Now Virgin Tries Ad-Supported Cell Service
from the there's-always-a-catch dept
We've noted in the past the resurgence of the "free stuff (with ads!)" business model, where users are offered free services like ISP access or long-distance calls in exchange for viewing or listening to some ads. Few of these ventures have worked, but that hasn't stopped interest in the plan from spreading. Now, Virgin Mobile is offering its users a chance to earn up to 75 minutes of free airtime per month if they watch commercials on a computer, or respond to text-message ads. The ads require the user to actually pay attention, trying to solve one shortcoming of previous efforts by forcing them to answer questions about the 30-second ads they watched, or respond to a text message, or answer a questionnaire before they get their free airtime. The thinking is obviously that Virgin's teen-heavy customer base will interested in the opportunity for free talk time, but though they're young, they're not stupid, and will quickly realize that a free minute of talktime, worth 10 cents, isn't worth the time or effort of playing along with the plan. At least Virgin isn't staking its whole business on people accepting the idea, like so many companies that have tried it before -- or Xero Mobile, the MVNO that's risen from the ashes of the spectacularly failed Gizmondo, and says it will give college students free phones and service if they'll watch video ads.