Rob Leathern has spent the last decade and more trying to find better ways for advertisers to serve us online ads. So why are he and four colleagues from his previous company starting a new one that will let us pay publishers not to show us ads?
“We got to know the good, the bad, and the ugly,” said Leathern, founder and chief executive of Optimal.com. Since he sold his last company, the unrelated social media analytics and ad software firm OptimalSocial, to Brand Networks, in 2013, Leathern has been mulling how to fix a “broken” online advertising industry plagued by too many annoying, bandwidth-sucking, privacy-invading, malware-carrying banner and video ads.
To address that mess, today he’s announcing plans for what he calls a “smart subscription service for all the content on the web, minus the ads.” The idea is that people could sign up to pay a yet-undetermined monthly or annual fee to see any content they want but without ads for whatever sites they choose. They could still agree to see ads from sites that are showing ads “respectfully,” meaning those that aren’t deceptive in content or how they use people’s data for targeting.
After taking a small cut of those revenues, Optimal would pay publishers according to the percentage of overall Web traffic they generate. If users upvote a publisher or its specific content using Optimal’s system, the publisher could get a higher revenue share. Either way, the intention is that publishers would get at least as much revenue as they would from these subscribers viewing ads.
“We think there’s a legitimate use case for ad blocking,” says Leathern, whose younger brother is a magazine journalist in their native South Africa. “But if publishers don’t get paid, they can’t produce good content.” …