- Adblock Plus
Popular ad blocker Adblock Plus has partnered with online donation startup Flattr, created by the founder of The Pirate Bay, to launch a new tool that will let users pay the online publishers and content creators they visit the most.
On sign-up with Flattr Plus, users select how much they want to spend a month – with no minimum fee at launch.
The Flattr Plus browser extension will then run in the background as users consume content on the web and automatically distribute that monthly budget, based on the websites they “engage” with the most.
The “engagement” metric is still being tested, but Flattr says in a press release the model is to reward “engagement and attention” rather than site visits.
Any online content creator can apply to Flattr Plus – from large online news organizations, to YouTube creators, and podcast owners. Only those that have signed up to the whitelist will be compensated – but any money due to them will be held until they join.
Adblock Plus and Flattr will take 10% of the monthly subscription money. Adblock Plus has also made an undisclosed investment in Flattr as part of the partnership. Flattr launched in 2010 and was co-founded by The Pirate Bay founder Peter Sunde and Linus Olsson. Flattr found fame after becoming the payment method to donate funds to WikiLeaks after PayPal, Visa, and MasterCard froze the site’s access to funds.
“Our goal is to get to 10 million users … once we reach that, we will give publishers $500 million”
The Flattr Plus model is somewhat similar to Adblock Plus’ controversial “Acceptable Ads” list, which requires large advertising companies to apply for their ads to be whitelisted. Those large companies – which includes Google, Amazon, Criteo, and Taboola – are charged 30% of the additional revenue created by having their ads whitelisted.
Critics of the model have compared it to everything from “extortion,” to “blackmail,” and being a “Mafia-like advertising network.” The leader of US digital advertising trade industry the Interactive Advertising Bureau accused Adblock Plus in January of being an “unethical, immoral, mendacious coven of tech wannabes” and an “old-fashioned extortion racket.”
- Linus Olsson
We asked Adblock Plus-owner Eyeo’s CEO Till Faida whether he was worried Flattr Plus might be met with the same criticisms.
“No matter all we do, that will always be part of it for some people,” Faida said. “The beauty of this model is that we will be able to provide significant funds to [content creators] without them needing to do anything other than collect the cash. Hopefully that will help us overcome some of the perception hurdles.”
Faida said the companies expect the average user will pay $5 per month. The goal is to reach 10 million users – compensating content creators $500 million.
He thinks the Adblock Plus userbase is the “perfect match” for the service, due to its “massive” userbase (Adblock Plus has been downloaded 500 million times) that want to support online content creators but are fed up of “aggressive” advertising.
“We’ve already proven that fewer but better ads provide more value, so this is the next logical step. This fits perfectly into what Adblock Plus has always been about,” Faida added.
Flattr Plus is similar to an “ethical” ad blocking service that launched in beta late last year. Optimal.com asks users to pay $5.99 per month to experience an ad-free web, with that fee distributed back to publishers. Like Flattr Plus, an algorithm determines which publishers are compensated the most, but users can also choose to give a higher percentage of their monthly fee to their favorite content creators.