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Publishers take on ad blocker site

News, 11 April 2016

NEW YORK: Some of the biggest newspaper publishers in the US have sent a hard-hitting collective letter to a new web browser that uses software to block publishers' ads and replace them with its own.

The new browser, called Brave, was launched earlier this year by Brendan Eich, the former chief executive of Mozilla, and the company claims its own ads are quicker to load while being better at protecting users' privacy.

As reported by Business Insider, Brave's business model involves publishers receiving 55% of ad revenues with another 15% each going to Brave and its advertising partners.

Up to 15% also goes back to the user, who can then choose to make bitcoin donations to their favourite publishers in return for ad-free access to their websites.

However, 17 members of Newspaper Association of America (NAA) wrote a "cease and desist" letter to Brave, arguing that its business model is "blatantly illegal".

Signatories to the letter included major newspapers, such as the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, who accused Brave of profiting from the $5bn a year that the industry spends on funding journalism in the US alone.

"We distribute that reporting online for free or at highly subsidized rates, in no small part due to revenue from online sales," the publishers wrote.

"Your apparent plan to permit your customers to make Bitcoin 'donations' to us, and for you to donate to us some unspecified percentage of revenue you receive from the sale of your ads on our sites, cannot begin to compensate us for the loss of our ability to fund our work by displaying our own advertising," the letter went on.

The publishers said they declined to participate in any way in Brave's business model and added that its plan to use their content to sell advertising is "indistinguishable from a plan to steal our content to publish on your own website".

Brave responded with its own letter, asserting that the NAA had "fundamentally misunderstood" the company and that its service "is the solution, not the enemy".

It insisted that up to 70% of ad revenues go back to publishers and suggested consumers are adopting ad blocking software as a response to an "unregulated" and "poorly delegated third-party advertising technology ecosystem" that is damaging the brand value of content publishers.

Data sourced from Business Insider; additional content by Warc staff