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Even in the Ad-Filter Market, If You’re Not the Customer Then You’re the Product

4282588204_50a4ce8a17_m[1]For the longest time now I have wondered why Google always managed to get a few ads past Adblock Plus, and now I know.

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.

images by vagawiGuilherme Jófili

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dickloraine February 2, 2015 um 8:22 pm

This is nothing new, Addblock does this now for a long time. I think they call it acceptable adds or something. You can either buy this (but your adds have to comply to a bunch of rules) if you run a commercial site or ask to be refrained, if you do not make money with your site.

It could of course be, that this is something new, but it doesn’t sound like it. German news did spin a similar story not that long ago.

That said, this is an option, you can turn off in the settings.

The Commons February 2, 2015 um 8:36 pm

In fact, it first made the news back in 2013, so either people aren’t paying attention or the news cycle is running out of stuff to print (or pixel, as it may be). The idea is that small companies and site get to make it onto the whitelist for free if they have non-intrustive ads. Big companies must have non-intrusive ads and pay.

Nate Hoffelder February 2, 2015 um 9:10 pm

It’s not new, no.

But I was surprised that ad networks were paying for the privelege; Google in particular did not strike me as meeting any conceivable standard for an acceptable ad policy.

The Commons February 2, 2015 um 10:26 pm

The standards are: ads without animations, videos, or sounds; don’t sit on an overlay over content or force you to scroll down half a screen before you can see what you came to the site for; and don’t interrupt content by being in the middle of the page.

What do you find objectionable about that, given that you have those kinds of ads on your site? I notice there’s an animated Flash-based ad at the very end; those would continue to be blocked by ABP.

Nate Hoffelder February 2, 2015 um 10:40 pm

If you google for certain terms (hotel, restaurant, buy something) then all you’ll see on the result page is ads. The actual results have been pushed down so far that they are off the bottom of the screen.

The Commons February 3, 2015 um 12:52 am

If you mean that the entries that have a yellow 'Ads' symbol next to it have taken over the screen in violation of terms, then it should be reported, as any ad (covered or not by the less-annoying-ads policy) that ABP didn’t catch should be. If enough people report them, policies will change.

If you mean the embedded Yelp-like infobox, then I suppose we disagree about what an ad is. AdBlock (my preferred ad-blocking extension) nukes all of the tagged ads but still leaves the infoboxes alone.

Nate Hoffelder February 3, 2015 um 7:08 am

This is what Plus is showing me (link). Nothing in the three boxes is an organic search result; that has been pushed off the bottom of the screen.

dickloraine February 2, 2015 um 8:24 pm

Forgot the relevant links:

I think it’s Time to Decamp to DuckDuckGo| Ink, Bits, & Pixels April 8, 2015 um 11:25 am

[…] the adverts drenching the results page, colluding with Adblock Plus to let ads slip through the filter, putting press releases at the top of the news search results, and developing Pontius Pilate's […]

AdBlock Plus Ruled Legal in Germany | Ink, Bits, & Pixels April 22, 2015 um 4:17 pm

[…] the bane of web publishers and the darling of web users, Adblock Plus is a service which filters most* ads at the request of its […]

Ad Block Developer Eyeo is Now Selling Adverts, and That's Okay | The Digital Reader September 14, 2016 um 1:49 pm

[…] has hada program where sites with "acceptable ads" can get them whitelisted (the company has also taken kickbacks from ad networks to allow ads […]

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