Apple’s Latest Design Could Be A Premium Internet

Apple’s IOS 9 could see Apple attempt to redesign and upgrade something bigger than Music or News. Apple could, in fact, give us a cleaner, faster, better designed internet.

The internet has always felt organic, like a living, breathing organism,  with information as it’s lifeblood; yet it grows incessantly towards the sunlight of the advertising dollar, and our attention is its fuel.

Every app seemingly inevitably shifts and pivots towards being another place to host video ads, every site existence seems based on capturing or stealing a glance or click and sending you on to another destination.

Despite its reputation for innovation, Apple rarely brings something totally new into our lives. It’s a vehicle for refinement, simplicity, for taking the benefits of the lab into the mainstream. From Mp3 players to Mobile payments — or even the smartphone — what Apple does is take geeky peripheral behavior to the mainstream.

The business model of the modern internet isn’t working. Advertising as a funding model currently works for nobody, least of all readers who find their attention being stolen and misdirected for a pittance.

Brands that need to reach audiences where they spend time can’t cut through the clutter. Journalists produce ever cheaper, ever more sharable content to chase clicks, publishers who see the near infinite web pages create near infinite inventory, see rates that are mathematically obliged to tend to zero. We’ve a series of vicious circles and misaligned incentives working to ensure nobody is happy — it’s the tragedy of the commons that affects us all.

The growing coffers of Ad Tech were supposed to help. The promise of more personal, more useful, better targeted ads should have raised prices and raised quality; reduced the cognitive burden of readers and made advertisers and publishers and then perhaps users happy.

It hasn’t worked. Instead, ad tech miserably shows us things we’ve bought or ignored, or never wanted. Privacy issues have trumped relevancy debates. Ad creative remains hopeless… and adware has clogged the pipes.

Our current internet reflects still reflects an industry that rewards attention and clicks above usability and meaningful connections, and the lazy assumption that we’d never pay with anything other than our attention.

A Premium Internet

One of the things Andy Warhol loved about America is that it allowed the richest and the poorest to buy the same things. He loved that “even the President of the USA couldn’t get a better Coke than the bum on the street”.

Modern marketing fights that parity, using science, art and psychology to create more products to extract as much money for any stated need, at a range of prices.

Behavioral economics, branding, first-degree price differentiation and premium customization have allowed marketers to extract the most value from any given situation. As a result, around the world, there are very few things in life that the rich and the rest experience in the exact same way (here’s looking at you, gold apple watch).

Yet the currently internet is for all intents and purposes as crap for the rich as it is for the poor, a billionaire may be using a diamond-encrusted iPhone 6+ but they still see the awful Forbes welcome screen…

Yet the currently internet is for all intents and purposes as crap for the rich as it is for the poor, a billionaire may be using a diamond-encrusted iPhone 6+ but they still see the awful Forbes welcome screen, the muffin top ads on Facebook, the dismal suggested content from Outbrain and endless click bait from companies who abuse our wandering gaze and punish curiosity

The assumption is that this is a battle between hardware funded Apple and advertising funded Google, or that this pits media owners and publishers and brands against the might of Cupertino; but I genuinely think it’s more complicated than this. What if Ad Blocking is the route to a better internet for all?

Perhaps now brands and publishers can focus on far fewer, far richer, far more pleasant, less interruptive, premium ads, ads that actually work. People don’t hate advertising, they hate bad ads, they had interruptions, they hate irrelevancy.

Give a W Magazine to a fashionista with no ads, and watch them weep. When most ads are blocked, given the vast amount of time that we spend online, the critically limited inventory will be worth more money, given more design attention and could end up with ads that are worthy of attention.

Native advertising is another key area of growth. The lines between advertorial and editorial have long been blurred, but ad blocking will unleash money into new ways to make content that supports brands interests while garnering views and shares. Perhaps ad funding can produce great new apps, video series, if Soap opera’s were named after household cleaners and Michellin Guides used to promote driving, the new opportunities are immense.

Perhaps we can pay with data, let’s imagine a world where in addition to ad blocking, customers allowed a little more tracking. Perhaps you allowed some anonymous scraping of your behavior, your location, your grocery basket.  Perhaps in that world you are shown 1/100th the amount of ads, but for the right product, at the right time, in the right way. A beautiful image of flowers from your favorite flower store a day before mothers day? A stunning image of Audi S4  that you’re starting to think about, a notification on your phone to book an Uber as you’re running late for a meeting.

These advertising moments are worth orders of magnitude to advertisers more than the current mess. They serve people with something of value infrequently. They’d allow a better view of the internet for all.

The current internet, the site hosting costs, website design, the content creation, from the coders of Facebook to the writers at Buzzfeed is — but for a rounding error — entirely funded by advertising,  rather than paywalls or tip jars.  In the USA adding up search, social media and display advertising online, we see that around $230 per person is spent on reaching people online, or approximately $25 per-internet-accessing-adult per-month or 3 cents per-hour

Ad Blocking, especially if selective could be the best thing to happen to the internet, a chance for our eyeballs to be given the value they deserve, a chance for journalism to reward quality not virality and cheapness of production.

I want to see quality journalism valued and paid for, decent messages from brands I care about at the right time and with high production values and respect. This could be the chance for it to happen and Apple’s biggest achievement to date.