I recently read Matt Cutt's excellent reminder that Google Contributor exists. If you don't know what that is, go ahead. I'll wait.
Didn't read it? You can pay Google Contributor up to $15 / month, and it'll bit on Google ads as you wander around the web. If you win your own bids, you get blank spaces instead of ads. It's a paid ad blocker!
My first thought was just how horrible any internet discussion of ad blocking is. For some reason, this whole issues has gone so far that there's a segment of the population who considers blocking ads a moral issue. Scarred by memories of popups, freshly whipped up by full-page interstitials, and nebulously scared of the idea that tracking is possible on the internet, these people refuse to give an inch to anybody who wants to show anything. No word yet on how websites should get paid. Emperically, that sort of extremism makes for lousy Hacker News discussion.
The more interesting bit is that Google Contributor might not work. I'm too close to all of this, because I'm more frequently the hated 3rd party in all of this: the advertiser. The interesting thing about the Google Contributor model is that it doesn't actually promise to block your ads. It only promises to let you in on the bidding war for your pixels. It lets you spend money that companies would otherwise spend. In aggregate, this works. Most businesses only monetize to the tune of single dollars per user, so you can buy your way out of it.
Those ... aren't the kind of numbers I play with. If you had a product that sold for $100k, what would you pay to find somebody who would buy it? Close to $100k, I'd hope. If you work it backwards, it's not uncommon to find companies willing to spend $100 or more to get somebody to their site and trying their product.
This part always struck me as a bit manipulative. It's kind of the point, but it never felt right. Fast forward 3 months, though: that customer has decided that there's software out there that's worth $100k of their company's money. That's worth their time to implement. That's worth their time to use daily, because it will make them look good and further their career.
Did you know that after people give you $X00,000 for software, they're happy? This blew my mind the first time I talked to a recently-closed customer. But of course they are: they just found something the think is worth $X00,000, and now they own it.
Of course the content providers should get paid. Of course users should have a good experience. Of course most advertising is noise. But if once in a while, it leads a person to find something they're willing to fork over a year's worth of salary for, there was value in that system. Shutting it off wholesale is not the answer.