By Tom Ehrich

"Did you know Air Tran has started charging extra for a seat?" a passenger waiting to board a Southwest Airline flight told me.

"A special seat?" I asked.

"No, any seat."

I find that hard to imagine. But then I find much of air travel 2014 difficult to imagine. Each month, greedy airlines find one more extra fee to charge. Checking in for a flight online means one up-sale after another.

We are, you see, a captive audience. Same goes for Facebook, Twitter and Google with their non-stop ads. If you use their service, they claim the right to bombard you with ads and up-sales.

What's the answer? Don't use their service. I have deleted Facebook from my mobile devices, for example, because I resented their privacy intrusions. I don't get near Google-Plus.

I have also stopped watching commercial television, both broadcast and cable. I delete unread all solicitations from my bank offering special services.

In other words, don't be a captive audience. Use technology in a way that maximizes freedom. Pay for what you want to use, and skip the rest, including most deals.

Having lived my entire life within the advertising bubble, I have decided that advertising is a time suck for the customer and a waste of money for the advertiser.

Better to build an enterprise one customer at a time and to trust satisfied customers to tell others. In our launch of Fresh Day online magazine, for example, I considered ad campaigns. But I concluded that the best way to grow an audience was to provide a great product. If it's good, people will find it.

I know this is true for churches. Be a great church, love extravagantly and serve boldly, and the word will spread. That's how Jesus grew his ministry, after all.

People pass around horror stories, too. Negative word-of-mouth can cripple an enterprise.

My point? Be the best you can be -- as a person, as a worker, as an enterprise, as a church, as a magazine. Word will spread, because we are all looking for the real thing: the word that is true, the heart that loves, the enterprise that treats customers well, the church that gets outside itself and serves as Jesus served.

When we find the real thing, we talk about it.