What Optimal.com is building for consumers

A smart subscription service for all the content on the web, minus the ads

Rob Leathern
4 min readDec 17, 2015


I want to block ads, and you should too.

I believe they’ve become a security and privacy risk for most of us, and an unwanted distraction from getting things done for many of us.

But I’m not going to block ads… yet.

I want a way to pay for the content that advertising supports today. I want journalists and other creators of content to get paid. I want great video to still get made, and informative and entertaining stories to still get written.

That’s why we have a team of great engineers building Optimal.com — where you’ll pay publishers to NOT show you ads.

We’re building a smart subscription service for all the content on the web, minus the ads.

We’ll pay the websites you love, and you will always see precisely where every microcent of your subscription is going and why. Ever visit a site seemingly built just to show you ads before taking you to the site whose article you were actually trying to get to? Instead of supporting content, ad and data intermediaries that suck up ad revenue, websites that create the best content should get paid more, as judged by you and thousands of others.

Ethical blocking subscriptions, instead of $0

There is no single specific mix of ads and no-ads that will be optimal for everyone. Some people don’t mind advertising, say they ignore it anyway, or can’t afford to pay to substitute the money that advertisers would get. Some people are okay with ads. Some will pay a fee if fewer ads are bundled with enhanced services, like Hulu Plus or YouTube Red. We plan to offer a variety of ways for you to improve your online ad experience.

Most adblocking is all-or-nothing today, but I know that for me personally, there are some websites and some advertisers with whom I want to maintain an ongoing dialog and don’t mind seeing ads. Optimal.com will let users see and share which websites are showing ads respectfully, and as advertising stops deceiving and advertisers start being more upfront about the data they use, users will let some of it return. The vocal minority blocking ads today can help shape a new ad ecosystem for us all — it’s time for a transparent conversation about ads vs. no-ads instead of leaning on the previously implicit relationship between ads, users and content.

Adblockers are not only being used all over the world to stop annoying online ads, but also to close a wide-open door through which malware and viruses are entering. But when I use an antivirus or anti-malware program to keep my computer safe, only bad guys get hurt. Using an adblocker is different. When I protect my computer from bad ads, bad actors are being stopped, but many more good people are also suffering: content creators need to be paid. The effects are hard to notice in the short-term but in the long-term, we need new solutions.

We have already started working with website publishers to assess how many users are blocking their ads, and will soon let sites offer those users a new way to keep blocking ads but also pay for content. We will collaborate with both websites and adblockers too, because all of us need to understand why users are making the choices they are, so we can address the causes, not just the symptoms. If you’re a publisher, contact us so we can start helping today.

Our team has worked together before to build large-scale systems that have handled billions of advertising transactions across multiple ad platforms, but we came away from that experience more convinced than ever that online advertising is broken and vowed that in some small way we would help fix it. For me, there’s too much of my personal data floating around the web giving me little or no benefit. True change won’t be easy or quick, but we’re in for the long haul.

I hope you’ll join us in fixing online advertising! (Join the waitlist)

Rob Leathern, Founder and CEO, Optimal.com Corp.

PS. Advertising is not going to go away — but it needs to get better. Good advertising is just like a recommendation from someone you trust — and publisher brands we know and trust have a big role to play. But we need to know the true identity of online advertisers, and we deserve full transparency on where our data is going and why. I’ve written several articles about this here at Medium.

Data: Publishers get only 45% of programmatic revenue, IAB data via Marketingland. Ad image: Luma Partners.



Rob Leathern

Entrepreneur and product leader, prev at Google and Facebook: security, privacy, ads & integrity