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> Maybe a new <ad /> tag which points to a resource which can only serve an image, video or text. Absolutely no scripting. Pass along only the advertiser ID and the bare minimum.

How would fraud detection work in this model? How do advertisers know the requests are coming from real users and not bots? Without assurance there, advertisers would pay much less, and publishers would earn much less.

(Disclosure: I work on ads at Google, speaking only for myself.)




Honestly, I don’t care. It worked in print, it can work in digital. Adverts would bother me less if advertisers hadn’t proven again and again that they can’t be trusted and that they don’t care about my privacy. I also believe that advertisement is a cop out for a real business model and the lowest form of business. Besides, as Banksy said: “You owe the companies nothing. Less than nothing, you especially don’t owe them any courtesy. They owe you. They have re-arranged the world to put themselves in front of you. They never asked for your permission, don’t even start asking for theirs.”

And before you say that the content creators need to get paid, just looks at the situation on Youtube, where Google makes a fortune and the content creators make fuck all, and big companies can take what little ad revenue the creators would have got for copyright claiming over 5 seconds of audio that falls under fair use. Many content creators now rely either on sponsorship or direct support through things like Patreon. Sorry, but Google can go suck it.

(I’ve also started just not consuming content from hostile sites. It’s mostly trash anyway.)


Content creators make plenty of Youtube, but it's spread out among millions of them which is why very few actually make any serious money. Also most content you wouldn't pay for, but will likely watch because it's free.

On the flip side, many creators have tried to go towards the subscription/patronage angle and far fewer are ever successful at that, with many making what amounts to a tiny trickle of supporting income while being burdened with much more responsibility to deliver. It's a hard bargain.


You say, "google makes a fortune and content creators make fuck all", then why do people still upload their content? That makes no sense to me at all.

But besides that, i am all for more competition. Better user interfaces, better conditions, less censorship, i am for all of it.

And to me it earns a lot of respect, that i can upload my 8k video to youtube, they distribute it potentially to millions of people, and i dont have to pay a dime. And that they are still able to make it a platform, where i get a lot of interesting things to see. And it is somehow sustainable.


> then why do people still upload their content? That makes no sense to me at all.

Why do websites exist that don’t have ads? Why do people have personal websites and blogs? Perhaps it is, in fact, physically possible for a website to exist without serving third-party JavaScript ads.


Definitly. And hosting is very cheap. But i would argue, that if you were a band or a big company like disney, and suddenly you have millions of people interested in your stuff, because you have a new release or constant demand, that you then must have some kind of model, that pays for it all. Who can do this with their own pockets?

Ah. I see for example netflix. And now it splits up into many sites again, who offer their own things. The technology is now there, maybe it becomes more and more a commodity, organizing payment is easy, maybe it all gets more diversified again. Does no one remember, how popular internet shops once were? But then amazon became way more convenient.

Ah, iam ranting :>


There's a method of distribution called bittorrent that scales with popularity. If people love it, you don't have to pay to distribute it. If people want you to make more, they've shown themselves willing to send money even after they've consumed your product.


> Perhaps it is, in fact, physically possible for a website to exist without serving third-party JavaScript ads.

This was never in dispute. If a website owner chooses to do so, it is their own choice.


Nobody disputes that. But then there is website and website.


That’s a good question. People do it for free, because they want to contribute to society. That’s why people contribute to open source, or Wikipedia, or write blog articles, participate on StackOverflow or post to HN.

Not everything is about the almighty dollar. Did you get paid for participating in this discussion?


Of course they also want to contribute to society. It is a great thing. And behind all this, someone has to pay for the other stuff. Its not only the content creator. On what hardware is this all running on? Who provides for electricity? Who is writing the software? Who makes sure, that we have internet cables deep below in the ocean. Someone has to pay for it. There are people having jobs. So of course i want that people can contribute. But it is only a part of the calculation, its a give and take. Everyone is in for something.


Let's not pretend that the distribution of things that people enjoy isn't free. People pay for an internet connection, they happily share media with each other. If you have a fanbase, you could make a film and put it on a high speed connection for five minutes once, tell people when it will happen on a message board, and rest assured that everyone who wants to see it will see it and it will exist in perpetuity with no further intervention from you.


Right, but the discussion is about whether that money has to come from (exploitative and invasive) advertising or not. In support of the current advertising model, someone had claimed that YouTube must be compensating content creators well, it is a good thing and so forth, because people still upload videos -- meanwhile, most people upload videos for free. The people doing it for money are uploading things like "CGI Joker Mates With Choo-choo Train Sing-a-long ABC's" and "$30,000 Rolex Watch -- Can We Blend It?"

Exaggerating only slightly for argument, YouTube is presently a great force for evil, actively chipping away at collective privacy and promoting the creation and dissemination of Worthless Garbage so that they can sneak in ten second promotions for Even-More-Worthless Garbage like Grammarly, whatever horror movie's coming out soon, etc.


Because for historic reasons, Youtube has a monopoly position on viewers and the content creators need those viewers, despite that they have to resort to other means, like Patreon, merchandise or product placements/sponsorship to make any money themselves.

This won't be the case forever, I hear more and more people (creators and viewers alike) complaining about Youtube, its monetisation and it recommendation algorithms.


You can make the same argument about podcasts, television, radio, magazines, billboards, etc. At some point you rely on statistics that someone is giving you in all of those mediums but they still made money.

I've personally made much more money producing content (YouTube and podcasts) by directly working with brands than I ever have from Adsense anyway so I'm not convinced that the advertisers "paying more" is helping content creators much to begin with. Patreon seems to be a symptom of that.

Edit: Also, on the subject of advertisers paying less. Isn't part of the problem the fact that adtech giants like Google are saying "look, we have this awesome tracking and targeting tech so you can pay less for ads to reach your target audience". Thus reducing the potential ad money that those people would pay into potential revenue for content creators to reach their audience?


   Patron seems to be a symptom of that
Wouldn't Patreon be more an indicator of said symptopms?

I hate English sometimes, and its my native language.


I don't really care if ads stop being profitable. If ads stopped being a good source of revenue, the tech industry would adapt, and my guess is that the end result would be much more favorable to society. I'm working on an early-stage startup right now, and I'm certainly not going to use ads as part of my revenue model.

Google might not be too happy about an outcome like that, but I'm not overly concerned about Google's wellbeing. :)

I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on this since you work on ads: are ads actually essential in the software industry, or could we do just fine without them?


In recent years we, conscious consumers, shot down several viable business models that could have replaced ads such as data collection for trend analysis and crypto mining in the browser. They were met with outright hostility.

Perhaps justifiably so, but we have to keep in mind that any producable "value" will have to "hurt" in some way. We have to give something in exchange for "free" services. Yet the focus is only on the price paid instead of the fairness of the transaction (or lack thereof).

Either we give up the "free" model alltogether and shift back to paid services only, or we choose the lesser evil and live with it.


> data collection for trend analysis

Of course that's going to be met with the same hostility. It's 99.9% the same thing.

> crypto mining in the browser

Of course that's going to be met with similar hostility. Climate change is even more present in the public consciousness.


> Either we give up the "free" model alltogether and shift back to paid services only, or we choose the lesser evil and live with it.

This is true in a specific way, and it is sometimes useful to use this frame. But in this case, I think the frame obscures more than it focuses.

"We" aren't getting together and voting or bidding or whatever. I think the closest thing to a choke point for decision making about some of this is in Google's hands, with Chrome. At least until the browser monopoly wheel spins again.

> We have to give something in exchange for "free" services

Eh? No. The requirement is that services need resources to exist. If you immediately extrapolate to pseudo-moralistic finger-wagging at "consumers", you're ignoring a lot of ways various organizations have found to exist. It is either self-blinding or a heavy thumb on the scale.


How about I keep leveraging the fact that I'm smarter than the average user so I can give nothing and and the losers who get their data mined or their power used to mine coins can pay you.

This mutual hostility has worked for the entire life of the internet and probably has another decade of life if not more.


Game theory. In a world with network effect and a choice to make money from ads or subscription, the companies that choose defect (bad ads) win. We have to change the environment to get a different outcome.


I still remember the web when I got my first modem. What the ads changed is the amount of various clickbaits, useless sites, sites "for fun", garbage of the internet. All this would be gone without ad revenue, there wouldnt be any sustainable bussiness model for them.

Regarding usability of ads, in 20 years I never bought anything shown. When I need something I search for relevant product solving my need and I buy it. And trying very hard to avoid fake reviews. If your product type showed on ads is what I need, I will still do my best to check the market and find best product type for me with lowest price I can get. Which is typically not what is shown on ad. At the end they dont change anything for me.

Now the question is - would internet without ads really be that bad?

My personal expierience with one of the news sites (cant remember which it was) after GDPR was somehow refreshing. If you didnt agree, they disabled all javascript and throw you into same website but with only text and images relevant to the article. I loved it.


> My personal expierience with one of the news sites (cant remember which it was) after GDPR was somehow refreshing. If you didnt agree, they disabled all javascript and throw you into same website but with only text and images relevant to the article. I loved it.

That was probably NPR.

Text version: https://text.npr.org/


Thank you very much for this. :) Yes, it was npr, and it is perfect example of quality content not needing megabytes of js content while still beeing usable. As a content. Not eye candy.

(Disclosure: I read book each week and I am thrilled by anything new I learn. I dislike pictures of cute animals and I do all communication with friends over the phone or going out.)


> I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on this since you work on ads: are ads actually essential in the software industry, or could we do just fine without them?

The industry would definitely adapt, but I don't think it would be more favorable to society. Here's what I would expect to happen if we stopped letting third party ad networks detect ad fraud:

* Facebook, Youtube, Reddit, etc and other huge sites are already big enough to run their own ad serving, and keep doing that. They are still in a position to detect fraud as a first party, and they're big enough that advertisers trust them.

* Current ad networks build first-party integrations, where to the browser everything comes from the publisher's site. This could be designed as a newspaper licensing an ad serving system. This would provide high levels of trust, but not as high as the current system because you lose the protection of cross-origin iframes.

* Ad networks don't find it worth it to integrate with long-tail sites, the sites make less money, we have fewer of them.

If we went far enough to functionally remove ads from the internet, either by banning them or by ads losing the adblocker-blocker-blocker-blocker arms race, then I'd expect a different pattern:

* Everyone moves to subscriptions of various kinds, probably with slightly porous paywalls.

* Right now ads are effectively a progressive tax: the publisher makes more money from you in proportion to how valuable it is to advertise to you, which is roughly in proportion to how much money you have. To raise the same amount of money from subscriptions you need to charge more than what people can afford to pay at the low end, so some people get cut off.

* There's a massive drive to consolidation: people don't want to have a lot of subscriptions to manage, so we get things where one subscription covers many people. The economics of how small sites get included in this are complicated, and I suspect this also hoses the long tail.

* Free sites are popular, making money through some combination of product placement, charitable funding, and funding to push worldviews. The latter worries me a lot.


> funding to push worldviews. The latter worries me a lot.

This is already happening in the advertisement world of today, where certain topics—some political but some not—are not "friendly to advertising", and so get demonetized on various platforms. How is that different from the scenario you worry so much about?


> certain topics—some political but some not—are not "friendly to advertising", and so get demonetized on various platforms

I think they're pretty different. If you look at the AdSense prohibited content policy [1] or the ones for other general-interest networks they don't allow their ads on sites about porn, drugs, gambling, etc. If you run a standard newspaper, for example, covering the full breadth of what a newspaper typically covers, you should be able to put ads on ~every story.

In a world without ads, the newspaper would probably be a subscription site, and would be competing with non-subscription sites that are funded by people who want to push a perspective. The current dynamic effectively prioritizes perspectives in terms of how much people want to read them (because that's where the advertising money is) while in this new dynamic there would be more prioritization based on how much money the people with that perspective have (because that's where the funding is). I think that's probably worse for the world?

[1] https://support.google.com/adsense/answer/1348688


> There's a massive drive to consolidation: people don't want to have a lot of subscriptions to manage.

Imo subscriptions aren't viable at all. For me to subscribe to something I need strong evidence that I will use it enough.

Automatic micropayments with a daily allowance seem like a much superior solution. They remove the friction of making the subscribe decision and keep the content creators in check by only paying for interesting content. Subscriptions can be easily forgotten or aren't annoying enough to bother to cancel them even if the provided content isn't worth it anymore.


There is a company called Blendle that offers a curated source of news/op-ed/etc to read, where you pay some fraction of a dollar per read, usually in the 10-25¢ range. If you feel the article wasn't worth it, you can click a link to get an immediate refund, no questions asked.

I like the idea, and I do use their service. They have plenty of room to improve- the articles they pick tend to almost always have a certain political slant, and I find more puff than meat more often than I think a curated service should offer.

But. It's a real attempt at a new model, and they're trying. I do get enough value out of it to keep using them to the few-dollars-a-month level, and I hope they improve their system over time.


Blendle has stopped pay-per-article, moving to subscriptions entirely.


Are you sure about that? I literally received their daily digest which has the price-per-article, as expected, just a few hours ago. Maybe they are now offering both?


Yes, they're stopping micropayments on August 1st: https://www.niemanlab.org/2019/06/micropayments-for-news-pio...


Bummer. Guess that's the end of Blendle use for me. Thanks for letting me know.


The biggest problem I’ve had with Blendle is that I want to read an NYT article due to a recommendation, not because I go to their app. I just would forget to go there. There was no “open with blendle” option to move into my flow.


> Subscriptions can be easily forgotten or aren't annoying enough to bother to cancel them even if the provided content isn't worth it anymore.

Which is precisely why companies prefer the subscription model. See gyms, cable TV, and insurance companies.


> Automatic micropayments with a daily allowance seem like a much superior solution.

How do you ensure some content quality that goes beyond a headline and a catchy teaser paragraph?

Kindle Unlimited had this problem when they started distributing payouts based on pages read, which led to a proliferation of books with catchy first page, instructions to skip to the last page and a bunch of junk in between.


> How do you ensure some content quality that goes beyond a headline and a catchy teaser paragraph?

How about a simple button that makes a view/visit not count?

> instructions to skip to the last page

That happened because it didn't count pages read or time spent.


Kindle Unlimited has other problems that make issues for content quality, king among them being the KDP Select requirement.

I’ve managed to find value from Kindle Unlimited, but pretty much nobody but self published authors (which I have no problem with, but there’s effectively zero bar to entry meaning quality is over the place) is available on the service because of the KDP Select issue. It doesn’t seem to be evenly enforced either, since the Harry Potter books are available via Kindle Unlimited yet are available for sale on other eBook stores, for example.


> I'm working on an early-stage startup right now, and I'm certainly not going to use ads as part of my revenue model.

That is great, but who are the people paying you? Are they end users, or are you selling a service to other web companies that DO rely on ad dollars to make money?


I think that the democratizing effect of services that make money through advertising is vastly underestimated. There are a lot of people on the internet who can't afford to pay for Microsoft Office, or a set of encyclopedias, or courses like those which can be found on YouTube or blogs.

It's all well and good to say that you hate ads because you can afford to pay to remove them. Many can't, and we should think very carefully before we remove services they need.


The best content I’ve found in recent years has been either on sites that don’t contain advertisement (because they’re someone’s personal hobby blog, for example, or HN) or from videos where the person was supported directly by fans through Patreon.

Anecdotally, the advertisement-supported content is mostly garbage.


HN does have ads. They're job ads for YC companies, and they're the entries you see without an option to vote on. Ones like "Come eat – I mean build with the ZeroCater (YC W11) engineering team".


That's an example what ads should be. They are relevant, appropriate, they don't try to fool you or spy on you.


I believe your comment and Godel_unicode's are both correct, and I am pro-choice. Some people may prefer adverts over payment. I don't agree, but that is their choice. I can't stand to hear from NPR's underwriters any more, and will start singing songs loudly (I'm a bad singer to boot) when they come on. In other words, I am personally ad-adverse. My 80-something parents, however, don't even mute the channel, let alone change it, when watching TV and the advertising starts (it drives me nuts). Some people don't mind, and I think they have a right not to be denied content via advertising if that is an "offer on the table."

If one looks at the history of the HBO cable channel vs. broadcast channels (i.e. ABC, NBC, and CBS), and also Netflix, I think one can see there are similar dynamics at play.

The chaos of freedom is a beautiful thing, but using the government to enforce your version of utopia is scary.


Being pro-choice about advertising is like being pro-choice about influenza. Advertising is an infectious disease, it does not respect the choices of those who'd prefer to pay up front, and people underestimate its danger to young, old and weakened individuals.


You should check out Neil Degrasse Tyson on YouTube. Or virtually any podcast.


I listen to maybe a dozen podcasts. None have ads; most of them I support on Patreon.


It's unclear to me what that has to do with my point; the existence of high quality patreon-backed podcasts doesn't mean anything about the supply of quality advertising-supported podcasts. You should look into it, there are a lot of them.


I listen to ad-supported material, I just have muscle memory, and a visceral reaction to advertising where I will just advance VLC's playback by 1min via shortcut-key (assuming one uses a standard RSS reader and DLs the mp3 file locally).

I'm not sure I understand the point of saying you listen to non-ad-supported podcast, and not mentioning how they are supported or if it's pure hobbyist stuff you listen to.

Advertising comes in many forms (i.e. native content), and unless you link your .opml file, I can't ascertain the value of your statement. I do not recommend doing so, but young tech people think it's OK to put your real name on the internet (which is contrary to the ideas I was taught in the 90s; the use of pseudonyms has proven sound given our current circumstances).


Many podcasts are 100% advertorial content. The ad is the podcast.


But they can afford LibreOffice, Wikipedia, and Vimeo.

The current allocation of human productivity enablement is not the only one possible (and an "is" is not an "ought to be" as per Hume).


You need a computer to run LibreOffice. So no, in many cases, they can't afford it.

Vimeo requires the person creating the content to pay, yes? So if I want to do a series of videos on Kibana, or Active Directory, or astrophysics, I need to pay Vimeo in addition to the effort of creating my content.

Basically no one outside a philosophy lecture has ever suggested that the current state of anything is the only possible one, that's a meaningless strawman. Please avoid the condescending suggestion that others can't imagine things being different, it's as patronizing as it is pointless.


True, but in many cases you can still offer a service for free without ads. E.g. offer a free version with limited functionality, and then offer a paid version with features that are needed mainly by people who use your product for work. Even if ads weren't an option, it's still advantageous to get lots of people using your product, and I think companies will continue to find ways to do so.


It seems to me that the problem is entirely of the web advertiser’s making, though. When the web was new and novel, tracking was used to prove or validate specific ad spend. You can still do that sort of comparative analysis but now detection might have to live on and be limited to what can be detected from the advertiser’s own site. And if by the nature of the product or sale, it proves impossible to tell if I’m a human, well, that will be a shared cost or concern that all advertisers would have. If sites were forced to or mandated this new form of anti-tracking ad, advertisers would eventually go along with it because the alternative is not advertising on the large percentage of sites which have adopted it. This would probably make non-web ads and validated human email addresses more valuable unless they too are subject to the same anti-tracking provisions. An email service (or search service) by it’s nature offers more opportunities to tell if you’re human though, and such services would be inherently more profitable to advertise on... (see Facebook profits)

I don’t really see problems here outside of encouraging an entire industry to move on from tracking and/or DRM the way an entire nascent industry moved on from the popup and pop-under ad, or invasive screen takeover and annoying animated ads.


Your industry doesn't itself create value it maximizes the value of other industries by connecting customers and creators. The ultimate equilibrium might see your industry having to do more with less.

Ultimately the world did everything it does now without internet marketing and ultimately could do so again.

A sizable share of a smaller pie is better than all of nothing. Essentially your concern is both correct and irrelevant.

Nobody cares if Google has to make less money to have a less crappy internet the same way nobody cares if the newspaper industry makes less money.


How would fraud detection work in this model?

Honest but blunt answer: We (my businesses acting as advertisers) don't rely on your (Google's, or any other ad network's) claims anyway. The only thing that matters is the metrics we measure on our own sites, and we're going to be able to separate those by ad campaign anyway. We don't care about getting more Facebook likes or how many Instagram views some image gets or how many impressions Google claims to have shown on third party sites. We only care whether a given campaign gave a good return on investment in terms of direct benefits and/or actionable leads.


I used to work at an advertising company that worked this way, doing lead gen. In some verticals there's nothing better, and as long as your own metrics are good you can figure out how much a traffic source is worth. If a traffic source goes bad and starts being 50% spam, no problem, your automatic system lowers its bids by 50% and you're fine.

The thing is, only a very small fraction of the ads ecosystem works this way. Coke wants to show ads to people to position their brand, not to get people to buy soda over the internet, which means they're not able to measure the efficacy of channels on a per-publisher basis and figure out if they're being cheated. Brand advertisers typically use third-party fraud detection services like Moat to inspect the environment their ads are running in and see if they look legitimate.

Then there's a large range of people doing things where you could measure the effect of channels, but the site just isn't that sophisticated. Some pizza place somewhere buys some ads, they don't have the tech staff to measure conversions and optimize their channels, instead they trust the ad network to make sure they're not being cheated.

Even sophisticated performance advertisers rely on ad network fraud detection, just indirectly. Yes, you run your ad campaign, and you bid what the traffic is worth to you based on your measurements. But the existence of that traffic stream comes from fraud detection. Imagine some publishers on an ad network start spamming it, and the ad network isn't able to detect the fraud. The money from advertisers now isn't going to publishers in proportion to the value of their traffic, but instead in proportion to how much they're cheating. The publishers that were the source of your good traffic go out of business, and the ad network collapses because it doesn't have valuable traffic to send to anyone.


I recognize that other advertisers may have different goals, such as for large, brand-centric advertising campaigns. I'm not an expert on those so can't offer an informed opinion on any specifics. From a casual observer's point of view, I don't see how they're any worse off than the classic "everyone is wasting half of their ad budget, they just don't know which half" of the print/broadcast era. As you say, at least with online ad networks there can be some indication of where the ads are being shown, allowing a level of independent scrutiny by the advertiser if they wish.


Try looking at it from the publisher's perspective. If their ad network can't detect fraud then of all the money the network brings in an increasing proportion will go to fraudulent publishers. Honest publishers will make less and less money and eventually give up on the ad network.


This does seem to assume that ad networks are the main or only way to support sites that rely on ads for their funding. I'm not sure why we should make that assumption, though.

We're talking about a built-in feature to safely and transparently include ad content from a third party in your own site. It seems possible that advertisers could set up standardised content to work with that feature. Then the kinds of hosts who make enough from advertising to be worth keeping it anyway could either delegate to an advertiser's own server or self-host. Payment could be either a direct transfer or use some new, simpler and more transparent service just to handle that aspect.


Do you feel like advertisers know that now? I feel like I hear about clickspam/ad fraud operations getting closed down (and nigh-instantly popping up elsewhere) on a constant basis.

Is this like intrusive DRM in PC games, where all the studies show that it increases producer costs and complexity, annoys consumers, and doesn’t actually improve sales revenue, but some companies do it anyway because “what about piracy?”


Are their studies that show that?

I have heard the opposite. Every day you can stop a game from being pirated is quite a lot of sales earned back.

Dunovo has been quite effective at this in the past.

If you can stop your game from being pirated for a week a lot of people who want the game right now will switch to buying instead.

After it’s been cracked a lot of publishers will then patch out the DRM since it doesn’t matter anymore.


> After it’s been cracked a lot of publishers will then patch out the DRM since it doesn’t matter anymore.

This does not happen nearly as much as you think.


I think one big difference with DRM for PC games, is that piracy of PC games is normally not a money making activity for the pirates. It might prevent companies from selling a game to certain people, but there is no clear cut evidence that person would have otherwise bought it.

For advertising however, you can first of all incur a cost to an advertiser (since costs are calculated per click, view, etc), but furthermore, pirates can even profit from it by having a website and generating fake clicks for that website. If you would not try to prevent this ad fraud you would have bad actors siphoning off complete company advertising budgets to their accounts.


You don’t have to use a model which allows this. Pay-per-placement, for example. You pay a fixed amount to put your ad in a specific article (or on the entire site or in whatever rotation people like) and then there’s no way to rip off advertisers with click farms.

You still need to measure your audience to get advertisers to pay the price, but this is decoupled from the individual ad buys so it can be done differently.


Ha, please have a little trip to any of the open air electronic markets of Eastern Europe(even of those countries that are within the EU) and every other stall has DVDs of almost any PC game/software you can think of. Signs like "newest game releases here!", "Windows 10 all versions no key one dvd!", "Blu-ray movies - 10 per disc!" Are still common. They are not even trying to hide this even though the police are meant to be on a look out for that stuff, but I can guarantee that I could come back with a backpack absolutely full of pirated PC games from one of these markets - that is making people money, no one is doing this out of charity even if prices are low.


> that is making people money

the people buying the pirated software would not have otherwise spent the money on the official/real version. This is the stickler - counting "loss" from this kind of sale is at best immaterial and at worst fraudulent.


> advertisers would pay much less, and publishers would earn much less

I think people like me who argue that web advertising should return to dumb/static/contextual ads also accept that it might kill a huge fraction of web revenue/jobs/content.

The downside is that advertisers move to the walled gardens of a few big players, and to native advertising. I’m still more ok with that than with the way the ad industry works now.


Consumer: im blocking all ads for reason x

Advertiser: dont block my ads because the business depends on it

Consumer: here's a solution that works for me

Advertiser: but then that solution doesn't work for me

Consumer: i don't care, im still blocking all ads until I feel like i don't have to


Consumer: I block ads for reason X.

Publisher: Don't block ads or I will go out of business.

Consumer: Then please allow me to contribute in some other way (subscription, Patreon, microtransactions).

Publisher: Hm, I dunno, that sounds like work.


I'm seeing more and more articles about online ads popping up. I also use an ad blocker (unlock origin on mobile, umatrix on desktop) for all my browsing just to make it bearable.

But I also see a lot of people saying they'd like to contribute to the sites they visit frequently. I built a proof of concept website to let everyone do just that:

https://www.propup.net

There are several similar concepts (Mozilla with Scroll, quid, even patreon et al), but I think mine reduces friction because signing up is as easy as on HN. Oh, and there's absolutely no tracking or selling of information to third parties.

Any feedback is welcome.


How does fraud detection work on newspaper sales figures, or television viewer numbers?

The internet has seemingly decided that without tracking ads don't work. No. Serve your static ad or I will continue to see nothing. :)


There are rating agencies that verify both print and TV numbers with as much accuracy as possible, and Connected TV (streaming, smart tvs, netflix, etc) now have comparable metrics to website ads.

Those older mediums were also just inefficient and create a lot of wasted spend, whereas the internet has allowed far more businesses to start and thrive by lowering their customer acquisition costs. These companies would never survive if they had to still rely on older ad models.


There's not really any meaningful empirical proof of ad impressions now, just a very shady chain of trust between a handfull of companies who all have a vested interest in not scrutinizing these things too closely.

Once you're at the point where you are buying traffic to meet goals, you're not going to scrutinize the origin of that traffic beyone anything that would appear to be flagrant fraud to your customers.


These are all interesting questions for advertisers but it's not obvious the burden of addressing advertisers' problems should be dumped on users with next to no informed consent, as is the case now.


So there’s the choice. Get more money and get blocked, or get less money and do not get blocked.


> How do advertisers know the requests are coming from real users and not bots?

Leaving aside that this isn't the problem of end users:

Link to a site, use an ID for that campaign (analogous to an affiliate ID), and don't pay unless a purchase takes place. Bots can't fake that.


Except many ads are not directly linkable to purchases. Coca Cola won't track you to a local grocery store and an ad for a musical won't track you when you buy the ticket a week later.


It depends. Your credit card company knows what you bought and when, while the ad network knows the phone number linked to the PC where the ad was shown. Join the two tables and we can track you to the grocery store.


Even if this were done (I don’t think that either of the involved companies would or could share this detail of data) you still have a problem. What about ads that don’t work?

I have put an ad on your site, it took up space for some time. The ad was bad and nobody bought anything even though a hundred thousand people saw it. The publisher is still owed money because they did their part.


Do they though? They do know where and how much, but the cashiers commonly put in an amount manually into the credit card device.


You would only do business with companies you trust to not cheat. Or just charge flat rates.


>You would only do business with companies you trust to not cheat.

That massively increases the barrier to entry. Right now you can make a new site, sign up with an ad network, and start showing ads. No one involved needs to trust you (much) since the ad network is in a good position to detect cheating. Remove that, and big trusted publishers (NYT, FB, Google) are still fine, but smaller ones wouldn't be able to demonstrate to the ad network or advertiser that they should be trusted.

> Or just charge flat rates.

Adverse selection will kill you.


> Right now you can make a new site, sign up with an ad network, and start showing ads.

With the tiny payout you get from Adsense, unless your site is really popular to begin with, you're not going to make much of anything. Pennies maybe (which you won't receive until hitting a threshold anyway). So I don't see how it helps with entry.

By the time your service is popular enough to make real money you could approach smaller brands and advertisers to get better deals than Adsense.

Adsense exists to make ads cheaper for the advertisers and there's no way around the fact that that means content producers will be making less money as a whole. You can't have it both ways. It's lowering the amount that advertisers are willing to pay content creators by giving them the perception that their money stretches further, aided by online tracking and targeting. Meanwhile Google caches in on their cut of the deal and all of the piles of data they collect with their monopoly while content producers get shafted.


AdSense and other networks primarily exist to automate matchmaking. Publishers and advertisers can already find each other, but this requires a lot of work. By automating this work, it can make more money for publishers (in aggregate) and make things cheaper for advertisers at the same time.

My understanding of your argument is that no publisher should be using Adsense etc today, and they should all be negotiating direct deals instead, is that right? What would you say to publishers (and I've talked to many) who are happy to have the "collect bids from people who want to advertise on my site" portion automated for them so they can focus on running their sites?

(Still speaking only for myself)


I'm not saying that there aren't content producers who want that or would benefit from it. I'm saying that they probably won't make as much money that way. And if the only way to do it is to use pervasive tracking and digital surveillance (which users are increasingly blocking and lawmakers are becoming skeptical about) then it's a business model on unstable ground to begin with.

My experience, especially with media content producers, is that those ad platforms are never sufficient and it's always advisable to rely on partnerships or Patreon. Because, yeah, it's more work to create those relationships, but the alternative is relying on a low-revenue platform where a small update from the whims of Google might destroy you without warning.


Yes. Arguing that online advertising should be like traditional advertising (killing the adtech industry of today) means accepting that a ton of money will flow from small players to the bigger players, and into more insidious forms of ads (video overlays, native ads posing as news). But it’s a tradeoff I’m more than happy to accept.


> Right now you can make a new site, sign up with an ad network

and spend the next two weeks delivering explanation after explanation to the ad networks and Google that you are indeed a real person/company and indeed created a site with unique content and indeed plan to generate leads, etc, etc.

After two weeks of back and forth you are approved by Google only to be indefinitely temporarily blocked for "additional traffic verification" in a couple of days despite purchasing only the best traffic for start of the site.

> smaller ones wouldn't be able to demonstrate to the ad network or advertiser that they should be trusted

It is already very, very complicated and is rapidly getting close to impossible.


>How do advertisers know the requests are coming from real users and not bots?

Maybe the dominant adops model was a mistake? To throw back to an older, simpler time: what would thinking outside the box look like for this?


You don't ? And you get paid less by click but you also have more clicks ? (also cf NYT)

This way you also avoid the arms race between ad networks, ad blockers and clickbot farms.


It wouldn't, so targeted ads should be de-emphasized in a human-centric model.


Good point. I guess it’d kill PPC. I’m not sure how advertisers detect fraud but maybe you can check the limited info sent along with the request and do whatever heuristics you do as usual.


How do they know if it's a bot?


> How would fraud detection work in this model?

Your business model is not our problem.




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