Last week I wrote a slightly tongue-in-cheek post titled "Why Readers Should Pay For All Content." Unbeknownst to me, just one day earlier, the Dutch company Blendle launched a beta program in the U.S., an event I think will revolutionize online publishing while addressing many of the problems I raised in my post.
In previous posts, I have complained about the short-sighted approach of publishers and advertisers alike in the way they treat readers. I have argued vehemently against those who have accused readers of "stealing" or "breaking agreements" if they use ad blockers. I have suggested that publishers and advertisers should find ways to make the reader experience less offensive. However, I have finally come to the conclusion that none of these approaches could ever work. Instead, I think the best solution is for all publishers to come together and agree to charge readers for content.
A reader of this column invited me as his guest to a digital conference for local publishers two weeks ago in New York, hosted by Borrell Associates. Interactive Advertising Bureau CEO Randall Rothenberg was giving a speech on Adblock Plus, and my reader (thank you, Lubin) thought I would enjoy hearing it.
If someone exploring earth from a distant planet were to peruse the last year or so of articles related to digital advertising in preparation for her visit, she would conclude that there are three distinct species inhabiting our planet. Landing her spaceship in Manhattan, she would look around, expecting to spot the fanged carnivores known as advertisers, the laborious omnivores known as publishers, and the meek herbivores variously called readers or consumers (these terms being akin to the words cow or beef, depending on whether you are describing the grazing animal or the juicy steak you are about to consume). …
I met the executives from Adblock Plus at a roundtable gathering in New York a few months back. They came across as well-intended people, authentic in their defense of the consumer. They came across likable - if that should even matter. What does matter: They came across as smart. They are, however, guilty of being a bit nave about the online advertising industry they have commandeered. That will get adjusted over time as they gain more ground between advertisers and publishers.