Keeping content free for everyone to enjoy

There’s an interesting elephant in the room that a lot of people seem to enjoy not talking about. At least, a lot of people in online advertising, publishing, and on the other side, in the ad-blocking world. 


That’s right, I’m talking about free content.  


Of course, we’ve all been pampered by the web for a long time. It’s amazing, really, one of the truly remarkable developments of modern society. A source for knowledge, connection, shopping, entertainment that ‘exists’ out in the ether, and not taking up space on our harddrives. It’s literally all there. For me, that means a lot of good, free content. I like to read my football news, and interviews on my favorite music sites, and the Spanish newspapers since that reminds me of when I lived in Spain and woke up and sat with a physical newspaper next to my coffee each morning. 


This is content that people (like me and millions of others) write. A lot of us make our living writing content that is then consumed by people online happy to enjoy the web. We want them to read it and they want to learn/enjoy/connect from and with that material.


It all sounds great, but the system breaks down at the point of compensation. Content creators and publishers can’t make great work, provide cool things, and then earn no money from it. It just doesn’t work that way. 


That’s of course where advertisement comes in. It’s the logical answer that’s always existed, from print, to radio, to TV. But for some reason it’s fallen apart online. The system isn’t working. Now, I don’t mean that it was always broken. In fact, I remember a time when online advertisements were light, digestible, well-situated on the page, and sometimes highly relevant and spurning me to buy a product that I realized I would like to have. 


But things have changed throughout the years. Now it’s all about views and engagement. Thus, blinking ads, videos, huge side panels, things you have to click out of. It’s the ‘hey i’m over here’ of online advertising that led to ad blockers consequently being developed to help users gain back some of their experience. 


But, at least at eyeo, that was never the end game. In fact, the creator of Adblock Plus Wladimir Palant, quickly saw that, and even had what’s known as ad block developer’s guilt.  He essentially wanted to find a sustainable solution. A middle way, a ‘have your cake and eat it too’. That’s the point of Acceptable Ads, a standard that allows advertisers to reach users via appropriate, nonintrustive advertising, and users to have a fair and enjoyable experience.  No blasting ads, but the understanding that some ads should be there. 


According to a recent study by YouGov, the majority of online users (80 percent) acknowledge the importance of advertising to a free internet. Users don’t hate ads. They hate what the online world has devolved into. They want good content. They don’t want paywalls or ‘please turn off your ad blocker or you can’t visit our site’ notifications. 


The Acceptable Ads middle way is a long-term, sustainable solution. Is it so crazy to think that users should continue enjoying free content and advertisers and publishers should be able to monetize that content, but in a way that is nonintrusive, yet still allows for engagement and profitability? 


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