If you’re here, chances are that you’re like me--we take advantage of free stuff on the Internet. I download free entertainment, upload my photos to free storage, take free Elvish classes, and crowd source bored teens. Hell, this is a free article on a free site that posts free podcasts. FREE! We are living in a golden age of entitlement when the expectation is for products and services to not monetize directly. This Thanksgiving, let’s keep it that way by helping them monetize indirectly.
Ways you can give thanks to the Internet.
Succumb to Sponsors
The majority of content that is free to consumers is paid for by advertising and they are pretty darn good at finding some product that appeals to you, given the type of content you are consuming. Now’s the time to turn off your ad-blocker. Click through the banner ad and hear out the live read. The content you love gets credit sometimes just for visiting their advertiser’s website. Go ahead a start that free trail or...whatever, and if it’s halfway decent, stick around for at least another month to encourage the sponsor to keep spending ad dollars with those you find valuable.
Smaller operations have less big money sponsors so they become affiliates to companies like Amazon. In these cases they don’t get paid until you buy something from said company. The good news is, there is something you want from Amazon. All you need to do is click through a link on your favorite site’s webpage and then you can shop as per usual. If you really want to help out, and why wouldn’t you considering that it’s no more cost to you, bookmark the affiliate link after you click through so that the Amazon (or whoever) on your browser gives thanks every time to use it.
The purest of thanks is giving cash and expecting nothing in return. Even if they’ve never run a donation drive, there is likely a “Donate” button somewhere that will take your PayPal credit. One-time bonuses are always appreciated, but if you want to pay them regularly for their content, making a recurring donation, sometimes called a subscription, is also an option.
The one thing I’ve never heard an Internet personality specifically solicit is an actual present. I’m talking about looking up the address of an Internet personality and mailing them something that you think they’d like. If you’ve spent as much time as I have listening to certain podcasts, you have an intimate knowledge of what they like. This is an unconventional thanks, but it’s also the most personal and therefore the most likely to return a thanks for the thanks.
From t-shirts to in-app purchases, most of the things we love have some value-adder available. In the case of swag, this helps out your favorite Internet types in two ways: they make a little profit off the shirt or whatever, and it potentially spreads the word that they exist and that you enjoy them. If I see a friend wearing a shirt from a podcast, I’ll give the show at least one listen to see what they’re into. If the show is good, one listen is all it takes to get hooked.
Speaking of spreading the word, write a review. This is the option where the least excuses apply because it doesn’t touch your wallet at all, it just takes a moment of your time. If the thing you love is distributed somewhere, like iTunes or Google Play, that’s a great place to leave a review. If that doesn’t apply, just find a comment section and tell them what you like about their stuff. Positive feedback is a gift unto itself, but these reviews and high-star ratings can also makes them more visible on iTunes lists (or whatever applies) which gets them in front of more eyeballs of potential new users/viewers/listeners/ect.
People create stuff for the web mostly because they enjoy doing it. They probably don’t need money or encouragement or thanks to keep going, but it helps. Creators often have a symbiotic relationship with their audiences and the more they get back, the more they give. Pay a podcaster enough to make a studio and sound quality improves. Give a game a glowing review and new levels appear in the next update. Everyone wins. So thanks, Internet. It’s been another great year of free stuff. Now I’m going to work on your Holiday bonus.