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Skype Rolls Out Conversation Ads

It never fails. Whenever you have a very popular free service, there will always be a minority of users who will hem and haw when you try to monetize or make money off that service. Call it an entitlement mentality or just call it an addiction to a “clean service,” but adding ads to a previously ad-free communication platform on the internet always draws some concerns from a fairly small but vocal group of users. This is the risk any service provider runs, but the truth of the matter is the more successful your service is, the more resources you would need to run such a service and the more users you have to support, costs go up. Somebody has to shoulder these costs. Venture Capital Funding can only go so far. Enter advertising.

While Skype is by no means a startup anymore, and it does have some premium services, its recent launch of “conversation ads” has ruffled some feathers on the blogosphere. Basically, the conversational ads work like this: When you are having a conversation with your buddy on Skype, to the side of your friend’s image an ad will run. The upside to this ad is that it is personalized according to Skype. At this point in time, we do not know what personalized means. It is contextual to your conversation? How would they know? Do they use the name of the person or some sort of demographic targeting? We still do not know.

Still, the prospect of an ad showing up while you are talking to your friend on Skype leaves a bad taste in many people’s mouths because they would prefer “clean” Skype conversation experience. We think this is unfair. Skype, being such a massive service, despite the fact that they do generate some healthy revenues from premium services are well within their rights to add more advertising to their service. It helps pay the bills and it ensures that Skype remains free for people who want free video chat. It is a very small price to pay having to look at an ad while you are talking to your friend. To Skype haters who have a big cow about the conversations ads, we can only say three words- -”get over it.” Sure, it can be a bit intrusive and it can be a bit annoying, but considering the huge service Skype is providing for free and also the huge cost involved in making sure the software works, supporting the software and all forms of customer support, this is a very small price to pay. Besides, by now people should have waken up to the fact that if you are not paying any money for a communications service whether it is looking at a website, processing information or interacting with other people online, your engagement and your use of that service is the product that is being sold to advertisers. Once again, as long as the terms of service are clear and there is a robust and fair privacy policy, our advice is get over it.