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Spread Firefox: A novel approach to advertising

19 Oct 2004 by Jason Fried

Interesting approach… Ask your customers who don’t pay for your product to pay for your advertising instead. The smart hook is that not only do you get to see your favorite open source browser in the New York Times, but you get to see your own name in the ad as well. I do wonder, however, what’s the end game? Is putting money towards an ad in the Times the best way for a fledgling browser to spend precious money?

18 comments so far (Post a Comment)

19 Oct 2004 | birdman said...

It's all about the event. Not so much the ad itself or its performance.

19 Oct 2004 | Abhay S. Kushwaha said...

It is called advertising gimmick.

Firefox is seeking publicity. First it launched the 1 million downloads in a week target. That got coverage. Got people talking and many new people learnt about it and the word spread. That gimmick died out.

Time for a new one. Ad in The New York Times. Again, everybody is talking about it. It is getting coverage. More people are talking about it and the word is spreading out even more.

The ad itself in the Newspaper will not matter that much. But the publishing of the ad will matter. When it comes out, people will again talk about it, link to it, scan it and email to friends to show what it is, those involved will tell their contacts, etc. It will get long-term coverage. More people will talk about it and the word will spread yet more.

Good way to spend money. I like it.

19 Oct 2004 | Dave Marks said...

Exactly - as the word spreads, they'll be more people to send their contributions for the other stuff :)

19 Oct 2004 | Jon Gales said...

Not to mention all the people that tell all their friends they are in the NY Times (and why)... Very cool move.

19 Oct 2004 | Jack said...

I think it's a community thing. A lot of people have faith in Firefox's standards support, security, etc. but they're not all programmers and you've got to get them involved somehow.

Helping to improve the internet on a large scale just makes you warm and fuzzy inside and you'd want your users to feel like they were a part of it.

20 Oct 2004 | Chris Messina said...

We're hoping that getting folks to sign up for the ad will be seen as an historic event--akin to the Boston Tea Party or the Declaration of Independence. I mean, we're putting the names of more than 2500 members of community in the NYTimes who support this browser from around the world. What might this say for a certain entity that's rested on its laurels for the past 5 years who spoke so loudly of the importance of the "freedom to innovate" while it let one of its flagship products stagnate?

The Firefox community behind the product is real, the product is real and we're poised to take back the web... Putting this ad in the NYTimes will proclaim that loudly and unequivocally...

And even if you ignore the rhetoric, the fact that the browser, the community site (, the design of the ad and the dollars paying for the ad all come from volunteers is a fairly grand accomplishment!

20 Oct 2004 | Todd Dominey said...

Some people are miffed, but I like that they're *not* publishing the cost of the ad (which according to the comments they aren't allowed to...yet ). This allows them to raise a bunch of money, place the ad, and whatever they have left helps fund the cost of the public relations firm they've hired to help promote the 1.0 release. The newspaper ad is a ploy -- albeit a very impressive one -- to help fund a much larger publicity campaign.

I think it's a great idea. I donated. And will do it again when the call comes. Way I see it, for every user that switches, the web gets a little bit better.

20 Oct 2004 | Michael Swartz said...

Yes. I think it's a good idea. Corporations and other organizations might want to roll out Firefox to multiple workstations across multiple networks. Someone would have to pay for this. It might even become the new standard.

And are we sure Mozilla even paid for the ad?

20 Oct 2004 | Ben said...

>fledgling browser

not the way I'd describe it.

20 Oct 2004 | ek said...

Sounds like a big and very expensive circle jerk to me.

And comparing an ad for a Web browser in the N.Y. Times to the Boston Tea Party or Declaratation of Independence? That's one of the most ludicrous things I've heard in a while, and that's saying a lot considering we're in the thick of one of the most contentious Presidential elections in history.

How about sticking your head out the window for a minute and breathing in a big dose of what people outside your bubble call perspective.

Ugh, this all reminds me of the bad old days of .com-mania.

20 Oct 2004 | Don Schenck said...

Huh huh ... you said "circle jerk" ... huh huh


It's a risky scheme, to be sure. But someone thinks it'll work. It will be interesting to see if it does.

Gotta give them credit for -- God, I hate to say this -- thinking outside the ... no ... I won't say it! You get the idea.

20 Oct 2004 | Andy said...

Now, if they do it in "The Times" then I would join in. I think its a smasing plan.

21 Oct 2004 | Regnard Kreisler Raquedan said...

The NY Times ad fund-raising is really a neat idea. Makes me think if IE has plans to fight Mozilla's aggressive campaign...

21 Oct 2004 | Phil Baines said...

I think it is a great idea, and I think that if more open source projects used simular techniques, then things could get interesting.

21 Oct 2004 | Chris Messina said...

Thanks for the head check, ek. Perhaps the rhetoric I used is a bit grandiose, but it just seems like the web needs a Boston Tea Party of its own and this seems like it could be it. Then again, at the time of the original, I'm sure there were plenty of naysayers towards the teapartiers! :)

Michael Schwartz: Yes, we are paying for the ad, though I believe we're getting a non-profit rate. So everyone's donation really DOES count!

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