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Eyeo, the parent company of popular ad-blocker Adblock Plus, today announced that it’s acquiring a service called Flattr that lets readers tip websites. Flattr was created in 2010 to give news websites and other online media ventures a virtual tip jar to allow readers to contribute a few cents or dollars to help support creators, instead of viewing ads and receiving the content for free. Eyeo first announced a partnership with Flattr last year, and since then Eyeo says the two companies have grown close and an acquisition made perfect sense. As part of using the micropayment system, 10 percent of all revenue passing through the system goes to Flattr and Eyeo.
“Over the past 10 months, we collaborated closely and in fact, became one team with a joint vision,” said Flattr co-founder Peter Sunde in a statement. “We share almost identical values of making the internet safe and fair for everyone. We’re excited to continue our work on the Flattr project to give back control to the users of the internet. They should decide how they want to use the internet and how they want to support the content they enjoy. The internet is a decentralized network with unlimited sources of creativity. This free and open internet needs a payment option that reflects these core values.”
There are a few wrinkles, of course, in the idea of an internet tip jar helping fund large, otherwise ad-supported media companies. (The properties of Vox Media, the parent company of The Verge, are largely ad-supported websites.) For one, though many ads on the internet are obnoxious, obtrusive, and occasionally privacy-violating, ad-blocking tools tend to paint every ad-supported website with the same brush, despite the fact that many of the worst tactics come from viral content farms and other click-hungry and exploitative websites.
Though there is little insight into the behavior of ad-block users, it’s not far-fetched to imagine only a minority actively “whitelist” the sites they feel like supporting, with the remainder choosing to instead remove any and all ads from every website they visit. Because at the end of the day, the number one reason people use ad-blockers is to speed up page load times and reduce visual clutter, and not protect their privacy.
While Eyeo said last year it hopes to raise nearly $500 million for content creators in 2017, that certainly won’t offset the tens of billions in lost ad revenue that ad-blockers cause. This has resulted in a bit of an impasse, with companies like Facebook and Twitch developing new technologies to bypass ad-blockers and more media companies banking on reaching audiences through those social networks and video sites instead.
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