A legitimate ad blocker?

Pretty cool new idea from Google. It’s called Contributor, and it allows users to pay not to see ads on the web.

Internet advertising works on a cost-per-view (or cost-per-click) basis. So if you’re browsing Salon.com and click on the Roto-Rooter ad, Salon gets, say, 50¢. (And Google takes a cut, too.)

With Google Contributor, you can pay Salon.com 50¢ direct, in exchange for an add-free reading experience. It all works on a budget system. So if you only want to spend $1/month, under this costly scenario, you’ll only get your ads blocked twice.

This could be great for media companies, as ad blockers become ever more common and the revenue from ads falls as a result.

It’s important to note: This only applies to ads served by Google. (Which is a lot of the web’s ads.)

Check out the story from On the Media below. It includes an interview with the Contributor product manager.

Friday Link List: Which Carr Is It? Edition

Two of my all-time favorite media writer types share a last name—”Carr”.

I often conflate the two.

This time, at least, my conflation is purposeful: I’d like to share two recent articles, one by Nicholas Carr and one about David Carr.

With me now?

First, the piece about David Carr. It’s called All the Views He’s Fit to Print {the globe and mail}. Really feel like I got to know the guy through this. Lots of gems like this:

At Casa Nonna, he is unfailingly polite. Not just to me – when the appetizers arrive, he serves us both, and when we tuck into our pasta course, he shovels a couple of his gnocchi onto my plate, unprompted – but also to the waiting staff. He repeatedly stops mid-sentence to say, “That’s lovely, thanks so much,” or “everything is lovely, thank you.” And it’s more than common courtesy.

“I waited tables for seven years, so I really care about stuff like that. It’s [expletive] hard. I had a waiter dream last night. It was like: ‘Table Four’s been here a half an hour and they don’t have any [expletive] water, what is going on?’ Still. From the old days. That’s stress, man,” he says, “that’s real stress.”

Now for the piece by Nicholas Carr, picks up on the thread of his recent book that I’m currently reading, The Glass Cage. It’s about Facebook and the potential ramifications of a social landscape mediated by algorithms:

If and when Facebook perfects its behavior modification algorithms, it would be a fairly trivial exercise to expand their application beyond the realm of shitfaced snapshots. That photo you’re about to post of the protest rally you just marched in? That angry comment about the president? That wild thought that just popped into your mind? You know, maybe those wouldn’t go down so well with the boss.

Read Facebook’s Automated Conscience {rough type, Nicholas Carr’s blog}.

NPR One

New today from NPR: a great new way to experience public radio. It’s called NPR One. Upon opening the app for the first time, one confirms their local NPR affiliate and presses play. If you like what you hear, tap the “Interesting” button. If not, skip it. (You can also teach the app what you like by searching for topics and shows you enjoy.)

The more you use the app, the more it will learn about your interests. And the whole thing looks gorgeous and works great.

I’ve been using NPR One for about an hour so far, and it’s already provided me with an interesting mix of stories ranging from local news to a story from the NPR archives about why mammals need sleep.

It functions in a manner similar to Swell, the podcast app Apple has just reportedly purchased {tech crunch}.

It seems like a very forward-thinking move for NPR. It fulfills an emerging trend analogous to the gradual switch in listener habits moving from listening to music on iPods to streaming it on Spotify. Why bother managing episodes on a podcast app when you can use a service like NPR One instead?

It’s also a great way to get exposed to local news and break free from the filter bubble.

Disability Insurance for All

Welfare v. Unemployment Chart

Crazy report from This American Life and Planet Money about the rapid rise of disability insurance claims, and how it’s come to replace the federal welfare program in many ways.

A person on welfare costs a state money. That same resident on disability doesn’t cost the state a cent, because the federal government covers the entire bill for people on disability. So states can save money by shifting people from welfare to disability. And the Public Consulting Group (PCG) is glad to help.

PCG is a private company that states pay to comb their welfare rolls and move as many people as possible onto disability. “What we’re offering is to work to identify those folks who have the highest likelihood of meeting disability criteria,” Pat Coakley, who runs PCG’s Social Security Advocacy Management team, told me.

The company has an office in eastern Washington state that’s basically a call center, full of headsetted women in cubicles who make calls all day long to potentially disabled Americans, trying to help them discover and document their disabilities…

This issue seems more complicated than the episode implies, but it is certainly something we should be looking into.

Listen to the teaser, the full episode, read the whole interactive piece Unfit for Work: The startling rise of disability in America, and check out this rebuttal from Media Matters.