In a move as brazen as bookstore destroyer Amazon opening physical bookshops, one of the world’s biggest companies that allows web users to block advertisements from appearing on the sites they visit will start selling ads itself.
Adblock Plus is a free piece of software that lets people “block annoying ads, disable tracking and block domains known to spread malware”. Users can specify which types of ads or online tracking they don’t like, and Adblock Plus’s software – which the company says is installed on more than 100 million devices – will make sure they are shielded from those elements.
Adblocking technology like that used by Adblock Plus has been blamed for harming online publishers, which rely on advertising revenue to pay for the content they create. According to a report by PageFair, adblockers cost publishers almost $22bn in 2015 alone.
But now Adblock Plus is launching a platform to sell “acceptable ads” itself. The company says that its Acceptable Ads Platform will allow publishers and bloggers to choose to sell and show only pre-whitelisted ads – those that meet Adblock Plus’s strict criteria – on their websites. Publishers will get to keep 80% of the advertising revenue from ads sold through the marketplace, and the rest will be divided between Adblock Plus and other partners.
Since 2011, the company has allowed certain nonintrusive ads to pass through the blocking software and appear as intended. These ads must meet strict criteria in terms of how they are placed and appear. They must not disrupt the user’s natural reading flow, they should always be recognizable as ads, and they shouldn’t be too big.
Adblock Plus’s co-founder Till Faider said this new platform will be a good thing for publishers, since they will have the opportunity to show some advertising to people who typically block it.
“There are two ecosystems of online consumers out there right now: the one composed of people who block intrusive ads and the other where people do not. The Acceptable Ads Platform lets publishers reach the former group without changing anything about how they’re reaching the latter,” he said.
“We’ve been waiting years for the ad-tech industry to do something consumer-friendly like this, so finally we got tired of waiting and decided to just do it ourselves.”
Such good intentions are disputed by key media industry players, who feel that Adblock Plus has deprived them of valuable revenue and fear that it will continue to rule out the possibility of displaying larger ad formats with premium prices.
“No matter how Adblock Plus tries to justify their form of extortion, or make it seem harmless, it is a practice that will continue to erode the value exchange that powers the free and open internet,” said Dave Grimaldi, executive vice-president of public policy at industry body the Interactive Advertising Bureau.
“Online advertising is what enables consumers across the globe to access their favorite websites, songs, and videos, and Adblock Plus continues to ignore the damage its technology is doing to that free-flowing ability.”
This article was written by Olivia Solon, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 13th September 2016 20.08 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010