I have a love/hate relationship with advertising on the Internet. On the one hand, it is thanks to the very existence of online advertising that I was able to pursue my career as a freelance writer and Internet entrepreneur. If there were no ads on the Internet, I would not be able to do what I do. On the other hand, truth be told, ads can be annoying. Banner ads, pop-ups, flyovers and interstitials can get in the way of perfectly good content.
It shouldn’t surprise too many people, then, that ad blockers are steadily increasing in popularity. People want a clean Internet experience that’s free of intrusive advertising and you can’t really blame them. From the perspective of a content creator, professional blogger or site owner, though, this represents a direct loss in revenue. There has to be a better way.
And apparently, there might be. Adblock Plus is easily one of the best-known ad blockers on the Internet and it has partnered up with a company called Flattr to develop a new platform called Flattr Plus.
The basic premise is that Adblock Plus users can continue to have ads blocked on the Internet, but they are provided a channel through which they can directly support the content creators and websites they enjoy. The idea is that these website owners get a “new” revenue stream to help replace the lost income from the blocked ads, while the site visitors still get the ad-free experience they desire.
This is both similar and different from platforms like Patreon that are used to support YouTube channels and podcasts. The similarity is that the end consumer is helping to fund the content creation more directly. The difference is that the end user doesn’t need to send money directly to each individual site.
Instead, the Flattr Plus add-on will monitor the sites where the user is “engaging” the most and distribute the funds accordingly. Let’s say that the user says he wants to donate $10 a month to his favorite websites. If he spends 30% of his time on site A, then the owner of site A will get $3 every month.
Well, that’s only partly true. The first stipulation is that Flattr and Adblock Plus will take a total of 10% off the top, so the $10 monthly donation becomes a $9 net donation to the site owners. Second, the site owners do need to register with Flattr Plus in order to gain that revenue. If you’re not there, then the money will just get distributed to publishers who are on the platform.
It could be a good idea in theory and the whole system should be completely up and running by the end of 2016. They say that this could represent the future of monetization on the Internet, building on the growing success of crowdfunding platforms like Patreon and Kickstarter. It’s based on the principle that people are willing to pay for the content they enjoy.
Except, as we all know all too well, that’s not always the case. People like YouTube because it’s free. People like Facebook because it’s free. People read blogs because they’re free. There is certainly a passionate subset that’s willing to open their collective wallets, but they are the exception rather than the rule. Users may not be all that open to allowing Adblock Plus to monitor their browsing habits either. It’s a privacy concern.
From a publisher’s point of view, you really don’t have much to lose. If someone was already using an ad blocker, the advertising on your website is already blocked and you weren’t going to get that ad revenue anyway. Of course, you can continue to monetize in other ways, like sponsored content or affiliate links, but Flattr Plus could be a viable addition to the mix.
What do you think? Will you be signing up or is this another slap in the face of publishers and content creators?