Online privacy was the hot topic of 2018 and will likely stay in the spotlight for the near future. Internet users are becoming more aware of how companies are collecting and using their personal data and they’re starting to react.
As Internet users become frustrated with tech goliaths like Google and Facebook, they are seeking alternative technologies. One such technology is Brave, a web-browser that promotes private and secure browsing.
Brave Browser blocks ads and tracking so Internet users can browse the web with higher levels of privacy. The browser is still in its early stages and currently has just over 5 million active users (compared to Chrome’s two billion users).
Brave recently launched a new advertising program that aims to reward internet users for their “attention.” Brave users will be compensated for viewing and clicking on advertisements.
While this may sound enticing, I would argue that this program is destined to fail. Here’s why:
Brave’s User-base is Too Small
Brave has just over 5 million active users, meaning advertisers will have limited reach with their campaigns. To put this in perspective, here are the MAU’s of other top sites with advertising programs:
- Facebook – 2.13 Billion
- Instagram – 800 Million
- Reddit – 330 Million
- Twitter – 330 Million
- Linkedin – 260 Million
- Snapchat – 255 Million
- Pinterest – 200 Million
Brave simply doesn’t have a large enough user-base to make it a compelling advertising network.
On top of that, Brave’s users are people who don’t want to see ads. Brave built their user-base by demonizing advertising.
Brave’s Limited Tracking Means Limited Targeting
The beauty of digital advertising is that it allows companies to hyper-target their advertising campaigns. Unlike television and radio, digital advertising channels allow marketers to target very specific audiences. Google Ads allows targeting by search intent, demographic data, user interests, and more. Facebook allows targeting by demographics, interests, behaviors, and more.
The companies with the most extensive targeting options win. Brave Browser prides itself on respecting users privacy. Unfortunately, advertisers are not looking to market to “private” individuals. They want to know everything they can about people before showing their ads.
Advertisers Don’t Want to Pay for Incentivized Views
Brave’s new advertising program will compensate users for viewing ads. Brave users can choose how many ads they want to see, and receive compensation for viewing the ad, and even more for clicking on it. Brave users will receive 70% of advertising revenues and Brave will collect the remaining 30%.
Something sound off there?
While this deal sounds great for Brave users, it’s a weak value proposition for advertisers. Advertisers don’t want to reach people who are being paid for engaging with ads. If this type of advertising was effective, there would be clinics everywhere where people could sit and watch ads all day and make some extra dough.
Advertisers want to target people who are interested in their ads and naturally decide to click. It may not always seem this way, and the system isn’t perfect, but that’s the goal. Any intelligent advertiser would rather deal with lower CTR’s than inflated CTR’s from incentivized exposure.
User Payouts Cut Into Publishers’ Revenues
It’s important to remember who actually makes the Internet what it is today. The publishers, content creators, and software developers are the ones who create the inventory of impressions that can be used for advertising. Without the hard work of publishers and creators, there is no reason to browse the internet.
Brave’s advertising program takes money out of the pockets of publishers and gives it to those consuming the content. While publishers are still compensated, they forfeit a percentage of their ad revenue to internet users.
Add this to the fact that Brave browser is already demonetizing publisher sites by removing advertising and you have a volatile relationship brewing.
Internet Users Should Not Be (Further) Rewarded for Seeing Ads
The last and most important point is that Internet users should NOT be further rewarded for seeing ads. The idea of paying people to enjoy free resources is ludicrous.
One of the feature headlines on Brave’s website boasts:
No more data charges to download unwanted content.
This implies that users should be able to access the content they want without having to see the content they don’t want (i.e. ads). It paints a picture of internet users being victims of the advertising on sites they voluntarily visit.
This completely ignores the model on which the Internet operates.
The online advertising model is a trade-off. It’s an agreement in which Internet users get access to an unimaginably large pool of free videos, articles, and resources in exchange for viewing ads.
It’s easy to forget that behind every article is hours of research and writing, behind every video is hours of planning, production, filming, and editing, and behind every platform is years of development, design, research, and testing.
To assume that users should be able to get the content they want without fulfilling their side of the agreement (viewing ads) is an unfair, entitled mentality. It’s no different than taking advantage of public schooling, roads, and other public services without paying taxes.
What Brave Should Have Done
If Brave wants to revolutionize the Internet, they need to completely stray away from the online advertising model. As stated above, this model is a trade-off in which Internet users get free content that is sponsored by advertisements.
Brave shouldn’t seek to disrupt the model itself; they should embrace a new model. The most obvious solution is a paid subscription service in which users can enjoy ad-free browsing for a monthly subscription fee. The monthly subscription fee could be used to compensate publishers and fund Brave’s development.
This model is similar to what YouTube has done with YouTube Premium. Users can choose to watch all of the videos they want for free with ads, or they can pay $10/month to access the same content without ads.
With the current online advertising model, the advertisers are the customers. They are the ones writing the checks. A subscription model turns people into the customers. Without this shift, revolution is impossible.