Is Adblock Plus trying to help publishers?

With the near doubling of Adblock Plus downloads and users in the past couple of years, content publishers’ advertising revenue is suffering. Is Flattr Plus going to undo some of that damage and aide the publishers?

Back in May 2016, German company Eyeo’s Adblock Plus, and Swedish content-funding startup, Flattr, collaborated to provide a service which allows digital content consumers to distribute a monthly budget to their most engaged with content publishing websites.

Reaction to this news was understandably quite mixed with a number of people in the publishing and media industry expressing their outrage at the idea, while some saw it as a new opportunity for a business to create revenue and to aide publishers at a time when many are struggling to make ends meet.

Flattr was started by Peter Sunde and Linus Olsson to allow readers to pay content publishers by clicking a “Flattr This” button. The collaboration with Adblock Plus, which is called Flattr Plus, will use a complex algorithm to automatically transfer money to the content publisher based on the reader’s engagement with all websites. Aspects such as time spent and scroll activity can be used to measure engagement according to TechCrunch.

Content consumers sign up to Flattr Plus and decide a monthly budget which will be dispersed among their favourite publishers. Publishers simply just sign up to Flattr Plus to begin receiving payments with 10% of the revenue going to Adblock Plus and Flattr for the use of their service, according to the Wall Street Journal. If a publisher is not signed up, Flattr Plus can contact them and inform them how much money they could have potentially received if they were using the service.

Michael Rosenwald wrote in the Columbia Journalism Review in September 2015, “The rise of ad blocking comes just as the media industry had settled on a revenue model to move forward after years of disruption and pain. The new model looked a lot like the old one: circulation revenue plus ad revenue equals sustainability…Now, a frightening reckoning is at hand, a perhaps terminal diagnosis that few seem willing to accept or even acknowledge.

Speaking about Flattr Plus in an interview with TechCrunch approximately eight months later, Till Faida, DTS 2017 speaker and CEO of Adblock Plus, said: “We have to evolve business models on the web and we have to put users in the centre of that model.”

It is this approach that publishers should be keeping in mind when it comes to advertising. Sure, an exclusive interview can bring traffic, but readership will never reach its full potential if there are blinking banner ads and pop-ups intruding upon every click and scroll, every few hundred words, or every two minutes.

Some publishers, such as DTS media partners, Forbes and Wired, have taken action in an attempt to fight ad-blocking software. Forbes does not let visitors view their website if they have any form of ad-blocking software active. Simply shutting it off gives the content consumer access. Wired offers their visitors two options: disable the ad-blocking software and read their content, or keep the ad-blocking software enabled and sign up for a paid subscription.

It certainly is refreshing to see companies like Adblock Plus making a peace offering to content publishers having been involved in conflict with many of them for the past decade. The question remains though, will the content publishers accept this token or merely dismiss it in the same way their readers dismiss the ads on their websites?

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Matthew Colfer


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