Let’s face it: We never want to see ads on the websites we visit. Oh, and we also want the website’s content to be completely free. These two demands pose a significant problem for content providers who wouldn’t mind actually generating revenue for the content they provide. This problem is amplified by how easy it is for website visitors to install ad blockers. Just a quick trip to an ad blocker’s site, such as Adblock Plus (ABP), a click of an install button, and that’s it. No more ads.
Let’s get at the heart of the matter: Is ad-driven, free content a failed model? If people can’t be motivated to allow ads on sites they trust, what is the solution?
A somewhat surprising player in the game has come up with some fairly reasonable ways of keeping this model alive: Adblock Plus.
That’s right, the same company that makes it incredibly easy to block ad content is making quite an effort to retain the current ad-driven model. While I think this is healthy for Internet content overall, I doubt that sheer altruism toward content providers is ABP’s main motivating factor. The method by which ABP determines which ads are served and which sites can serve them is a key factor in their ability to generate revenue.
Since 2011, ABP has maintained a whitelist of websites they allow to serve ads, even to users running the ABP browser extension. The problems are that it is a time-consuming process for a website to be whitelist-approved and that ABP’s whitelist criteria are fairly strict. Also, larger websites are required to pay a fee to be whitelisted.
Recently, ABP has tried to improve on this model by implementing changes to the way acceptable ads are chosen. These changes are in the form of an ad marketplace. Publishers can now choose from preapproved ads in the marketplace to serve on their sites. This does not require the site to be whitelisted by ABP.
This convenience comes at a price for publishers, however. The acceptable ads from the marketplace have the potential to be less valuable than ads they may have chosen on their own. Also, publishers will keep only 80 percent of the ad revenue from ads from the marketplace. The other 20 percent goes to various other entities responsible for serving the ads, including 6 percent of the revenue going right back to ABP.
One could argue that it seems a little dubious that ABP is essentially creating a problem and then offering a solution for a fee. One might also argue, however, that publishers are getting value out of the cost of serving ABP-approved marketplace ads – 80 percent of unblocked ad revenue is certainly better than 0 percent revenue from blocked ads. Either way, if not for ABP, there would be plenty of other ad-blocking options for people to choose from, many of which would not offer a solution for publishers to still make ad revenue.
The ad marketplace launched in the fourth quarter of 2016, so time will tell whether this strategy will find a good balance between publisher income and a level of comfort with the visitors to their sites when it comes to ads. I, for one, hope it works. Ad-driven, free content has proved to be a great way to ensure quality content that we all seek on the web.