What’s the internet worth? Consumers say $38,000 a year. And they like ads. (IAB)

Yesterday we provided initial coverage of the IAB’s newly released study, “The Free and Open Ad-Supported Internet: Consumers, Content, and Assessing the Data Value Exchange.” We take a second tour through the richly informative 30-page PDF today, with an emphasis on metrics and the IAB’s narrative running through the presentation.

In the underlying survey, internet users were asked what they would charge to abstain from internet access for one year. The answers averaged to $37,619. Gen Z’ers wanted much more than the average ($54,169) — the IAB thinks that suggests that the internet will continue to increase in value and importance. Certainly, Gen Z’ers use the internet more resourcefully and constantly than older cohorts. Boomers would only charge $29,407 to lay off for a year.

There’s a follow-up to the value equations the IAB is documenting: On average, consumers surveyed would pay $164 a month to continue using websites and apps which are currently free. (Boomers would pay less; Gen Z’ers would pay more.) That is $164 for all used apps, on average for each respondent. The gap between a hypothesized monthly charge, and a conceived value for the entire online realm, means this to the IAB: “This gap reinforces the need for advertising to keep the internet free and open.”

Advertising To The Rescue

All the above is wily marketing from the IAB, framing commercials (which most consumers bear but don’t love) as the enabling force for access to the worldwide repository of knowledge, interactivity, and recreation. It leads to the second section of this report: “Ads Power the Free and Open Internet.”

In the underlying survey, the IAB asked consumers what they think of advertising’s central and beneficent role. All age groups agreed with the premise that websites and apps are free because of advertising.

From that benchmark, the IAB asserts that targeted and personalized ads are more appealing to consumers and more likely to drive action vs. generic ads. Via the survey, 885 of respondents said they prefer ads relevant to shopping, and are more likely to earn clicks. Eighty-eight percent prefer ads for products and services they are interested in, or shopping for. About the same number said they are ore willing to take actions to learn more.

In other words, targeting is good from the consumer’s perspective.

Glad To Share

All this leads to data sharing. Ads are targeted based on understanding the user, and sharing personal data yields the benefit of relevant ads that help consumers shop. “73% of consumers understand that sharing their personal data enables websites/apps to know more about them in order to serve personalized ads.” And 69% of respondents are willing to share personal data “to support advertising” to avoid subscription fees.

Consumers do have data-sharing filters, though. Large majorities of responses care about several trust indicators:

But … Transparency

With all this consumer willingness to support successful advertising in order to avoid subscription fees, consumers do want transparency. The survey revealed substantial complaints that websites and apps don’t give enough information about how personal data is used. Boomers are most sensitive to this issue, with 62% agreement. Millennials seem most forgiving (41% concern).


“IAB urges all players in the digital ecosystem to clearly inform consumers about what data is being collects and why as well as how it’s being used and protected.” — IAB Consumer privacy Report

Brad Hill