Data breaches, data mining, election tampering, Brexit, Trump, Russia. A head-spinning mix that has prompted lots of my friends in the real world (ie those who don’t work in marcoms) to delete their social media accounts over the past few weeks. This is bad news. Not just because I will be deprived of photos of their darling children/cats/dogs; it is bad news for us as marketers.

I am not at all condoning the whole Facebook/Cambridge Analytica debacle – clearly something very wrong happened there, which underlines the need for proper regulation of the digital platforms.

READ MORE: Tanya Joseph – Brands need an ASA-style watchdog for harmful online content

I also accept that the actions of a few of my friends do not spell the collapse of Facebook. But we would be foolish if we were not concerned about the adverse impact of dwindling consumer trust in Facebook and other social media platforms.

We need people to be on social media – they are our audiences. And our audience is leaving without understanding the full impact of their departure. I think the root of the problem is the fact no one has explained the economics of the internet.

There is now a pretty much universal expectation that information on the internet should be free, that search engines should be free, that social media platforms should be free. From a user perspective it makes complete sense – everything for nothing; it is a fantastic deal. But no one asks the question: how does it all happen? Who pays the engineers, journalists, photographers, editors, assistants – everyone who is involved in making it all happen?

I would be surprised if it occurs to many that it is almost all paid for by advertising. In fact I would bet that most people think advertising is ‘free money’ for publishers, platforms and providers.

We, that is the aforesaid publishers, platforms and providers, as well as advertisers, have…