The Financial Times reports that Google is one of the companies that has explicitly paid the developer of Adblock Plus to let some ads by:
Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Taboola have quietly paid the German start-up behind Adblock Plus, the world’s most popular software for blocking online advertising, to stop blocking ads on their sites.
The deals, which are confidential but whose existence has been confirmed by the Financial Times, demonstrate that some of the biggest participants in the $120bn online advertising market see the rise of ad-blocking as a material threat to their revenues.
I've heard on a number of occasions that websites which could show good advert conduct could get a bypass on the ad-blocking, but this is the first that I've ever heard that the ad networks are paying off Eyeo, the German start-up behind Adblock Plus.
And just to be clear, the 4 tech companies mentioned above struck deals as ad networks. Google and Microsoft wanted to put ads around search results, while Taboola has a "related post" slash "elsewhere on the web" widget which is also technically an advert (I've considered signing with Taboola.)
It's not clear what Amazon gets out of this; while they do have their own ad network (I'm using it right now) Amazon's ads have never made it past Adblock Plus - at least not for me. And while we're on the topic, another company that is probably paying Eyeo for protection would be OutBrain. This is one of Taboola's competitors, and I can always see OutBrain's widget.
While this is new, very little surprised me. The biggest surprise is that Facebook wasn't also named. The fact that the 4 companies had cut deals was less a surprise than an explanation for why I kept seeing Google's ads. I had thought Google was just crafty, but no, they were paying for the privilege.
And can you blame them for buying Eyeo off?
The company boasts that it has 50 million monthly active users, all of which hate having to see ads. If you can get even one ad in front of those users, it will be harder for them to tune it out.
Ad-blocking is a serious problem, and depending on who you ask the problem is either the companies developing the blocking software (which are being sued) or the advertisers which use annoying adverts (that users want to block).
It's a tangled mess, and short of waving a magic wand and making the ad-blocking plugins go away, the story isn't going to end any time soon.