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The ad-tech industry has ballooned to $350 billion and is dominated by tech giants like Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL) and Facebook (NASDAQ: FB). But, the fact is that over the last several decades (barring the recent boom in entrepreneurship during COVID-19) small business formation in the U.S. has plummeted, and one reason for this may be due to competition and the power of tech companies.

Currently, of the 31.7 million small businesses in the U.S., few use either Google or Facebook for paid advertising — just 13% use Google and 6% use Facebook, according to Macquarie Research.

To understand where it went wrong, backing up to the pre-internet world when ad-tech didn’t dominate the marketing landscape might help.

Marketing in the Pre-Internet World

The pre-internet marketing world was not just about advertising as a way to find prospects for new customers. Certainly, there were outlets like Yellow Pages and newspaper classified ads. These old-school marketing channels were much more significant than you might imagine.

In 2000, classified ad spend was $19.6 billion. Now, it costs virtually nothing to advertise on platforms like Craigslist. In 2009, the entire Yellow Pages industry earned $26 billion in revenue, which exceeded Google's 2008 earnings of $21.8 billion.

In effect, at least a 50/50 balance between people searching for a business using Yellow Pages or local classified ads and the businesses doing the advertising existed even during the early days of the internet.

Where it Collapsed

One of the reasons for the massive decline of local newspapers has been the loss of revenue from classified ads. Craigslist, for example, is, to all intents and purposes, free.

Yellow Pages and local classifieds were a low and fixed marketing subscription cost that small businesses understood and could afford. In addition, it was largely a fair playing field where even though you could pay more for a bigger local listing, it did not exclude smaller businesses that just had a standard listing. Moreover, nearly every small and local business needed a Yellow Pages listing to get new customers.

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Here’s the big question: Of the over 80% of companies that do not (and cannot) use Facebook or Google for paid advertising, what choice do they have for a low-cost subscription-based marketing channel?

Step forward, the newly listed ethical technology company Bubblr, Inc. (OTCMKTS: BBLR).

Leveling the Playing Field

Bubblr has just announced that using its USPTO-approved patent, it will pivot the company to become an open-source platform that allows open source developers to build a completely different new type of app where content can be monetized by the Bubblr platform rather than ad-tech.

These new types of apps will have a button or another mobile control to allow consumers to search for Bubblr’s equivalent of Yellow Pages using a very sophisticated mobile UI for local suppliers of goods and services. This way, the small subscription fees charged to the suppliers can be shared with the app and their content can be monetized.

It is a brand new marketing channel that does not use advertising at all. Instead, it is much more like the old school listings of Yellow Pages and local classifieds.

Some people have described it as a "cross between Tinder and classified ads.” But, it is also about addressing the balance between advertising (convincing individuals to buy a product or service) and old-school listings (providing options for individuals actively looking for certain products and services).

One can imagine the open source community building alternative social media platforms that are not corrupted by ad-tech and all the privacy issues that come with it.

Bubblr’s proposition begs the question: Could this be one of the most significant disruptive changes for the internet since its inception?

“Online advertising is never going to go away, but it needs to have a genuine competitor that does not involve advertising,” says Bubblr CTO Steve Morris.

Critics make the strong argument that having ad-tech as the only marketing channel and mechanism for monetizing free content and services is the root cause of the problems with the internet. Whether it is fake news, radicalizing political and religious views, online scams and online surveillance, dangerous information is one result of the dominance of ad-tech.

For this reason, Morris believes that Bubblr’s open-source platform is an even more significant technology disruptor than blockchain.

Bold Words on the Future?

“Blockchain applications have been hugely overhyped as the next big thing. But, apart from Bitcoin, it always degenerates into just another scam. The huge amount of hype (that doesn’t last) over NFTs is a classic example. If you don't believe me, then check out Coffeezilla on YouTube,” stated Morris.

“The open-source community is always looking for new technologies that will disrupt the internet giants. The lure of blockchain and cryptocurrencies has proved to be fool’s gold. Hooking up with the Bubblr platform is the way to stick it to the man.”

On the other hand there will certainly be many who disagree — only time will tell which innovations thrive and which do not.

Bubblr is currently planning to deliver its ad-free marketplace platform by the end of Q1 2022.

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