So EBay thinks that voice calls will be free in the future because calls will be subsidized by advertising. This was their justification for paying way too much for Skype. How they came to this conclusion is beyond me. If anything current trends seem to me to indicate that consumers will use whatever technology they can to avoid ads.
An obvious example is the success that Google has enjoyed with Adwords. Google’s Adwords advertising system is far less intrusive than the previous favourite Internet advertising mechanism, the graphical banner ad. The fact that there are many pieces of software available whose sole purpose is to block banner ads provides another example.
The growing success of PVRs that make it quick and easy to time shift content and skip commercials also shows this trend. One of the main reasons I hear from people for downloading TV shows instead of watching them on normal TV is that it allows them to skip the commercials.
I can’t help but wonder, and hope, that we are entering an era when the Internet has reduced distribution costs to the point that news and even entertainment content will no longer need to be subsidized by advertising. At present advertisers have a lot more control over the content than most people would like to believe. News outlets may be hesitant to report something that is critical of a major advertising customer. Some TV shows have been canceled not because of lack of audience but because advertisers decided they didn’t want to buy ads during the show.
Personally, I will be quite happy to continue paying for my voice service if it means I don’t have to listen to an ad before making a call. Maybe someday I will also be able to pay for a TV show with money instead of my free time.