How to make money on PDFs

Posted in Big Thought, Business by Harsha on January 20, 2009

I just read the TechCrunch post on how Adobe is pulling the plug on an idea that planted ads in PDFs. TechCrunch says:

First, who wants to click on ads in a document? It is an unnatural act. Second, unlike a Website where advertisers at least have some sense of who the audience is, PDFs get passed around and downloaded willy-nilly. There is no good way to track who receives them, or who ultimately might click on those ads.

Adobe’s PDF and Flash are ubiquitous tools. I think both are as popular and as employed as the other for vastly different uses, which is great because you now use Adobe when you watch stuff on YouTube while you’re sending out a document to colleague.

I suspect one day we’ll hear about the great scandal in ads and how they never worked for anybody but the platforms (i.e. Google). Until then, I think there are plenty of other ways that Adobe can monetize PDFs.

If Adobe can deliver PDF ads, then they can deliver PDF apps. There are plenty of ideas like dictionary, translator, synonym lookup, on-the-fly spelling-‘corrector’. They can also open up formats – allow me to quickly convert to Word, for a small fee of 99 cents.

What software is discovering today, thanks to Apple, is something you’ll find prevalent in Asia in consumer products. The big guns like Proctor & Gamble and Uniliver understood that they will stand to penetrate the market only by cutting the volume and price of their products. I think that’s a great lesson for IT as well. Make bite-sized products at bite-sized prices.

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