Content isn't "free" when there are ads. The longer I work in advertising, the more this idea that content w/ads is "Free" bothers me. It's not free at all. You're paying for it with your time and attention to sponsored content, and how that content then drives you to take actions. It's not "free."
I like to frame ad-based revenue as a micropayment between two third parties based on a bet about how much money they can make off showing you an ad.
(And, of course, because ads basically don't work / are in a red-queen's-race against cognitive defense mechanisms, and because ad tech is behind by years in its estimate of value due to the difficulty of translating ad views to purchases, the actual value is always a tiny fraction of the estimate & price is in free fall.)
In reality, unless you are a very small child with rich & gullible parents or you're on specific classes of drugs, the marginal value of any ad impression is approximately zero and has been for decades. The entire ad-tech ecosystem lives off the bubble formed by systematically overestimating that value, and because some of the worlds largest companies make all their money from that model there's a lot of resistance to being honest about it.
@KameronHurley Nothing is ever free! This idea of 'free stuff' is an invention of marketing departments.
If you aren't paying for it with your time viewing ads your paying for it with your endorsement, for example wordpress.com requires you to use 'wordpress.com' in your domain name.
People who think they receiving free services from corporations with millions of dollars in bills to pay are naive.