The Week 12th April, 2015 #19

Hello, this week I have been pondering on apps and the “free” tag line that is synonymous with a lot of entertainment we consume and is free always the best way?

I have been looking at the app industry for a possible future endeavour I have come to the conclusion that the tag line of “free” can have wider impact on us than just the benefit of something ‘free’. I suppose it is fairly interesting and the way the world has gone in the last 8 years or so with internet based products such as facebook, youtube and the like coming to dominate their representative genres and both are free! I can see it made sense when both were being set up to be free, facebook being a system set up for social interaction in university and using university servers so students could keep the actually cost minimal. However, the huge impact it had on the rest of the world and its subsequent and monumental growth meant that it was easy for facebook founders to  ride the wave until companies realised the massive cache of people facebook could advertise to and now that is how facebook makes its money. Advertisement revenue comes from huge multinationals to poor slobs like me with my one man plan, but it all stacks up and it made sense to keep it free so more and more people would join and more and more companies would advertise on it, and in doing so throw their money at Facebook. The story is the same with YouTube and the fact that there are so many millionaire Youtubers shows the success these free sites have had on, but is all that at a cost and will the trend carry on? I point towards such apps as snapchat or tinder apps that are not as easy to market. How do they generate money? Snapchat had to have a recent redevelopment so now that it has the discover feature as part of its main hub (I don’t know about tinder because I don’t use it but I assume it has a similar problem. So what is the point I am aiming at here? Well, I believe free apps have their place and I think facebook, for a time, was a useful and harmonious place from which I could stay connected with my closest and dearest but now that social profiles and image have been thrown in the spot light, as never before, I believe the free app area for social apps is over. Maybe it’s my age or where I am in my life but I would rather pay a subscription, like spotify charge, for a social app to have an experience that isn’t full of trolls or clone accounts and doesn’t actively try to sell me trainers, skis and holidays. I do think that facebook especially is no longer a social network, it is so vast and fatuous that it is a bit depressing seeing the constant moaning and hate on every public picture; from some company such as the lad’s bible along with the click bate and clone accounts trying to talk to you – it kind of finished it for me. I would rather pay a few quid a month for a social media platform that clone accounts and trolls won’t be on and have an actual social network for genuine people to meet chat and share their business ideas, or just their holiday snaps if they want to, without the hate, but is that the way we all are feeling? I don’t know!

The other point is that the free app idea means there no real link between us, the consumer and the people running the show. Why should they care about changing policy to stop aggressive, hateful or racist comments on their sites (take note Facebook, Youtube) if we are not paying their wages. I feel there a real disconnect between the people running the show and us on the ground level. I feel that there is more sympathy and goodwill in the world but it is obscured by those who use this free tool to spread misery.  Anyway, let’s head away from social media and its free tag line and stop to look at free apps. I feel this is the area where imminent change needs to happen. Apps such as
Candy Sugar make a huge amount of money every day from advertising, on top of their ‘Pay to Win’ set up. I don’t think ‘Pay to Win’ is fair. I don’t think it is morally right to be honest, the amount of children I have seen in work who have spent hundreds of pounds on getting  the upgrade so they keep or get passed a level is flabbergasting.  The amount some of them waste on games that are set up so you have to throw money at them is maddening and I believe it can be hugely damaging, I believe this is teaching children, from an early age (many of whom already have ipads and tablets which is astonishing but true) that to get ahead in life you need to spend, or should I say gamble?  I work with children and have noticed over the past eight years a definite increase in a mercenary outlook amongst them. So many put their own self worth, and how they value others, in money terms – wealth being above all.  A recent example is a young lad who, instead of telling me about his Christmas in terms of the fun he had, decided to inform me the amount of money they spent on him, not even by saying what they brought him, but by telling me that his parents had spent seven grand on him ( I know, 7 grand!! that is madness)   These apps fuel this attitude. They are making kids who already are confused and cut off from the normality of life worse; on top of that there are some really bad games out there. A lot of them are set up by people, who haven’t designed something to tell a story, a complete game like Rockstar or Bungy but are written simply to cash in, by people who are obsessed with raking it in regardless of the consequences

My final thought on this free app business is this, which I kind of touched on a  few weeks ago when I talked about writing and its pit falls, there are some people who have made a success of the free idea to entice an audience but this doesn’t tell us about the millions who have failed, and the fact that with the advent of  twitter, snapchat and tinder, along with Youtube, Facebook and any others all being free means that for independent people, such as myself, it is almost impossible to enter the market and compete, so free stuff is closing the market place, and inevitably working to the lowest common denominator, as we have seen happen in  the music industry and with books. So it gets harder and harder to make a living by doing something you enjoy, unless you where lucky enough to get on the band wagon as it was setting off.  I think that this is going to have a negative impact on our creative output and choices in the future. I hope I am wrong but I don’t think I am – the chance for creative people to earn a modest income is diminished as the advertising world chases the big numbers and calls the shots.

I think that’s just something to think on. It may sound like I’m just being a sour puss because things aren’t going well for me but that’s not true. I have sold a fair amount of my book, a bargain at £1, it has sold even though it is competing against those that are free (as all aspiring authors have to give their work away now, that isn’t going to end well is it?) No, I am not just whining. I honestly think that the ‘everything free’ dream has turned sour. We are already seeing it in Hollywood with the amount of rubbish being churned out with their remakes of everything and nothing new. The amount of time and energy companies are putting into “free” apps or games which they hope are going to be money pits because they appeal to children or are addictive, instead of investing in making good stuff, quality things, and charging for them. But that means taking a risk, and no-one wants to do that anymore.

So that it for this week, just my thoughts on the free world we are living in and the price we are really paying for it – the closing down of IdeasTap painfully illustrates my concerns for the demise of creativity. Check out their site to see what I mean.

Have a good week.

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