At a time when both Madison Avenue and the digital publishing community it depends on are struggling to find a solution to the potentially existential threat of ad blocking, one of the Internet’s most visionary developers is introducing a new browser and a bold economic model that could transform the economics of digital advertising. The platform, which is being unveiled this morning by Mozilla founder and former CEO Brendan Eich, is called Brave. It lives up to its name by introducing a new model that bypasses conventional ad serving and redirects ad placements on users’ browsers with ones generated by Brave and its partner, independent SSP Sonobi.
The concept is not entirely new. So-called “ad injector” models that effectively block ads sold by publishers and redirect them to ads sold by the software developer have been around for years, but generally they have been exploited by nefarious characters operating on the fringe of the digital ad industry’s grey market, and their models generally are not made explicit to users that download their software.
What’s different about Brave’s approach is that it is making its bypass-and-redirect model 100% explicit to users, advertisers, agencies and publishers -- and most importantly, offering to cut them all in on the revenue it generates.
“The revenue is not only shared with the publishers, but a small slice will go to our users,” Eich explained in a briefing to Real-Time Daily, adding that the amount of the revenue going direct to users is “probably not going to buy them a free dinner,” but it is a recognition that they are part of the economic process.
The main reason he believes users will embrace the model is that it is a new permission-based way for them to redirect money back to their favorite publishers, because Brave will apportion the majority of the revenue it derives to publishers based on a user’s browsing preferences.
"It’s a way to pay for my top 20 sites without having to go through a pay wall,” Eich said.
Brave is also exploring pay-wall models that would enable users to pay publishers directly, because the point of the new browser platform is to give its users more control and a better experience than they’ve been getting from current and previous browsers, as well as finding an economic solution to ad blocking.
He claims that the browser software itself is better, faster and more state-of-the-art in terms of loading pages for users than any of the current versions of other popular browsers from Mozilla, Google, Apple, Microsoft, etc. But Eich says the browser is also attached to two components that differentiate the user experience from others, including a “data vault” for each user, as well as a “digital wallet” leveraging digital cryptocurrency Bitcoin for transactions.
Eich did not elaborate on how users would leverage their data vault in the beta version of Brave’s software, but he was explicit about the role of the wallet and Bitcoin as a transactional currency, calling it a “frictionless medium” for transferring money earned from selling the ads it redirects its users to.
The biggest question in Brave’s model is how publishers and users will react to it. While users will gain more control by becoming part of the economics supporting their favorite publishers, the model is being undertaken without the explicit consent of publishers.
“Basically, we’re just dropping money on them to the extent that users visit our system,” Eich explains, adding that Brave’s goal is not to become a new ad blocker, but to give users control over the advertising experience and enable them to become explicit stakeholders in underwriting their favorite publishers.
In its initial version, Eich says revenue derived by selling ads through Brave will be split four ways: 15% each will be distributed to the user, to Sonobi and to Brave, with 55% allocated to publishers.
Eich says he hopes to eventually get the share of revenue allocated to publishers up to the 30%/70% revenue-sharing model popularized by Apple, with 70% going to publishers and the rest divided among the other stakeholders.
Brave is still working out the logistics of the payment system. Sonobi, which has deep relationships with many publishers, will no doubt play a role, but the concept, according to Eich, is that the publisher's share will be deposited as Bitcoin currency into a digital wallet that each publisher will have their own secure key for accessing.
How publishers might react to the benevolent approach wasn’t clear at presstime, but it is one of the models being suggested by many industry thought leaders. It was among the ideas discussed at the Media Future Summit organized by MediaPost columnist Bob Garfield, The Wharton School, and MediaPost on Oct. 30, 2015, and is one of the topics of a new white paper series being published by them.
As for making consumers a direct party and cutting them in on the advertising they are exposed to, that model has also been gaining in interest, especially with the rise of ad blocking. The concept was also one of the “Top 7 Trends to Help Brands Target the New Consumer in 2016,” according to a new report from Omnicom’s Interbrand and Ready Set Rocket.
Eich says Brave is working with one of the big ad agencies on piloting the new model, and it will begin speaking with other agencies and advertisers based on their interest in testing it.