Turn ad blockers into supporters – lesson from AlternativeTo

Ad blockers are a blessing for web surfers and a curse to website owners as it cuts down their ability to earn money from visitors taking advantage of their (hopefully) great content. AlternativeTo has found a very intriguing solution to this problem.

AlternativeTo is a website that offers good advice on software – if you’re looking for an alternative to the software you are currently using then they probably have a good idea what that might be, all based on user recommendations. Run by just two guys called Ola and Markus it gets around 70-80 thousand unique visitors every day.

What AlternativeTo does is show a special non-banner ad looking block in place of the topmost banner with the following text:

Hi! For some reason we can’t display an ad here, probably because of an ad blocker. If this ad is not displayed our design gets screwed up. We have full respect if you want to run an ad blocker but we would appreciate if you add us to your white list or consider donating via Flattr or Paypal. The free web is dependent on ads to continue to be free. Thank you, and we hope you find a great alternative!

While the guys behind the site haven’t measured how well the banner is performing Ola wrote that it’s gotten them plenty good feedback. Stuff like:

I saw your appeal to disable adblock, and I have done so because I appreciate the good work you are doing compiling list of alternative applications. Keep up the good work!

When I saw it the first time I was immediately stuck with what a nice way it is in engaging visitors who normally ignore that area of the website and turn the whole experience more positive.

For the curious – technically they just look for some div like (#google_ads_div_AlternativeTo_Header_ad_container) and if it can’t be found then they know that the ad was not loaded for whatever reason. Most likely because the visitor is using ad blocker.

You can flattr AlternativeTo or you can hear the other side aka the guy who builds ad blockers: Michael Gundlach, the man who’s blocked 100 billion ads (the number is now more like 150 billion by now).

If you’re interested in why advertising won over micropayments 15 years ago when the whole internet thing was just taking off and everything was possible then How Stuff Works podcast had a good show on just this topic back in November last year: TechStuff’s Two Cents on Micropayments (iTunes link)

10 thoughts on “Turn ad blockers into supporters – lesson from AlternativeTo

  1. Actually, they should also put Social Media stuff behind ads for blockers as well.. :) I’m just gonna go and do that right now…

  2. For the developer challenge, I considered coding an update to the adblock extension to display a flattr button instead of nothing. My idea was to scan the site’s url for a flattr thing, and failing that the button would flattr the adblock project.

    I’m guessing the author would be amenable to this type of functionality, although I never got past the idea phase and did not reach out to him..

  3. It’s interesting that ads won over micropayments 15 years ago and now it looks like micropayments may be making a revival. I’m thinking about putting micropayments on my site, http://prophetalan.com. I haven’t put any ads on this site because I want it to be about the content, but some monetary support would be nice, and is becoming necessary.

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