Apple killed advertising – can Bitcoin save it?

In this posting from the LinkedIn's Agency Influencer Program, MediaCom's Alex Kirk presents an innovative solution to help online publishers make money

Like digital advertising doesn’t have enough trouble.

The most valuable company in the world just declared open season on the internet’s economic model – but another economic disruptor, Bitcoin, may hold the key to its defence.

Apple recently announced that the imminent new versions of its Safari browser on both mobile and desktop would incorporate technology that would effectively prevent an advert from “following you around” the internet.

The advertising world has freaked out – as should be obvious when the gatekeeper to 15% of all internet users decides that your business can’t do business through its business, emotions will run high.

They’re not wrong either – this is not a move that will hurt Facebook or Google (ie the two largest advertising businesses in the world), but one that will hammer away further at a wider journalism industry already struggling to pay its bills and its staff.

To me, Apple’s move strikes at a fairly empty problem – if you’re the sort of person who vocally complains about being retargeted by a shoe ad, then my guess is you’re the sort of person who yells at clouds and squirrels and children in your yard.

Of course, everyone hates advertising, but deep down everyone realises that it pays for the stuff you’re reading, too.

Out of deep-left field though, comes a potentially brilliant idea that would eliminate the need for banner advertising at all.

Although it’s not a new idea (one of the earlier pieces on it that I can find dates from 2013), it’s a fairly simple one involving using a reader’s CPU to briefly mine for Bitcoin, thereby creating some value for the publisher – essentially a micropayment – without the need for any physical payment, logins, or credit card details.

I got turned onto this only yesterday (thanks Nic!), but since then there’s been a report that The Pirate Bay is trying it out in the wild, and at some scale.

The only complaint so far is that it chews up some CPU speed, but – as with complaints about retargeting – the sort of person who complains about CPU speed frankly deserves everything they get.

The massive irony here is that just about everyone in advertising doesn’t really like banner ads – and loves quality content publishers.

If there’s a way to reduce the suckiness of the former and help out the latter, that sounds like a bit of a win to me.

Alex Kirk is head of systems and automation at MediaCom

This article is part of the LinkedIn Agency Influencer program. See more from the program by clicking on the banner below.

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