Business Spotlight - - GLOBAL BUSINESS - Laura Dorn­heim

The in­ter­net is not as free as it should be when most of its con­tent is de­pen­dent on ad­ver­tis­ing. For every ad dol­lar cur­rently spent on­line, sta­tis­ti­cally three quar­ters goes to Google and Face­book. Tim Bern­ers Lee called it the birth de­fect of the in­ter­net when, from the very be­gin­ning, the only mon­e­ti­za­tion for con­tent was ad­ver­tis­ing.

This was the model that worked in print, and in the early days of the in­ter­net, peo­ple thought it was the way to do things. From the tech­nol­ogy side, it would be so easy to of­fer dif­fer­ent mod­els for al­low­ing users to pay for con­tent, or to mon­e­tize con­tent. We’ve seen publi­ca­tions like The New York Times be suc­cess­ful with their sub­scrip­tion mod­els and Euro­pean pub­lish­ers ex­per­i­ment­ing with pay-per-ar­ti­cle or free­ware mod­els. But with the ad in­dus­try so dom­i­nant, it has become in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult to try such al­ter­na­tives.

In cer­tain Euro­pean coun­tries, al­most a quar­ter of con­sumers now use an ad blocker — that’s a very clear sig­nal. Ad block­ers are a re­sponse to the down­ward spiral towards big­ger, louder, more an­noy­ing and more ag­gres­sive ad­ver­tis­ing. It’s all about the num­ber of ads de­liv­ered. Pub­lish­ers are paid by the num­ber of clicks, im­pres­sions or both. There is no mea­sure for whether peo­ple en­joy the ads or whether they even work.

Pop-up block­ers have been in­te­grated into browsers for al­most a decade, and in that time, few pub­lish­ers have thought of any other op­tions for users. Ad block­ing has a lot to do with the in­dus­try re­al­iz­ing that they have lost their way — they are no longer serv­ing pub­lish­ers and users. Ad block­ers are help­ing to change their think­ing. Specif­i­cally, Ad­block Plus does not aim to erad­i­cate all ads but to show ad­ver­tis­ers they can use more re­spon­si­ble and sub­tle ad­ver­tis­ing to reach a wider au­di­ence.

Ul­ti­mately, users should be al­lowed to choose what they see on their com­puter. In April 2018, Eyeo re­ceived con­fir­ma­tion from the Ger­man Supreme Court that ad block­ing is le­gal. Pub­lish­ers have tried every an­gle: claim­ing that show­ing ad­ver­tis­ing to users should be cov­ered by free­dom of the press, that re­mov­ing an ad from a site in­ter­feres with their copy­right and creative work, that they should be paid for use of snip­pets. Ad block­ing shouldn’t be of con­cern to politi­cians or law­mak­ers. Mak­ing Face­book and Google pay their taxes in some coun­tries is more im­por­tant than over­reg­u­lat­ing on­line me­dia.

“Users should be al­lowed to choose what they see on their com­puter”

LAURA DORN­HEIM is head of com­mu­ni­ca­tions at Eyeo, cre­ators of Ad­block Plus

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