The advertising revenue model which has dominated the internet for a quarter of a century now has a contender to its crown, and it could threaten tech’s biggest players. Right now, all of the major content delivery platforms, including social media sites, incorporate advertising revenue models into their earning streams. Adverts are ubiquitous online, and simply an every-present fact of life.
There are now players in the sector who are offering alternatives to the cosy consensus of online advertising. This opens up new possibilities for content creators to monetize their content and to find an alternative means of earning from their hard work.
Online advertising has come a long way since AT&T purchased the first banner ad in 1994. That first ad cost a cool $30,000 and enjoyed click through rates of 44%. Since then the cost of online advertising has fallen dramatically. The rewards in the form of clickthrough rates have fallen dramatically with them with clickthrough rates a mere 0.35% by 2019. As online advertising has matured, the efficacy of individual adverts has diminished. A great number of internet users have grown tired of online advertising, with around 30% of people now employing some sort of ad blocking software.
At the same time, the platforms which are responsible for hosting content including giants such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, have become de facto censors of the Internet as greater and greater content is hosted by just a small number of corporations. This fact is exacerbated when you consider that Instagram is owned by Facebook. Perhaps the most egregious example of this phenomenon is YouTube in which certain types of content creators have been made unwelcome, including crypto and blockchain experts and influencers.
Gather is a cloud computing service charting a path towards new revenue generating models. This is potentially good news for content creators who are not always well-served by the existing advertising revenue model. Gather-enabled websites allow visitors the option of offering their excess processing power for cloud computing for the duration of their visit. Both the sites which host this content and the user who volunteers that processing headroom benefits in the form of tokens. Users are also free to decline to offer their excess power to the Gather network. In this circumstance they can continue to view content, but receive no personal reward.
This opens some interesting possibilities for alternatives to the current big players. Ambitious content creators now have the option of delivering content for users without the need to meet advertiser approval or to sanitize their work. This more closely aligns creators and their audiences, and removes the power of advertisers and their influence on content. The only condition which Gather places on this content is that it is legal.
To what degree this model can succeed remains to be seen. There are however, some early signs of promise. Gather has a number of businesses adopting its technology and exploring the possibilities that this new paradigm can bring. 200 companies have signed up to the scheme, including one $4 billion dollar mega corporation. Gather has recently completed UI Demo testing and their mainnet is expected to go live in Q1 2021.
Online advertising is of course unlikely to disappear from the internet anytime soon, even with new and innovative competitors entering the market. Such a seismic shift in the shape of the cultural landscape is hard to foresee or even comprehend. Now however, there is at least the possibility of real change coming to the internet.