Makes adblock plus money

Payment function for Adblock Plus: "The publishers just have to accept the money"

With its Acceptable Ads model, Cologne-based Eyeo had promised at the end of 2011 to improve online advertising as a whole: Since the company allows "non-annoying advertising" to pass through the ad blocker, advertisers are to be motivated to avoid disruptive advertising techniques. But the development took a different direction: Some websites try to compensate for the lost sales with increasingly aggressive advertising, others exclude ad blocker users from their offers.

Controversial business model

Since Eyeo demands a share of the turnover for inclusion on the "Acceptable Ads" list, the company is repeatedly attacked by representatives of the advertising industry and publishers. For example, you accuse Eyeo of "mugging". Several media companies are taking legal action in German courts to have Eyeo's business model banned - so far without success.

With "Flattr Plus" Eyeo now wants to enable its users to pay for content that they view in the browser. So far, the micropayment platform Flattr, founded in 2010, has had only modest success, and the income for the content creators has remained minimal. This is now to be changed by the number of users of Adblock Plus and a new algorithm. The prerequisite, however, is that users entrust Eyeo with data about their surfing habits in addition to money.

Managing Director Till Faida and Public Affairs Manager Laura Dornheim explain why the model should be more successful than many similar approaches.

c't: How is Eyeo doing at the moment?

Till Faida: Very good, we are growing. We are planning 30 new hires this year, have opened a second office in Berlin and will soon be moving to a building in Cologne.

c't: With Flattr Plus Eyeo is going in a new direction: Instead of just blocking advertising, Adblock Plus is now also to become a payment point for articles. Are the publishers' many anti-adblocker scripts a reason for the change in strategy?

Faida: For us it was always about how content can be monetized on the web. With Acceptable Ads, we have taken a first step that works. The next logical step is to give users more options to pay for content on the Internet: either with their attention or with a small fee.

Lean extra income instead of financing

c't: Many publishers deny that monetization works with acceptable ads. At best, you could earn a little extra income, but the money is nowhere near enough to produce quality content.

Faida: Acceptable Ads is still developing. More and more advertisers are realizing that they cannot reach an interesting target group with traditional online advertising. That is why the demand for new formats is now increasing. But I believe that in the end only mixed financing consisting of unobtrusive advertising and payment components can be the solution.

c't: For Flattr Plus, Eyeo needs the cooperation of the publishers. Have you already had initial discussions?

Dornheim: We have initial contacts, but we don't necessarily need regular partnerships with publishers. Our model is designed in such a way that the users decide which pages they want to give money. Apart from the bank details for the deposits, we don't really need any extensive cooperation with publishers. If these sites are not yet registered with Flattr, we will contact them.

Unsuccessful predecessors

c't: This model has already been tried several times - on the one hand Flattr set up shadow accounts for Twitter users, on the other hand Burda promised its publishing colleagues distributions from the news aggregator nachrichten.de. Both initiatives failed, among other things, because of the disinterest of the payees. Why should the same model work now?

Faida: Previous payment models failed because they were isolated solutions and required too much interaction. The new thing about Flattr Plus is that the user can think about what content is worth to him. He pays this amount and then everything runs automatically. The whole thing works everywhere with just one registration. The simplicity combined with our large user base makes Flattr Plus unique. In contrast to the old Flattr model, the publisher no longer has to install Flattr buttons and the user no longer has to click on them.

Dornheim: Our programmers are currently developing an algorithm that not only registers visits, but also takes into account factors such as engagement and length of stay.

Ad impressions are responsible for clickbaiting

Faida: So far, publishers have had a billing model that was geared towards ad impressions. That brought us things like clickbait headlines or photo galleries as click routes. Our new approach is based on this: If a user actually interacts with a page and it brings them added value, then this page will also make money.

c't: In order for Flattr Plus to work without further interaction, Adblock Plus users have to transfer their surfing history to Eyeo. However, these users often have an ad blocker installed in the first place because of their aversion to tracking techniques.

Faida: Our claim is that we implement Flattr Plus in the most privacy-friendly way possible. That's one reason it took so long.

Dornheim: We will not record the entire surfing behavior of our users. Neither we nor our cooperation partners at Flattr could be responsible for that. Essentially, the algorithm will run locally, and the flattrs will then be transmitted in aggregated form. There will also be a whitelist with pages that we suspect users want to flatten. There will also be a greylist which, for example, can filter out banking websites or webmail services. There will also be a blacklist, especially for illegal offers.

Users can also change the default settings. For example, if I want to prevent accidentally sending bild.de money, I can of course exclude the website. On the other hand, I can also determine that a blog post that interests me particularly should receive more money.

One algorithm for everyone

c't: Does Flattr Plus aim more at hobbyists or at professional editorial offices from large publishing houses?

Faida: Everyone who creates good content that users interact with is our target audience.

c't: It will be difficult to satisfy such different groups with one algorithm.

Faida: That is of course the big challenge. We will therefore have to continuously develop the algorithm.

c't: Nevertheless, a cooperation with the publishers will be necessary: ​​Without them, the money will not reach many content creators. And so far, many companies categorically refuse to work with Eyeo. "Highwayman" is one of the more innocuous allegations made by publishers.

"A few euros a month"

Faida: If we can convince our users, there will be enough money in the system for the publishers to accept. Ultimately, this is an economic decision.

If you simply factor out Facebook and Google, every German user could replace the entire income that the content industry generates with advertising with just a few euros per month. Users may wonder which content funding model they prefer. In the end, the publishers will see that they earn at least as much with users of Adblock Plus as with normal users.

c't: Do the recipients of the money have to meet any conditions? Do publishers have to switch off their anti-adblocker scripts?

Advertisement or reader?

Faida: You don't have to. But if you lock these users out, fewer users will interact with the site. Accordingly, they will earn less with the site.

c't: The Axel-Springer-Verlag says that after locking out ad blocker users from Bild.de it even earns more.

Faida: He can say that. Just as the user has the choice of using an ad blocker, the operator of a website also has the choice of which users he wants to serve. However, all publicly available figures clearly show that you no longer earn money through such things, but rather piss off a lot of users. A long-term solution to finance content cannot be achieved in this way. Users don't let you force certain things.

At the moment we have decided against adding any features to Adblock Plus that bypass adblock blockers. The user can decide for himself how to handle it through his filter settings. The low opt-out rates for Acceptable Ads show that many users accept our compromise proposal.