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The Stack Archive

Adblock Plus: Standing for user choice on a ‘profitable’ web

Mon 28 Nov 2016

Adblock Plus ads

ben-williamsBen Williams, Head of Operations at Adblock Plus, addresses some of the controversy surrounding the service’s Acceptable Ads platform…

Acceptable Ads has always been about championing partial ad blocking. Complete ad blocking, while still an option to our users, is purely destructive to the online ecosystem. When Acceptable Ads launched, the initiative set out to find a way to give users total control while balancing the needs of publishers to monetize.

On launching the scheme, we began by asking users if they would be on board for partial ad blocking. After more than two-thirds of them said ‘Yes’ (indeed, they would), we set about hammering out criteria for what would be an ‘acceptable’ ad.

In the years that followed, we kept an eye on user feedback and the Acceptable Ads opt-out rate – i.e. the amount of people who opted out of the program to block all ads. The latter never climbed over 10%. It seemed we were on the right path.

Our users understand why ads are integral to a free web, and we are in a unique position to provide a middle way

Independent standards

Last year, we made the first substantial overhaul of the criteria, based partially on a joint study with Ipsos. But the biggest update is really the fact that we decided to separate our company from the standards for better ads by announcing the formation of an independent committee that will formulate all future iterations of the Acceptable Ads criteria. We are recruiting for that committee right now, and have been able to extend the standard of partial ad blocking to other ad-blocking companies, like AdBlock and Crystal, because of its independence.

Acceptable Ads provides us with fair monetization, which allows us to grow a sustainable business while fighting, and winning, lawsuits (there have been six) that would have otherwise made ad blocking – not just Adblock Plus – illegal. We work very hard to provide service to the 10% of companies who pay to make the entire initiative sustainable, and in so doing are able to provide them with significant monetary value.

At the same time, we’ve had to pay close attention to our users. Had we gotten the balance a bit off, or been tempted to “sell out,” our users would have left us in droves for the next free ad blocker. That reality has kept us true to the criteria we generated with our users

But to cleave our monetization entirely from the criteria for good, and thereby guarantee the integrity of the latter, we formed the aforementioned independent committee.

Partial ad blocking is better than complete ad blocking. Our users understand why ads are integral to a free web, and we are in a unique position to provide a middle way. Data shows that users are on board for this compromise as well. For instance, just recently we worked with HubSpot on a joint study to determine whether users wanted to block all ads or just ‘obnoxious’ ones. Turns out, 83% prefer to only block the intrusive types. A further 77% said they would rather filter than block everything.

What if you could just surf the web and the content you engage with the most – all of it – got a fair share of your funding equal to your engagement?

The Acceptable Ads exchange platform – something we’ve rechristened the Certified Acceptable Ads Tool – is a technical improvement of the Acceptable Ads initiative that will facilitate whitelisting for millions of websites, reducing the whitelisting process from weeks to seconds. It’s set to start beta very soon, and we are in advanced conversations with a number of demand-side sources.

Funding vs. Engagement

But that’s only part of the future. Eyeo, stands for user choice on a profitable web, and to this end we are pushing our mobile offerings, exploring the need for ad blocking in new formats and forming the Acceptable Ads Committee to take this idea to the next level.

To make that mission whole, we recently began Flattr Plus, a way for users to directly fund the content they love that has nothing to do with ads, acceptable or not. The idea is that the ad-funded internet could use a complement funding model for those willing to fund content but unwilling to exclusively siphon those funds to a particular subscription. What if you could just surf the web and the content you engage with the most – all of it – got a fair share of your funding equal to your engagement? That will be a reality soon, and with our unique background and commitment to users, we know we’re able to deliver it.

Stay tuned, because the web is getting better, despite all the ‘controversy’.

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