The folks at Skype announced on their blog yesterday that they were rolling out a new advertisement system for users who are not paying subscribers. A good percentage of Skype’s user base are, let’s face it, freeloaders who are content to use only those features that are offered for free. I’m one of those freeloaders and one of the things you put up with for free stuff is being subjected to ads. Skype has promised that these ads will not affect call quality nor will they make any sound whatsoever.
I don’t have a problem with that. What I do have a problem with is their attempt, in a post on their blog, to make it sound like the introduction of these ads is something we freeloaders will appreciate:
While on a 1:1 audio call, users will see content that could spark additional topics of conversation that are relevant to Skype users and highlight unique and local brand experiences. So, you should think of Conversation Ads as a way for Skype to generate fun interactivity between your circle of friends and family and the brands you care about. Ultimately, we believe this will help make Skype a more engaging and useful place to have your conversations each and every day.
Seriously? The only way they will spark conversation between me and whomever I’m Skyping with will be if they’re in any way annoying enough for me to mention how fucking annoying they are. Otherwise, like most ads on the Internet, we’ll probably ignore them altogether. In fact, if we’re not using the video option then chances are the Skype client will be minimized and I’ll be looking at something else entirely. The last thing I do on audio-only calls is stare at the Skype client.
Again, I don’t have a problem with Skype putting ads on the screen per se. I get that they’re a for-profit company and they have to come up with a way to make some bucks off of those of us who don’t subscribe to their service. I just wish they’d be honest about why they’re doing it and not try to sell it as something beneficial to me like I’m an idiot.
Had they said something like this:
Hey folks. Today we’re putting advertising on the screen during 1-to-1 audio only calls to try and offset the cost of providing you with the service for free. We promise to keep the ads as unobtrusive as possible and they will not affect the call quality. We do offer a subscription service that not only offers lots of additional features, but also eliminates the ads for those who don’t wish to see them if you’d like to consider that option. We hope that this will not be a source of inconvenience for you and we welcome your feedback.
I’d be damned impressed with their honesty. Running a service like Skype is expensive and they have to make money somehow if they want to keep offering some of their features for free. These ads aren’t unreasonable even if I think most folks, like myself, will ignore them.
But who knows? Maybe I’m wrong and there will be a lot of people who end up finding them a useful topic to discuss with their friends. Maybe such people really do exist and I’m just being an old curmudgeon. I’d like to think that’s not the case, but I’ve been wrong before. Even so I think Skype would do well to count those as a happy side-benefit of the ads instead of trying to promote that as a feature folks will appreciate. But maybe that’s just me.