Alt.profit: a web without ad dollars?


Back in August 2014, Ethan Zuckerman published a piece in The Atlantic that started a firestorm. In one Tweet, the whole of the animus we collectively feel about advertising online was expressed in less that 140 characters:

“@ethanz I do not accept your apology. This is your Frankenstein monster. You made it, you should kill it.”

Of course, Zuckerman no more created the devil’s bargain of Internet advertising that did those who most profit from it at Facebook and Google.

But new battle lines have been drawn in this war, in part by Apple in its support for ad-blocking software in the newly released iOS9, and have given us a new opportunity to grapple with Zuckerman’s core concern: do we have to accept advertising as the dominant business model on the web?

If Nilay Patel is right, then we are going to find out very soon if independent media and small web publishers, from tech sites to bloggers, can survive the consolidation and centralization of control over ad dollars he imagines is imminent.

On the other hand, perhaps we might finally see alternative business models emerge that are capable of supporting the kind of independent writing that so many of us value. Personally, I’d love to see someone create a platform that promised these kinds of journalist and creators a living that is better than is better than the scraps of the table of Internet advertising they now have to get by on.

If you are new to these thoughts and concerns, the reading list below offers a small feast:

The Internet’s Original Sin: Ethan Zuckerman’s apologis for creating the pop-up ad, bane of Internet users everywhere

The Allure of an Ad-Free Internet: Adrienne Lafrance & Robinson Meyer on the perils of the ad-blocking war

Welcome to the Block Party: The internet after ad blocking: Casey Johnson covers the waterfront of the emerging conflict over ad-blocking

Welcome to hell: Apple vs. Google vs. Facebook and the slow death of the web: Nilay Patel on life during wartime when the advertising superpowers centralize control

Why Apple Decided to Block Ads on the Same Day It Started Pushing a News App: Gizmodo weighs in

Just Doesn’t Feel Good: the bizarre retraction of an ad-blocking software developer

Please add any further links to stories that you think are important to this issue.

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