Ad-blocking software Adblock Plus has long been known for allowing advertisers to pay them to let their “acceptable ads” slide by their block, for users who permit it. However, now it’s arranging with Pirate Bay founder Peter Sunde’s web payment service Flattr to allow users to pay their favorite sites directly for content whose ads they block. Adblock Plus and Flattr will fund the service by keeping 10% of the payments users designate to pay those sites. The program is due to launch later this year.

This is all very well and good, but none of the press coverage I’ve seen on it addresses how they plan to avoid the same problems that torpedoed the earlier efforts of content-reformatter Readability when it sought to use subscription fees to repay sites for the ads users skipped via said content formatting. There’s the issue of claiming to represent authors and publishers without their consent. Then there’s the matter of most publishers being unwilling to sign up for the program (probably due in part to being required to sign away the right to sue for copyright violation in order to get the money).

The Wall Street Journal article I linked above does note that publishers will be required to sign up for the Flattr program to receive payments, but doesn’t include any mention of any terms associated with that signup. If it includes a similar indemnity clause to Readability’s effort (and why wouldn’t it?), we’re right back in “lather, rinse, repeat” territory.

There does need to be some solution to the question of compensation for blocked ads—but it’s unclear that this Flattr Plus program is going to be it. It might be that Adblock will find, as the old saying goes, that Flattr-y will get it nowhere.


  1. The digital age has flipped advertising upside down. In the past, companies that advertised didn’t know how many people saw their ads, much less responded to them. People might head for the kitchen or bathroom during ads or mute the sound on their television. Some of those reading magazines and newspapers never looked at the ads. Companies knew advertising had some benefits, but not how much.

    Now with web advertising, the click-through rates give a much better picture of when ads or working and when they’re not. Ad-blockers make matters even more complicated. News and entertainment businesses from television networks to big city dailies that were made rich by that advertising are now under strain. Newspapers are dying. Networks are in a race to the bottom to attract viewers. The latter is so bad, I’ve given up on television altogether. It’s been years since I’ve heard of a show I’d want to watch. And the meanness on television is, I believe, one reason for the meanness in our politics. Trump, literally one of those entertainment thugs, illustrates that perfectly.

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