of those interested.

Russell Says Thanks
The winner of the 1999 Aardvark Netizen of the year award, Russell Brown, has asked me to convey his thanks to all those who voted this illustrious title upon him. He did say however that he won't be including the award in his regular bylines -- too modest by far!

And The Winner Is...
Congratulations to Steve Marshall whose vote in the 1999 Aardvark Awards has won him the Microsoft Intellimouse kindly donated by Microsoft New Zealand.


General News & Current Events:
7am.com | NZL News | AUS News | GBR News | World News


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