Acceptable Ads evolves, transparency too · 2015-12-16 15:35 by Job Plas
Adblock Plus started as an open source project and we still run it that way by posting everything we do into public forums. But there are some things we’re not allowed to say because of NDA agreements, and we get a lot of heat for that. But today we’re going tell you about some interesting things anyway, like how we make money. Here goes …
Several years ago, we started to offer Acceptable Ads as a feature in Adblock Plus as a middle way between ad blocking users who opted out of traditional ad formats, while allowing publishers and content-creators to continue to monetize with unobtrusive ads. This first version allowed users to whitelist individual websites that they wanted to support. In 2011, we published a set of guidelines that our user community deemed “acceptable,” and these acceptable ads are shown by default to our users to allow a compromise between blocking all ads, or no ads at all. Since then, we have thought about Acceptable Ads a ton and collected feedback from multiple sources, but the aim has never changed: we are trying to safeguard the user experience of Adblock Plus by only allowing nonintrusive ad formats, while enabling content-creators and others to monetize.
Today, we are announcing updates to the Acceptable Ads criteria while keeping the core values. The idea is to make Acceptable Ads easier to understand, even if you don’t have a background in ads, while providing a perfect starting point for the Acceptable Ads Committee which will take over in 2016. Finally, transparency is critical for us so we are releasing more public information on how we monetize with Acceptable Ads.
Over the last few years, we have listened to our users, partners and other important stakeholders on the web and learned that our criteria, while in line with users’ interests, could be easier to comprehend and should be more specific. New ad formats are invented and attitudes towards ads change almost daily. So we felt it was time to make a few clarifications.
But at Adblock Plus we do not do anything without involving our user community, so that is what we did — we surveyed thousands of our users in two different continents and did an eye-tracking study. We also collected info from all of the following sources (and a bunch of beer-fueled nights – we are headquartered in Germany, after all):
- Feedback from our users on our social media channels and websites
- Other discussion platforms (eg Reddit comments),
- Input from the advertising industry at events such as #CampDavid in New York
- In-depth conversations with key stakeholders; individuals, companies, institutions
- Research from other sources (e.g. The Cost of Annoying Ads)
The evolved criteria: a foundation for the Acceptable Ads Committee
In our ongoing effort to gradually evolve the criteria, we developed a few goals we wanted to be reflected in the new criteria iteration:
- The Acceptable Ads Criteria should be more specific
- The Acceptable Ads Criteria should be easier to comprehend
- The Acceptable Ads Criteria should be more scalable
- The Acceptable Ads Criteria should function as a strong foundation for the recently announced independent committee that will take the project over next year
Similar to when we launched the first ever criteria back in 2011, we wanted to ensure that the criteria are data-driven and accurately reflect our users’ feedback. Based on the results of our studies, we were able to work out the specifics of the criteria in terms of pixel requirements, location requirements, space requirements and ad-specific guidelines.
We hope that this iteration ensures that the criteria are easier to understand, objective, and provide partners and users with concrete and specific examples about what constitutes an Acceptable Ad. Finally, the criteria are now an even stronger foundation for the independent committee which will take over the project in 2016.
Find the criteria here.
Taking steps towards even more transparency
After organizing our first #CampDavid roundtable discussion with multiple key stakeholders of the web, we learned that there was a demand for us to become even more transparent regarding our business model. This was also confirmed by many of the one-on-one meetings we had with other industry leaders. Therefore we expanded the monetization section on our website with more information about who has to pay, and how much we charge the small amount of large companies (<10% of partnerships) who pay in addition to meeting the criteria.
We’ve already announced a second #CampDavid planned for February 2 in London to continue our open talks with industry leaders. Like #CampDavid New York, the focus here is for us to learn about how to make our Acceptable Ads Committee a success and how to (continue) to make Acceptable Ads better.
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