Salon’s Experiment

Have you heard about Salon’s experiment in revenue generation?

Like most sites offering free content, they show ads to bring in money. And like most ad-supported sites, they’ve been hit hard by the rise of ad-blocking software. So they’re exploring other ways to bring in the bucks.

One of those methods is cryptocurrency mining. If the site detects an ad blocker in use, it’ll pop up a dialog asking the visitor to either disable the blocker for Salon or to allow them to run Coinhive’s mining software on the visitor’s computer while they’re looking at the site.

It’s interesting to note that the software they want to run on visitors’ computers is the same mining software used by any number of porn, piracy, and malware sites. The only difference is that Salon asks for permission before launching it.

Which does make me wonder how much money the ads have been bringing in. According to Ars Technica, the software doesn’t generate much cryptocurrency, and Coinhive only passes a small fraction of the proceeds to the site that deployed the software. If that’s enough to make up for the lost ad revenue, it suggests Salon is hurting for bucks.

But I digress.

I approve of Salon earning money they can use to pay their writers (and editors, techies, and even managers*). And I certainly approve of them being upfront about what they’re doing.

* Of course, it’s the writers I really care about, for obvious reasons. Everyone else is there to support the writers, right?

Their experiment won’t affect me directly. I don’t use an ad blocker–although I do use the EFF’s Privacy Badger tool which some sites treat as an ad blocker–and I can’t remember the last time I visited

But cryptocurrency mining is CPU-intensive, and I do tend to keep a lot of browser tabs open. I worry that if the idea catches on, I’ll wind up with half a dozen sites all trying to use my computer to make money at the same time. That seems like a recipe for browser crashes and an unresponsive computer.

Still, it’s an experiment, and if it’s successful, it should mean fewer ads–and hopefully fewer obnoxious ads–to ignore while I’m browsing.

And we’ll see how it works out.

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