Adfree: an adblocker compromise?

For a long time the idea of ad blockers has been presented as something of a touchy subject – does it hurt websites, or are the blockers just exercising their consumer rights. And so on.

To quote myself on the matter:

Both sides have a clear point here. The problem is that the ad blockers hold all the cards – if sites put up a paywall for ad blockers they lose custom. If they circumvent the blockers they just draw fire. If they denounce the blockers they get berated.

Ok. Adverts can be annoying, but occasionally sites deserve a remuneration for the content they are offering. For most people Ads are a reasonable trade off; “I like your content, ok I’ll see the ads”. For them it is a zero cost transaction that ensures the content stays around.

For others – like myself –  adverts are generally garish and annoying.

Personally I permit adverts on sites that deserve the revenue. I dont begrudge that and fortunately most of them appear to take a tasteful approach. But it’s still not my preferred web experience; the ads are still there.

But is there a better way?

Many blockers say the same as myself; “I would pay you for content that is worth it”. So lets call them on that statement with a micro-payments service.

Im thinking of an ad blocker with extras. It works as normal but for sites that are signed up with the service it places a tasteful link on the page saying “Donate for this content” (or something similar).

Even better you could have an API  to trigger so a site displays an ad free page with the donate link.

You could make the donation a lot smaller than a normal ad “click”. For example if a click is worth $.25 then you make the donation $.05. Whilst this is clearly a lot smaller the theory is that:

a) the blockers claim they are more likely to pay and

b) you’re not getting their money anyway (through ads)

Offering blockers a cheap as chips way to give you money can only be a net positive (especially as your showing willing to give them the web experience they prefer).

Anyone want to give it a shot?

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5 Responses to Adfree: an adblocker compromise?

  1. epochwolf says:

    I like the idea.

    You might want to proofread your article.

    “if sites put up a paywall for ad blockers they lose custom.”

    if sites put up a paywall for ad blockers they lose [customers].

    “b) your not getting their custom anyway through ads”

    b) [You’re] not getting their [money?] through ads anyway

    Taking 15 minutes to read through your post before hitting submit makes a world of difference to your readers.

  2. Pingback: The Web and Advertising » Nevermind

  3. Errant says:

    Thanks, I guess ;)

    (the first sentence is as intended btw)

  4. I played around with that idea a while ago. The actual design was to have Adblock Plus count visits to websites that indicate their owner in some way (PayPal account or whatever) and display a dialog once a month: “here are the websites you visited, wouldn’t you want to donate something to support them?” The amount entered would be distributed to the websites proportionally to the number of visits. While this idea isn’t off the table, there most difficult problem here is the actual payment:

    1. Transferring $.05 seems unrealistic with any of the existing payment services. But asking people to donate significantly more to single websites will have a negative impact on the acceptance of this feature.

    2. Ideally, entering the amount and clicking “OK” would be enough. A feature like this should be dead simple to use. Unfortunately, initiating a transfer isn’t anything like that. Most payment services require entering credit card numbers or creating accounts or both.

    If you have ideas, feel free to come to the Adblock Plus forum ( and discuss them.

  5. Errant says:

    Wow, thanks for commenting with some thoughts :) (I love Adblock Plus).

    I think there are answers to your points.

    #1: you would use a subscription service (say $5 a month) which gives you credit to spread out as you like. Simplifies the payment scheme for the user and also stops them spending silly money by accident.

    #2: I’d probably not even allow custom options by default; just one or 2 variants. You’d convert $5 into 500 credits to make your donation seem a lot more meaningful and then it would simply be a case of “Donate 5 of your credits to this article? or click here to donate custom amounts.

    I am not sure the proportional distribution model works as well (though your suggestion is better than others I’ve seen in that it tells you after the fact which sites your contributing too and, I guess, gives options to deselect some).

    I think IF you could make the monthly payment small enough that people would fire and forget the subscription – and be happy with that – then it could work :)

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