Dollars or Data?
I don't really care if companies track me online.
I don't even care if they listen to what I say while I'm at home.
(I have either a Google Home or an Amazon Alexa device in every room in my home*, and in my office, I have one of each. Both Google and Amazon have claimed repeatedly they don't listen to any conversations unless the designated wake words are used, but I wouldn't really mind if they did.)
In fact, I want companies to collect as much information as they possibly can about me...
... IF they're going to use that information to better understand me and my needs, and then provide me with better, more relevant information (and offers) as a result.
And if they make money while they're at it? Well, I consider that a win-win.
After all, companies need to be profitable: they have costs to cover and shareholders to satisfy. So if they're going to let you benefit from whatever it is they produce without charging you for the privilege, how else are they going to generate revenue?
Advertising, that's how!
Companies who give you things for free collect your data, then aggregate it and use it to sell targeted advertising. The better data these companies are able to collect, the more refined consumer profiles they can sell to advertisers, and the more money they can charge as a result... which explains why companies work so diligently to track you online.
So, let's recap: companies want to give me free email (Gmail), free videos (YouTube), free directions (Waze), free long-distance calls and video chats (Whatsapp), free design tools (Canva), free music (Spotify), free inspiration (Pinterest), free content (any non-paywalled website), free EVERYTHING basically... and all they want in return is to follow me around online so that the ads they make me watch as payment for their services are more interesting and relevant to me?
Personally, I think that sounds like a fair trade.
But I fully realize I'm in the minority: most people don't want to be tracked online, period.
Of course, you normally don't get any say in the matter.
If you don't want Company X to know anything about you, you have to forgo using any and all Company X products... or you're probably getting tracked in some way shape or form.
And "just don't use the products" is easier said than done when you replace "Company X" with Google, Meta, Amazon, Apple... you know, the companies that make all the great products most of us really want to use.And "just don't use the products" is easier said than done when you replace "Company X" with Google, Meta, Amazon, Apple... you know, the companies that make all the great products most of us really want to use.
But what if these companies gave you a choice?
Not the "you can be tracked or you can not use our products" kind of choice, but rather this option: "Would you like to be tracked so we can sell your data to advertisers, or would you like to pay us directly instead?"
Earlier this week was the first time I remember being presented with this choice so explicitly.
It happened when I clicked a link on Facebook to read an article about Dave Castro being fired from the CrossFit organization, and was taken to the BOXROX website.
That's when this pop-up appeared...
It doesn't get any more explicit than this: BOXROX is giving me a very clear choice as to how I'd like to pay for the content I was interested in seeing. (My choice? Show me the ads!)
Most content sites give you a limited number of free articles per month before you run into a paywall that only subscribers can get past. Want more content? Subscribe.
I think the BOXROX model is better for businesses, advertisers, and consumers.
Ask people directly whether they want them to pay with their Dollars or Data.
You might be surprised by what they choose and how much they feel their data is worth.
* Except for the restrooms. But only because my wife won't allow it. Personally, I think they could be really useful there. ("Alexa, order toilet paper. Rush delivery, please...")