NEW YORK: One of the first online-only magazines, Salon, has unveiled a new feature on its site that will allow the publisher to find revenue even when a user has an ad blocker: by giving them the option to donate unused computing power “to run calculations”.

This is according to the site’s FAQ page, which explains its new feature “Suppress Ads” as an alternative to ad blocking. The feature, currently in beta, will add to the option of disabling ads on with a further option of blocking ads while allowing Salon “to use your unused computing power”.

“We realize that specific technological developments now mean that it is not merely the reader’s eyeballs that have value to our site — it’s also your computer’s ability to make calculations, too,” it states.

Computing power will “contribute to the advancement of technological discovery, evolution and innovation”, Salon continues. “For our beta program, we’ll start by applying your processing power to help support the evolution and growth of blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies.”

According to the Financial Times, the system will be powered by Coinhive, which uses a program that runs in the user’s web browser to mine monero, a cryptocurrency with an emphasis on privacy and untraceability. The coin has made headlines previously for reports that  UK government sites had been affected by a program that forced users’ devices to mine monero. 

Salon is keen to stress that it will not install anything on the user’s computer and the process, it says, will not give Salon access to personal information or files. In addition, users continue to enjoy the option to allow ads or access the site via its app.

When the “suppress ads” feature is engaged, the site “is instructing your processor to run calculations”. The site says it will “automatically detect” a user’s current processing usage and use a portion of this. If a more taxing process is initiated, the site will, in turn, reduce the amount it is using. The process will only continue for as long as the user is on the site.

The move comes as the online publishing model comes under increasing strain. “The value of an online ad is far less than a print ad; the maxim, ‘print dollars become digital dimes become mobile pennies’ articulates the approximate 100:10:1 ratio of print to digital to mobile ad revenues,” Salon notes.

Indeed, Google data shows the continuously poor performance of online display ads in the US. A model of co-creation could go some way to providing much needed revenue to an online publisher.

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Questions remain, however, over the performance of the site as the feature is engaged, and whether it will slow down users’ devices. Slowing load times is an increasingly risky move, as Adobe Consumer Content Survey data shows, consumers will abandon or avoid slow websites or apps.

Sourced from Salon, Financial Times, The Independent, Axios; additional content by WARC staff