This blog is about Graphic Design, Vector Art, and Cartoon Illustration

Why Facebook is free, and what you're really paying

As an old Marketing guy, I get a kick out of people who are surprised to find out why something like Facebook, or this blog, are free. It's the same reason that Network television is free, or why you can listen to the radio for free. It's the same reason why there are free newspapers, and free newsletters. Advertising.

So if you use a free service, like Facebook, or if you read a blog like this, for free, you're paying by becoming an audience for advertising. And even if you block ads (which a lot of people do), free sites like Instagram, and podcasts, are finding a way to sneak the ads in, but just making it part of the content. In the industry that's called "Product Placement".

Of course, there are systems that ask you to pay a fee AND make you watch advertising, which amazes me. Of course the big money is in advertising, but things like newspapers, magazines, and cable TV can "double dip" by both charging for them AND allowing advertising. My personal opinion is that if you charge for something you shouldn't also display ads, but then again I've never run a newspaper or a magazine. And maybe that's why I'll never be rich.

Poster by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

Graphic Design by David Carson.

I'm a Graphic Designer. Most of the work I've done has been created to promote something. I've done ads, newsletters, catalogs, billboards, websites, that kind of stuff. I've been paid to create an appealing design that will hopefully attract attention - that's what Graphic Designers do. To me, Graphic Design is an art form, from Toulouse Lautrec to David Carson. And it all does the same thing, attracts attention so that a message can be communicated. And that messages is usually advertising.

So, I'm part of the world of advertising. And since it's my world, it really never occurred to me until recently how mysterious all of this stuff is to people outside of the industry. To a lot of people, finding out what pays for free stuff is a terrible shock.

It's nothing new. And whether you call it advertising, promotion, or exposure, it's all about getting a message out. The message may be about a concert, or a product that someone thinks that you should buy. And all of this allows either for free services, or to greatly reduce the price of something (the average newspaper couldn't be sold on the newsstands for what it costs to write, edit, print, and distribute). So, it's not a conspiracy, man. If it's just taking you by surprise now, then relax, it's all part of the Marketing Mix. And we're doing the best we can.