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Killing the Ad-Based Web

๐ŸŒˆ Abstract

The article discusses the issues surrounding the ad-based model of the web and the potential impact of Apple's plans to introduce ad-blocking features in its Safari browser. It explores the concerns of newspaper publishers about the financial sustainability of journalism if such ad-blocking tools are implemented, as well as the author's perspective on the need for a better solution for web-based advertising and content monetization.

๐Ÿ™‹ Q&A

[01] Killing the Ad-Based Web

1. What are the key concerns of newspaper publishers regarding Apple's ad-blocking plans?

  • Newspaper publishers, represented by the News Media Association (NMA), have warned Apple that any move to impose an ad-blocking "web eraser" tool would put the financial sustainability of journalism at risk.
  • The publishers argue that professional journalism requires funding, and advertising is a key revenue stream for many publishers.
  • They claim that online platforms like web browsers and social networks are important routes for the public to access journalism and for publishers to monetize their content in the digital marketplace.

2. How has the author's experience with web-based advertising evolved over the years?

  • The author's websites, including OTB and Gone Hollywood, did well during the Internet boom when advertisers were eager to pay for premium ad space on niche websites.
  • However, the author observed the phenomenon of "ad blindness" where readers quickly learned to ignore the banner ads.
  • In response, advertisers made the ads increasingly intrusive, leading to an "arms race" that was frustrating for both advertisers and readers.
  • The author notes that as mobile device usage increased, ad-blocking tools became harder to deploy, leading to more frequent instances of being "hijacked" by unwanted ads.

3. What are the author's views on the future of web-based advertising and content monetization?

  • The author believes that the current state of web advertising is "incredibly inefficient for advertisers and beyond frustrating for site readers."
  • The author suggests that a subscription-based model or a "Spotify-like" bundled system could be a potential solution, allowing consumers access to a wide range of content at an affordable rate while providing a sustainable revenue stream for content providers.
  • The author acknowledges the challenges in implementing such a model, as getting consumers to pay for content they are used to accessing for free has proven difficult.

[02] Potential Solutions

1. What are the author's thoughts on subscription-based models for content monetization?

  • The author notes that few companies have been able to sustain a pure subscription-based model, particularly in the political commentary space, which has relied on a combination of subscriptions, advertising, and angel investors.
  • The author personally pays to subscribe to multiple news, politics, and sports websites, but even they often cancel subscriptions once the initial discounted rate expires.
  • The author suggests that most people are less motivated than them to maintain paid subscriptions, making it a challenging model for content providers.

2. What other potential models does the author propose for web-based content monetization?

  • The author envisions the possibility of a "tiered system" or "bundled" approach, similar to the old cable TV model, that would allow consumers access to a wide range of news, sports, tech, and other niche websites at an affordable rate.
  • This could take the form of a micropayment system where readers are charged a tiny amount for each site visit, or a mobile phone plan-like model where customers pay for a certain number of visits per month.
  • The author acknowledges that there are multiple potential models, but the key is finding a way to create a sustainable revenue stream for content providers while still being affordable for consumers.

3. How does the author view the potential impact of technologies like ad-blocking and microtransactions on the future of web-based content monetization?

  • The author is sympathetic to the concerns of publishers who rely on advertising revenue, but also supports Apple's move towards ad-blocking features as a way to improve the user experience.
  • The author is cautious about the potential pitfalls of microtransaction-based models, drawing parallels to the issues seen in the video game industry, where such systems have been used to extract as much money as possible from users.
  • The author suggests that a more balanced approach, such as a news tax/surcharge on internet service providers that is then distributed to content providers based on site visits, could be a potential solution that avoids the drawbacks of both pure advertising and microtransaction models.
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