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What AdBlock Plus didn't tell you: it's paid to let ads through

Barry Collins
3 Feb 2015
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Leading ad blocker is charging companies huge fees to let their ads past its filters

Several leading tech companies are paying substantial sums to the makers of a leading ad blocker to ensure their adverts aren't stripped out of websites, according to a report in the Financial Times. Microsoft, Amazon and Google are amongst the companies paying Eyeo, the makers of AdBlock Plus, to ensure their adverts are added to the software's whitelist of permitted ads. 

By default, the AdBlock Plus extension has an option ticked to "allow some non-intrusive advertising". An FAQ on the company's website suggests this is a means of rewarding companies who don't run intrusive adverts.  "Starting with Adblock Plus 2.0 you can allow some of the advertising not considered annoying to be viewed," the FAQ on "acceptable ads" states. "By doing this you support websites that rely on advertising but choose to do it in a non-intrusive way."

Nowhere in the FAQ does it mention that Eyeo charges companies to join the whitelist. Only when you click through for more details of the agreement companies must sign to be whitelisted does it mention that "we are being paid by some larger properties that serve non-intrusive advertisements that want to participate in the Acceptable Ads initiative".

It's not revealed precisely how much Eyeo is charging the likes of Amazon and Google, but one source within a digital media company told the FT that it was the equivalent of 30% of the revenue they would receive by having their adverts unblocked. In the case of major advertisers such as Google, that percentage would easily run into the millions of pounds. Eyeo refused to comment on how much it was charging the big firms. 

Users can still choose to block all ads by unticking the box that permits non-intrusive advertising, but Eyeo encourages users not to, claiming the function gives advertisers the "incentive to produce better ads", because they have to meet certain criteria to be accepted onto the whitelist. What it fails to mention up front is that it's also a lucrative means of supporting Eyeo itself.

The current roster of whitelisted ads can be seen here. The list is enormous, although it includes many thousands of entries from the same companies, such as Google. 

Google and Amazon declined to comment on the FT's story, but Micorsoft told the newspaper that it "will always give consumers choice when it comes to advertisements. We are committed to working with partners who share our vision for relevant, impactful brand interaction and respect the integrity of consumer choice."

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