Free Sites May Curtail Use in Developing Countries

This article from the New York Times this week discusses how many advertising supported web sites are challenged by growing numbers of user from developing countries: In Developing Countries, Web Grows Without Profit.

Web companies that rely on advertising are enjoying some of their most vibrant growth in developing countries. But those are also the same places where it can be the most expensive to operate, since Web companies often need more servers to make content available to parts of the world with limited bandwidth. And in those countries, online display advertising is least likely to translate into results.

This intractable contradiction has become a serious drag on the bottom lines of photo-sharing sites, social networks and video distributors like YouTube. It is also threatening the fervent idealism of Internet entrepreneurs, who hoped to unite the world in a single online village but are increasingly finding that the economics of that vision just do not work.

According to the article, some companies are offering, or considering, scaled back services to these audiences to limit bandwidth costs for low profit traffic.

This is an interesting consideration for web strategy when your desired web audiences include people in developing countries. You may not be able to leverage or rely on free services that are funded through advertising to spread your message and build engagement abroad outside the developed world. You may have to develop your own channels with which to do so if this trend continues.

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