Free app’s — where’s the profit? AVG kicks the hornets’ nest

The “freemium” model for products and services dominates the digital landscape. Many companies use a free version (freeware) to promote their paid-for full version (and in some cases as a goodwill gesture to promote some public good). “Try before buy” is quite useful and these companies sometimes also provide free trial versions (user licenses for 10, 30, … days).

“Free” is a powerful marketing strategy. There’s a downside to the freemium model, however. Who pays the “freight” when there’s no fee? We constantly experience the consequences in ad-supported products and services. Less “filling,” more commercials. On many websites, ads and promotions clutter the page — they’re so dense that content is overwhelmed. More people, as a result, use ad blockers (and Reader / Reading View). And data collected about your use of these products and services is just as profitable.

So, while most people are aware that “there’s no free lunch,” many use free app’s (applications, programs, software) on their digital devices (smartphones, tablets, notebooks, desktops). Many of my clients, for example, use free anti-virus (anti-malware) app’s. Most of these are quite legitimate and useful (and better than Microsoft’s built-in Defender). Free versions are reviewed as well (for example, by PC World).

But whether free or paid, products and services come with terms and conditions and privacy policies. It’s the later — what data the provider collects and how such data is used — that’s increasingly a concern.

So, the release of a new, clarified Privacy Policy by AVG sparked industry reaction, as noted in this September 17, 2015, PC World “AVG’s new privacy policy is uncomfortably honest about tracking users” article.

The new policy, which takes effect on October 15, makes clear that AVG will collect non-personal data such as “Browsing and search history, including meta data.” AVG says it collects this data “to make money from our free offerings so we can keep them free.”

So, stay informed. Privacy Policies are everywhere. If you’re using AVG Free, does their new policy change anything?

[See my comments on this post for additional commentary on ad blocking.]


  1. On September 21, 2015, The Washington Post posted an article titled “What Apple’s ad blocking fight is really about” regarding:

    The current fight isn’t just about who pays the Web’s bills. The ad-blocking war is a symptom of several larger technology-driven disruptions in mass media … Information-based products have some unusual economic properties that make it both difficult and counter-productive to charge users directly.

  2. On September 23, 2015, MSN posted an article from the Associated Press titled “Ad blockers rise as ads annoy, bog down websites” regarding:

    When you visit a website, you often find yourself waiting and waiting for advertisements to load. Video starts playing automatically, and animated ads jump in front of what you were there to see. The seconds tick by.

    Already, some websites are taking steps to reduce the annoyance so users won’t turn to ad blockers. They are also subverting the ones out there to make sure they get paid for delivering news and entertainment.

    Apple’s News app, Facebook’s Instant Articles and SnapChat’s Discover all seek to speed up online journalism and cut back advertising, while sharing revenue with news outlets.

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