OK, just how much do you hate web and mobile ads? Necessary evil? Must destroy all? Or somewhere in between?
As the never-ending debate continues, it’s fascinating to watch the folks at AdBlock Plus try to thread the needle… as in this latest blog post on how the firm seeks to monetize “Acceptable Ads” while still letting users block what they want to block.
If you’re coming to this “in medias res” (as they say in literature class), here’s what you’ve missed so far.
Wladimir Palant created the AdBlock Plus browser extension as an open source project way back in 2006. Since then, AdBlock Plus’s capabilities have been made available for nearly every major desktop and mobile browser or platform.
Hundreds of millions of people quickly downloaded AdBlock Plus for what it promised to do: block ads. And, as more people spend more time visiting the web on mobile devices with limited power, the ad blocker category has become even more popular, since blocking often significantly improves battery life as well as browser speed.
But, the downside: most web media sites survive by selling ads. No ad views, no money, no sites, no content. And that can be an especially big problem for small or local publishers with few alternative revenue sources – the very folks that make the web diverse and interesting.
So what to do? A while ago, the folks at AdBlock Plus faced that problem… and, also, another problem: how to make their software sustainable as a real business? It came up with a solution for both at once: “Acceptable Ads.”
Working with users, it defined a set of standards for ads that wouldn’t be too intrusive or obnoxious – that means no blinking ads, content-obscuring rollovers, pop-ups, pop-unders, or blaring default audio, and so on.
Advertisers and publishers can then apply to have their ads checked against these standards, and then whitelisted. By default, whitelisted ads make it past AdBlock Plus’s filter. However, users who want absolutely no ads can still “kill ’em all” by tweaking a setting.
The folks from AdBlock Plus (now, the for-profit company Eyeo GmbH) need to somehow monetize all this. So they charge large advertisers for whitelisting – stressing that nobody gets whitelisted if their ads don’t measure up to their “ads-that-don’t-stink” standards.
If getting whitelisted would buy you more than 10 million extra ad views a month, you gotta pay for the privilege. And that’s where most of AdBlock Plus’s revenue comes from these days. The company’s estimate: large advertisers pay roughly 30% of the incremental revenue whitelisting earns them – a distinctly non-trivial cost.
If you run a smaller site, and your ads meet the Acceptable Ads requirements, whitelisting’s free – but you’ve still got to apply.
As BetaNews notes, AdBlock Plus’s new post doesn’t answer every question people have asked about Acceptable Ads monetization.
The company admits as much, saying that it’s limited by “NDAs and contracts.” Which raises even more questions: Who’s agreed to pay? Are some advertisers getting better deals or volume discounts?
So: are Acceptable Ads a fair compromise that protects users, advertisers, and publishers alike – as AdBlock Plus says? A sell-out of the pure “ad blocking” mission – as some users say? Or “extortion,” – as some large advertisers and competitors argue?
What do you think? Let us know in the comments section below.
Image of Adblocker courtesy of Shutterstock.com
13 comments on ““Acceptable Ads”: Are there any? And who gets to monetize them?”
Web ads are a necessity to pay for free web services. However many ads have become very intrusive and obstructive to the web site being viewed. The ads take over the page and cause performance issues. Ad tracking is wrong. YOu lookup one item on a shopping site and then get barraged with ads for the item on every web site I visit.
If Adblockers would default to show ads and then let the consumer decide to block ads if a publisher gets too egregious, we’d see a more balanced approach.
“if a publisher gets too egregious”
If this wasn’t a thing, there wouldn’t be ad blockers.
As with most open source software, you really need to stay up-to-date with the development. The Adblock Plus source was forked when the acceptible ads feature was added, then again when the development became a for-profit company.
Since then, many new ad blockers have been written which are much lighter and faster than the ABP codebase, while still using the default block lists everyone likes like EasyList.
If you’re still using a first generation ad blocker like ABP, check out uBlock Origin which is free and open source. It even includes a builtin easy to use eye dropper tool to select ads that get through the default lists.
Since the 1800s when the first newspaper ads appeared, a fundamental issue has been overlooked: business buys eyeballs (and later, ears). That their messages are perceived as an interrupting annoyance by all but the miniscule audience actually interested in the pitch has always been of no concern.
Now we have technology permitting users to block the offensive screams and shouts so the advertising industry is crying foul. The sycophants claim a right to inform of whiter whites. BS.
The ad business is a despicable collection of con wo/men. If they had any integrity, they’d decline 99% of products and services they’re paid to shill. Fear not – Madison Avenue (Somewhere West of Laramie) – does not look a gift horse in the mouth; especially those filled with gold teeth.
There is a very clean solution. Permission Marketing. If I don’t want your latest announcement, it’s not shoved in my face. How do businesses get my business? The only trusted method there’s ever been: Word Of Mouth. Not the malarkey of rigged online reviews. No. Instead try quality products and services at a fair profit. People will be happy to spread the news.
Until then, “Shields Are Up Captain”.
And if you want to threaten me with a PayWall, “it is too laugh”. You idiot, I’ll go elsewhere and learn of your bankruptcy shortly. And perhaps from a competitor smart enough to respect consumers.
I don’t mind ads when they’re part of the background or periphery. The pop-over/under ads are the ones that need to go away. Many tech sites are starting to throw an ad over everything, for 10 seconds, before showing content. I have a list of “things I’m never buying” because they’ve been put into aggressive ads on the Internet. I’m still of the opinion that if you’re content is good, its worth a subscription to pay for it. Back in the day you spent an annual subscription for print magazines, why should that system change now that the content is digital? Free with ads isn’t always better.
If I’m going to subscribe, I would like to see a more affordable pricing scheme. $10/mo is a lot and adds up fast, especially if many of the tech sites you frequent call for the paywall. Spiceworks and ExpertsExchange are on both ends of the spectrum, free vs paywall. I’ll whitelist Spiceworks in my adblocker(s) before I pay for ExpertsExchange, because I’ve not been blocked from reviewing an entire thread to find an answer on Spiceworks.
Now I to the point I want to make, just like “Back in the day you spent an annual subscription for print magazines, why should that system change now that the content is digital?” I agree wholeheartedly, however as with any subscription, volume is the answer. The more people who subscribe the greater your revenue stream. Don’t gouge me $10/mo or $100/yr, up front. Give me a trial run, 45-90 days would be nice – if I like your content I’ll subscribe. Then offer the subscription (IN MY CURRENCY!!!) at say around $2.50 – $3.00/mo. Too low? I don’t think so, if your site offers value they will pay.
I think we’re ignoring or at least side-lining the real root cause here. WHY are people increasingly choosing to block ads? (and by extension harming the very sites they visit?). In my opinion the root cause is that the ad networks or the site owners (honestly I’m not sure who is truly to blame for this) have strayed too far into the intrusive ads space to try an maximize profits, and THAT is what led to this whole problem to begin with… While there will of course be people on both sides on this argument until the end of time itself, but if ad networks and/or site owners stayed away from flashing, buzzing, deceptive, over-lay, under-lay, auto playing junk the majority of average users wouldn’t have felt pressured to block the ads in the first place. So the ad providers and site owners who are screaming bankruptcy right now are very much to blame for this being a problem to begin with. Just my 2 cents.
We are a small web publisher but we have a big site with lots of free information. If we don’t get a small income from ads then we cease to exist. It has come to a point where if readers have ad-blockers turned on, we actively block them from our site. We regard people who block our ads as leeches, our ads are unobtrusive and can be ignored but the 1% of people who click on them keep our site alive. We got fed up with providing free information to people who don’t give us any chance at all of earning something. They contribute nothing to us so why should we give them something for nothing? Once our site is fully upgraded, all our pages except the home page will be blocked to those using ad-blockers. ‘There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch’ is the saying.
In these parts many people block ads, not because they are freeloaders, but because they are worried about the security of ad networks, and the risk that they will delver malware, either because they get tricked into doing so, or because they just don’t care.
As an independent web publisher, you can fix both problems by hosting the ads yourself from your own server infrastructure, so that the ads come from the same IP address as your main site, and you can vet the ads you are asked to display to make sure they are not harmful or deceptive.
If you display ads that way, then few ad blockers would detect or block them, and few users (from this site at least) would be motivated to try to block them.
I’m past the point of no return. Advertising has gotten so intrusive, and so dangerous, that I no longer care. No one gets the benefit of the doubt anymore. I’m not risking the malware and spyware. I’m not going to try scrolling through the inline ads to see what content the site bothered to put out. It’s gone too far, and it’s gotten too bad.
uBlock Origin and Ghostery work well to keep my browsing ad-free.
Same here I just hate ads popping up all over my screens. Every browser should have as default blocked this crap.
But user should have an option and decide if he want or not ads to be displayed.