Internet begging - viable business model or desperation?

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Published 20th November 2018 | View or add comments

We are all familiar with begging in the real world and the moral rights and wrongs with it. Peoples views can be strong ranging from failure of the welfare state, social injustice and exclusion, to deadbeats and drop outs, along with everything in between.

Online begging

Online begging can be known as cyber-begging, internet begging or e-begging. But does this generate a similar reaction?

Some people are driven to financial desperation, resorting to cyber-begging strangers in the same way as you would see someone begging in the street. But what about if you visit a website and see an appeal for money to help it continue, does this spark any emotion?

Maybe with the abundance of online advertising, marketing messages and contextual adverts that stalk you round the web, we have become desensitised or detuned to begging messages? 

There is a great definition of begging websites in Wikipedia: Internet begging websites are essentially as transient as traditional off-line panhandlers with respect to territory and accessibility. Many Internet begging websites are not long lived.

The irony here of course is that Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales is a prolific online beggar. If you use Wikipedia, you will no doubt have seen Jimmy's personal appeal from time to time at the top of each page asking for a donation. But Wikipedia is a non profit organisation so at most you might be annoyed by these messages, but you are unlikely to get enraged about it.

Commercial beggars

But what about commercial organisations that resort to begging? A good example is the Guardian.com website. 

Is this just a thinly veiled product disguise, or maybe a virtual honesty box. It would be interesting to see the conversion rates of visitors who donate and those that just consume the content. I suspect if it is an attempt at a honesty box, it is a failing experiment, but would love to be proved wrong.

In reality it is a traditional business struggling to adapt to a new world order, at risk of going the same way as Woolworths, or Toys R Us. Fair and accurate journalism is critical to a democratic world, but maybe the time of the old world broadsheet with it's editorial bias and loyal followers has gone. The way we digest news has changed radically, from methods of delivery to who we actually trust.

New industries are being created while old ones are being continually reinvented. Older business models are superseded by new ones. Innovation and creation are the darlings of the digital world we live in. Maturing technologies such as blockchain are set to revolutionise the internet as they open a door into a more secure and fairer world. 

With so much change and momentum available, is commercial begging a valid business model, laziness or a final act of desperation? 

For me personally, I see it as a lazy model, but what do you think?

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Steve Richardson
Gaffer of My Local Services
My Local Services | Me on LinkedIn
Steve.Richardson Bio
Happy father & business owner, fascinated by marketing, local search & making trader directories effective.
- Founder of the UK Business Directory and Forum; www.mylocalservices.co.uk
- Founder of the USA Directory; www.mylocalservices.com
- Creator of the Trusted Trader platform; www.trustedtrader.scot in partnership with Trading Standards.

Always willing to help and advise if I can, feel free to connect or get in touch.
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