Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Google, Microsoft, and Amazon Pay to Get Around AdBlock

Robert Cookson, Financial Times:

Eyeo makes money by operating a “whitelist” of certain ads that are not blocked. It says sites can join this “acceptable ads” programme only if they meet criteria such as being “transparent with us about being an ad” and “do not disrupt or distort the page content we’re trying to read”.

While the whitelisting process is free for small websites and blogs, Eyeo charges a fee to large companies in order “to make the initiative sustainable”. Eyeo declined to say how much it charges.

One digital media company, which asked not to be named, said Eyeo had asked for a fee equivalent to 30 per cent of the additional ad revenues that it would make from being unblocked.

I sort of get this. I mean, I have an ad spot on Pixel Envy and, while it isn’t quit-my-day-job money, it does pay for the bills for this site. Thank you to those of you who keep AdBlock off.

But this sort of feels like a protection racket between kinds of companies I hate. Here’s a company that released a product which blocks a lot of advertising on the web, because there’s an awful lot of obnoxious stuff out there. It’s also nice because Google and Amazon, among many others, like to collect oodles of information about you across the web. So blocking all of that nonsense is, in some way, justified.

But there are publishers who depend on ad revenue for survival. That’s the way it’s always been; nothing comes entirely for free. So AdBlock has started to allow some of the less intrusive ads through, in exchange for a fee. Which just feels gross.

This whole debacle could be avoided if web ads were unobtrusive and obeyed Do Not Track flags, or some other one-click way for users to tell ad exchanges that they don’t want to have their personal information harvested and profiled. Of course, that makes web ads no more effective than print ads, but nobody’s clicking on them anyway.