My goodness, the iOS-9 ad-blocker tech is rattling cages all over the Internet. Herewith some links, including a couple you likely haven’t seen, and one to a possible solution to the problem, from Google.

Eric Meyer · Content Blocking Primer. From which: “…the entire industry is being given a do-over here. Not the ad industry; the web industry.”

Charlie Stross · A question about the future of the world wide web. From which: “…it looks like the current state of the ad-funded web is a death-spiral and a race to the bottom.”

Marco Arment · Just doesn’t feel good. From which: “Ad-blocking is a kind of war — a first-world, low-stakes, both-sides-are-fortunate-to-have-this-kind-of-problem war, but a war nonetheless, with damage hitting both sides.”

I’m particularly impressed by Marco’s action, because his app has instantly been replaced by lots of others. So indiscriminate blocking will continue to happen, but probably not implemented as well as Marco did, and with him not getting paid for it. That’s taking a stand.

Tom Standage · The Economist’s Tom Standage on digital strategy and the limits of a model based on advertising (He’s the chief digital guy at The Economist [disclosure: I subscribe]). From which: “The Economist has taken the view that advertising is nice, and we’ll certainly take money where we can get it, but we’re pretty much expecting it to go away.”

That Google thing · I’m talking about Contributor by Google.

Tl;dr: Pay a few bucks and, for web sites that contribute, ads are subtracted and sometimes replaced by thank-you notes. The money you pay is split between the site and Google; exactly the effect of running ads, but without ads.

I knew about this because there was an internal beta when I worked there, and I totally loved it.

I can’t report on it now because it’s US-only, but I gather uptake has been slow. This isn’t surprising since it’s apparently been a stealth launch; I recall seeing exactly zero media coverage.

I think it’s an incredibly radical idea, and the answer to all the people like me who say “I wish there was a way to be a customer of all the people whose writing I read, rather than a customer of advertisers I don’t know and may not like.”

Bear in mind that Google knows more of the truth about advertising then the next ten market players put together. I would love to be a fly on the wall in certain executive offices there, this week.

The fact that they’re doing this, and also the fact that they’re soft-pedaling it, are both super-interesting.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Roger Benningfield (Sep 19 2015, at 15:41)

Tim: I'm not sure Google Contributor actually addresses the issue, at least from the content-blocker perspective. It certainly doesn't eliminate user-tracking scripts; if anything, Contributor seems to be an experiment to see if Google can convince people to pay for the opportunity to be tracked.


From: Mike MacLeod (Sep 19 2015, at 15:56)

I always thought Flattr ( was ahead of the game on this but was going to struggle to achieve critical mass. Looks like Google Contributor is similar, just with the linkage to a lighter advertising experience.

I'd much rather fork out a monthly budget for online content than deal with ads and the myriad tracking tools. So I'm very thankful to Apple for this, because it might finally start to happen now.


From: Geoff (Sep 19 2015, at 16:16)

Google's Contributor sounds very much like the scheme that Readability tried to introduce several years ago.


From: Norbert Lindenberg (Sep 20 2015, at 16:00)

Google Contributor requires readers to turn on third-party cookies (enabling all kinds of trackers operated by Google and by others), give Google permission to track their entire Internet activity, enable Google ad targeting on non-Google sites, and remain logged into their Google accounts at all times. This rules it out as a solution for anybody who cares about privacy.



From: Nathan Baker (Sep 21 2015, at 16:58)

This will affect the smaller players more than the big pros, of course. Professional bloggers / YouTubers / what have you have known for a while that the big money -- the money that lets one quit one's job and bloviate online for a living -- comes from direct sponsorships, where you get mentioned on the blog / in the show rather than just displayed in a banner ad that people ignore.

And this is my concern: instead of commercials, we're getting product placement. But nobody wants to make a product placement deal with the blogger who has 150 loyal followers and would love to monetize her writing enough to offset domain registration and hosting costs, or the YouTuber with a lovely voice and some piano talent who hasn't found a way to rise above all the other YouTubers with lovely voices and some instrumental talent.

Marco is right. It's a war. Sadly, it feels like the big companies are the ones with the $5 trillion "defense" budget and the users are the ones building weapons out of shoestring and chewing gum.


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