Back in November, I was really up on Pi-hole.
But after several more months of running it … I am far less psyched than I had been. I’m sure part of that is having gotten better internet services at my house – so the impact of ads is less noticeable.
But a major part of it is that Pi-hole is just too aggressive. Far far too aggressive. Aggressive to the point that my whitelist was growing sometimes minute-by-minute just to get some websites to work.
Is that a problem with the site? No doubt somewhat. But it’s also a problem of blacklists. When domains and IPs are just blanket refused (and not in a helpful way), you get broken experience.
Pi-hole has also gone to a quasi-hijack approach: when a domain has been blocked, instead of it just silently not working, it now returns a message to contact your Pi-hole admin to update the block lists.
I hate intrusive ads as much as the next person .. but that shouldn’t mean that all ads are blocked. I have unobtrusive ads on a couple of my domains (this one included).
But even with Pi-hole, not all ads are blocked.
Part of that is due to the ever-changing landscape of ad servers. Part of it is due to the inherent problems with the blacklist/whitelist approach.
Content creators should be entitled to compensation for the efforts (even if they voluntarily choose to give that content away). Bombarding visitors with metric buttloads of advertising, however, makes you look either desperate, uncaring, or greedy.
The current flipside to that, though, is the pay-wall / subscription approach. Surely subscriptions are appropriate for some things – but I’m not going to pay $1/mo (or more) to every site that wants me to sign-up to see one thing: just today, that would’ve encumbered me with over $100/mo in new recurring bills.
Maybe there needs to be a per-hour, per-article, per-something option – a penny for an hour, for example (which, ftr, comes out to a monthly fee of about $7)- so that viewers can toss some scrilla towards the creators, but aren’t permanently encumbered by subscriptions they’ll soon forget about (though, of course, that recurring subscription revenue would surely look enticing to publishers).
As with the per-song/episode purchase model that iTunes first made big about 15 years ago, you could quickly find out what viewers were most interested in, and focus your efforts there. (Or, continue focusing your efforts elsewhere, understanding that less-popular content will not garner as much revenue as popular content will).
Imagine, using my example of $0.01/hr, how much more engagement you could end up garnering while visitors are actively on your site! A penny is “nothing” to most people – and probably just about all who’re online. Maybe you’ll have a handful of people “abusing” the system by opening a thousand pages in new tabs in their hour … but most folks’ll drop the virtual coin in the nickelodeon, watch the video / read the page / whathaveyounot, and move on about their day.
And not everyone will opt for the charge model. Sites that do utilize it can have some things marked “free” or “free for the next 24 hours” or “free in 7 days” or whatever.
Ad companies like Google could still work as the middleman on handling transactions, too – any time you visit per-X content, there could be a small pop-up that indicated you’d be withdrawing Y amount from your balance to view the site (I’m sure there’ll be competition in the space, so PayPal, Facebook, Stripe, Square, etc etc can get in on the “balance management” piece). And at the end of whatever period (day, week, month), Google can do a mass-settle of all the micropayments collected for each site from each visitor (with some percentage off the top, of course).
No ads. You’d actually Get What Your Pay For™, and issues like the recent Admiral thing would go in a corner and die.