Mike, I appreciate your detailed response. And I agree that there are worse possible worlds than our present one — specifically, that replacing disclosed advertising with undisclosed native advertising would make things worse. But “it could be worse” isn’t a convincing argument for preserving the status quo.
Nonetheless, I support some of what you propose.
I agree that the combined power of Google, Facebook, and Amazon isn’t healthy for the online ecosystem. I don’t know what good regulation would look like, and I’m concerned that the US and European governments — ot other countries’ governments for that matter — haven’t been particularly enlightened when it comes to regulating the internet. But I’m sure there is a better alternative to doing nothing.
And I’m all for technical standards to protect consumer privacy. My own preference would be for one-time identities, analogous to one-time credit card numbers. That wouldn’t be a panacea, but I believe it could help make our data trails less personally identifiable and joinable.
But as for your proposal to ban ad blockers — well, I’m glad I’m not the only one making a sweeping conclusion without nuance. 😋
I understand why the advertising industry demonizes ad blockers, but that is a very dangerous position to take. It’s one thing to prevent ad-blocking by technical means, as many sites already do today. It’s another thing entirely to get the government to take sides in order to protect a business model, let alone for it to act invasively to enforce such a ban by monitoring how users modify their clients.
Still, I’m glad we agree that there should be mechanisms for consumers to opt out of the ad-supported business model by paying for products and services. That’s already happening piecemeal with premium subscriptions, but clearly it hasn’t happened for the long tail. I don’t expect people to subscribe to a site they rarely use, and history tells us that it’s difficult to get users to pay a la carte micropayments for online content. I’d love to see something like a blanket licensing approach where consumers pay a bundle price and the revenue is distributed according to the distribution of content access. The truly premium providers would probably not want to participate, but that’s fine — they’re in a position to have their own subscription products.
Back to your point that it’s difficult to get people to pay for things, I’d add some nuance: it’s difficult to get people to pay for things that they feel they can get for free. People pay for music, video, games, and other digital products ad services when there isn’t a “free” alternative. Native advertising isn’t the only alternative to the status quo.