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.

The Platform Is the Message

There’s no doubt about it: The blogging/writing platform founded by Blogger and Twitter entrepreneur Evan Williams, Medium, is beautiful. Lots of great writers like the late great David Carr used it and wrote about it:

Because it is such a pleasure to work with, Medium has become something of a fetish object for writers. In the last year, Medium has published the biographer Walter Isaacson, the author Emily Gould, the journalist Ben Smith, the entrepreneur Elon Musk and many, many others.

The focus on typography, on the reading experience, is unparalleled in the online publishing space.

Not that I’ve done much research to the alternatives: I prefer to go at it my own. I want to own the experience, and I’ve been doing that in some incarnation or the other since 2001, with my first blog that I cobbled together using Dreamweaver MX, back before it was Adobe Dreamweaver. (Now we’re using a self-hosted incarnation of WordPress, thank you very much.)

My reasons for doing so are equal parts stubbornness, curiosity, and mistrust of others. I think it’s fun to experiment with new storytelling media. And I’m really picky… so being in control of everything is the only thing I’ll accept.

What if I had invested my time and resources into a writing platform that went bankrupt? What if they decided to sell ads next to my work without compensating me?

And we’re back to Medium and this fantastic piece about the platform that was published on a non-publishing-platform website by Matthew Butterick.

[…] Medium pays for only a small frac­tion of its sto­ries. The rest are sub­mit­ted—for free—by writ­ers like you. Af­ter a long time be­ing elu­sive about its busi­ness model, Medium re­vealed that it plans to make money by—sur­prise!—sell­ing ad­ver­tis­ing. This means dis­play­ing ads, but also col­lect­ing and sell­ing data about read­ers and writ­ers. So Medium will ex­tract rev­enue from every story, whether it paid for that story or not. (By the way, will that rev­enue be shared with writ­ers? Um, no.)

So there you go. My stubbornness/curiosity/mistrust of others seems well-advised after all.

Especially when you put it this way:

In truth, Medium’s main prod­uct is not a pub­lish­ing plat­form, but the pro­mo­tion of a pub­lish­ing plat­form. This pro­mo­tion brings read­ers and writ­ers onto the site. This, in turn, gen­er­ates the us­age data that’s valuable to advertisers. Boiled down, Medium is sim­ply mar­ket­ing in the ser­vice of more mar­ket­ing. It is not a “place for ideas.” It is a place for advertisers. It is, there­fore, ut­terly superfluous.

Read the full piece here: The Billionaire’s Typewriter.

Full disclosure: I have a Medium account but haven’t found a use for it yet.

Via {daring fireball}.

RIP David Carr

Re-posting this post I posted late last year about David Carr, who died in the New York Times’ newsroom last night. I haven’t felt this sad about the passing of someone I didn’t know in quite awhile… probably ever. Seemed like such a lovely, brave person.

Here it is:

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}.

Friday Link List: Tech & Media Edition

1. The App I Used to Break into My Neighbor’s Home {wired}

When I broke into my neighbor’s home earlier this week, I didn’t use any cat burglar skills. I don’t know how to pick locks. I’m not even sure how to use a crowbar. It turns out all anyone needs to invade a friend’s apartment is an off switch for their conscience and an iPhone.

2. Behind Comcast’s Truthy Ad Campaign for Net Neutrality {washington post}

In an ongoing ad campaign, Comcast touts that it’s the only internet service provider (or ISP) legally bound by “full” net neutrality and that the company wants to expand that commitment to even more people. This sounds great for consumers; it’s the kind of thing that might convince skeptical regulators to give Comcast the benefit of the doubt. But the advertising claims come with some big, unstated caveats that could be confusing to consumers who already find the net neutrality debate a jumble of jargon and rhetoric.

3. Riding the Juggernaut That Left Print Behind {david carr/new york times}

I am a faithful reader of The Journal’s and The Times’s print edition. Both are built on a wonderful technology for discovering and consuming news, and a large part of their profits still reside in that daily artifact. But when big things happen, I stayed glued to the web, at The Times and other great news sites.

Nothing can compete with the shimmering immediacy of now, and not just when seismic events take place, but in our everyday lives. We are sponges and we live in a world where the fire hose is always on.

But once a sponge is at capacity, new information can only replace old information. Last month, researchers at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand published a study that found that comprehension, concentration and retention all went off a cliff when information was taken in online. (Then again, there are those who say that we see everything and remember nothing because we don’t have to, that the web now serves as our memory.)

4. Virginia Woolf’s Idea of Privacy {new yorker}

Talking so freely about your life helps you to know the weight of those feelings which are too vague, or too spiritual, to express—left unspoken and unexplored, they throw your own private existence into relief. “Sharing” is, in fact, the opposite of what we do: like one of Woolf’s hostesses, we rehearse a limited openness so that we can feel the solidity of our own private selves.

Malevolent Mind Manipulation

Listened to two back-to-back podcast episodes this afternoon that complemented each other surprising well.

The first was an episode of Marc Maron’s WTF with my boy Douglass Rushkoff. (Note: Marc Hummel does not have ownership over or personal relationship with aforementioned media theorist.)

He talked about media theory-y things and his new book Present Shock, which I have written about previously. The duo also touched on Obama’s recent announcement {npr}:

This week President Obama announced his BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) Initiative, which the White House describes as “a bold new research effort to revolutionize our understanding of the human mind.”

Rushkoff placed the announcement as evidence that we now think that the human mind can be mined and controlled, which leads to what Maron called “impulse control”—the potential for advertisers to tweak our every want and desire based on sophisticated computer models.

Then I listened to a This American Life episode about gambling and Blackjack inparticular. The last story in that episode featured a story of a woman who sued a casino after she gambled away her one-million-dollar inheritance. It turned out that the casino was indeed manipulating her by offering lavish perks in exchange for her business (which is just their standard operating procedure). Her case was settled out of court.

Thought those two episodes offered up an interesting juxtaposition between what could be and what is.