Making it in media is hard, and finding ways to make money is even harder. Ads are a large part of monetising websites. Unfortunately, Ad-blocking software has cut a hole in the purses of media companies over the past decade.
As part of its plan to combat that trend, media company Salon is jumping on the cryptocurrency bandwagon. Salon is an American news and opinion website.
In a bid to replace revenue lost from the number of browsers who have enabled ad-blocking programs Salon will now give you a choice, turn off your ad-blocking software or “suppress ads.” By choosing the latter option, viewers won’t be bothered by ads but will hand over part of their computers processing power so that Salon can mine the cryptocurrency Monero using the program Coinhive.
Salon will be using the computer power it gets from removing ads for users for mining Monero. Monero is currently popular among criminals because it offers more anonymity than Bitcoin. Salon doesn’t say it will be using Monero anywhere on its website. In a note addressing the new program, Salon’s team wrote:
“Like most media sites, ad-blockers cut deeply into our revenue and create a more one-sided relationship between reader and publisher.”
Salon’s Popup says:
“We noticed you’re using an ad blocker. We depend on ads to keep our content free for you. Please consider disabling your ad blocker so we can continue to create the content you come here to enjoy.”
“Block ads by allowing Salon to use your unused computing power.” This is followed by a “learn more” link. There, Salon goes on to explain what exactly it is doing with this power people are giving them.
The company wrote on its blog: “The demand for computing power across many different industries and applications is potentially very high. We intend to use a small percentage of your spare processing power to contribute to the advancement of technological discovery, evolution and innovation. For our beta program, we’ll start by applying your processing power to help support the evolution and growth of blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies.”
Salon will be adopting some tricks to using users’ PC power, explaining: “We automatically detect your current processing usage and assign a portion of what you are not using to this process. Should you begin a process that requires more of your computer’s resources, we automatically reduce the amount we are using for calculations.
Recently, visitors to some government websites in countries including the U.S. and U.K. fell victim to a Coinhive scheme. Similarly, a Google Chrome extension with over 100,000 users was also caught using Coinhive without consumer permission.
Salon is also being called out by David Gerard, author of the cryptocurrency book Attack of the 50 Foot Blockchain: Bitcoin, Blockchain, Ethereum & Smart Contracts.
In a tweet, Gerard says that Salon is lying about having unused power.
In their FAQ as to why they’re running malware on your computer, @Salon straight-up lie about how computers work. There’s no pool of unused power lying around – it’s costing you actual money. And wearing out your system. Corporate Bail Bloc. https://t.co/mKE1aGzkh9 pic.twitter.com/7iYudlKAqt
— David Gerard (@davidgerard) February 13, 2018
What separates Salon from the hackers is how the media company goes about the whole process: it doesn’t keep the mining secret. The site explicitly gives you a choice to opt-in. Once you close the browser window or visit another website, the mining stops.
For the CEO Jordan Hoffner, as it often is for cryptocurrency’s believers, it’s about looking into the long term. He said: “We are earning something when we were earning nothing. We just want to right now collect coins and see what happens.”