I’ve seen various types of ad-supported software over the years. One company that I’ve seen offers you a branded version of their RSS reader and you can put your banner ad in the top right and offer the software for download on your site. Another site, Alexa, allows you to download their toolbar, customize it to your own Amazon associates profile and business logo and offer it for download on your site. You’re advertising your site, making money and offering user value (at least on the surface).
I’m not normally a fan of these types of software as so many of them place spyware within their program (think WeatherBug). Usually when people offer you a way to make money off of their hard work, you can be sure they are getting something out of the deal, whether you are aware of it or not.
I am a fan of software that’s free, but uses advertising as a way to encourage you to donate to the cause. One example is Pablo Software’s Web Builder (WYSIWYG editor). The product is absolutely free, but every site you design with it has a button that is not easily removed unless you pay the $25 ‘professional fee’ for the product. You are paying them with advertising or with your payment, either way.
I got an email earlier last week letting me know of another model that uses advertising to support the freebie, but in a much more interesting way. The company, a small software company based in Norway, is selling lifelong advertising in their software for $1K via an eBay auction. Depending on what your target market is, an opportunity like this could potentially be successful.
For instance, if you were a website that specialized in financial help and debt issues, advertising on a piece of free software that helped people with their budget or with tax prep would be a great way to reach targeted (and motivated) consumers.
Innovative advertising means reaching people where they are; Motivating them without their feeling like they’ve been manipulated; Helping them realize that your product fills a longstanding need for them. The more highly targeted you get, the more personal your pitch really can be…
*Thanks for the tip Greg.