Commentary

Does Search Need Another Way To Fund The 'Free' Web?

Free always comes with a price. You know the old story -- anything too good to be true probably is too good to be true. That message also applies to an ad-free Internet. You may not pay for it through advertisements at the moment you are searching for information or viewing content on a publisher's site, but you will pay for it down the road through higher costs when bidding for paid-search keywords or in the price of the next mobile device.

Google continues to test its Contributor program, which lets users pay a small fee to forgo seeing some ads on participating publisher sites. Google calls the subscription service "an experiment in additional ways to fund the Web."

There are other experiments that turned into gatekeeping business models. Years ago, publishers like The Wall Street Journal and Financial Times gated their "premium content" behind paywalls or gated communities, charging site visitors for the good stuff and allowing all to sample through a select number of articles the type of content the publications offer.

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One company -- PageFair, which works to stop ad blocking browser-based plug-ins from displaying ads -- suggests that search engines like Google and Bing lose billions annually through missed revenue opportunities, because the search ads never serve up on the engines and don't get a chance for consumers to see them and click through, according to Sean Blanchfield, PageFair CEO. In many cases, a small piece of code in the searcher's browser stops the ads from appearing. Then there's the issue of the two search engines paying to appear on a white list offered by the maker of Adblock Plus, so ads appear when served and are not blocked.

Thanks to a decision by a German court, the way to block a programmatic banner ad resides in a little piece of software installed in the browser. Last month, Eyeo, the Germany-based maker of the software, won a legal battle brought by two major German broadcasters that called the product anti-competitive.

1 comment about "Does Search Need Another Way To Fund The 'Free' Web?".
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  1. Steve Baldwin from Didit, June 9, 2015 at 3:01 p.m.

    The beauty of the Web is that it funds itself. I pay for my machine, lease my bandwidth, pay 3rd parties to provide hosting, and pay licenses for other software I need to produce my site. Millions of peopel do this. And millions of people produce content each day that's not funded by anyone (a fact discovered and exploited by AOL and A. Huffington, but that's another story and I don't need to tell it here). Free services are great but not so great that they can't be dumped. 

    Thanks, Google, but I don't need you (or anyone else) to throw me a lifeline. The only web that needs any funding is the web that nobody actually needs.

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