Soapware: the fit between software and advertising

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


What if software packages carried advertising messages? What if off-the-shelf software packages were paid for by commercial concerns seeking the attention of prospective audiences rather than their pocketbooks? Do we know how to price the use of software? Can advertising help software? Is software fit for advertising? The title suggested here for the possibility of funding some software through advertising is 'Soapware'. Both the provocative nature and the double-edged connotation of the title warrant discussion. But the Soapware suggestion is also a vehicle for the introduction of some broader issues. Three theoretical statements are proposed: (1) Large portions of the software market are in transition to mass production, transforming the nature of the market. (2) The phenomenon of software theft is detrimental to all users. Software theft is damaging to the public at large, as well as to producers of stolen code. In this sense, software has become a 'public good', and software theft has created a 'Tragedy of Commons'. (3) Contemporary economic trends in the software market impose a product orientation on off-the-shelf software, contradicting the traditional, paradigmatic conception of software as process. The Soapware proposal may offer a way out of all three predicaments. Findings from a pilot study of the feasibility of advertising support for software production are discussed, especially the potential damage to user satisfaction, and potential gains. The experiment reported, based on 150 users of a commercial package, indicates high recall rates, no loss in user satisfaction, and several innovative ways of using software for advertising. The experimental findings indicate some interesting characteristics of software as an expressive medium. Lastly, some broader ethical, economic, and theoretical implications of the Soapware possibility are raised.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)268-275
Number of pages8
JournalInformation and Software Technology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jun 1989
Externally publishedYes


  • advertising
  • software market
  • software pricing
  • software production
  • software theft
  • software use

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Information Systems
  • Computer Science Applications


Dive into the research topics of 'Soapware: the fit between software and advertising'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this