New Banner Filter–A Threat to the Web Ad Industry?

How much of a threat is this? CYBERsitter, an Internet filter from Solid Oak Software Inc., is offering customers the ability to block Web site advertising with a new plug-in filter.

“One of the most frequent requests from CYBERsitter users over the past two and a half years has been to add the capability to block Web site banner advertising,” said Marc Kanter of Santa Barbara, CA-based Solid Oak.

CYBERsitter 97 uses filtering technology to eliminate banner ads from many Web sites and search engines. Not only is this appropriate for removing ads solely intended for adults, the company said, but also to eliminate ads that slow the process of downloading Web pages, subsequently minimizing bandwidth and possibly annoying consumers.

Typical consumers that use a modem will see a markedly reduced time needed to download Web pages, especially those with multiple banners, the company said. CYBERsitter 97 will also remove advertising from free email services.

This is sure to create controversy in the Web ad industry. Will people use it? No doubt some will. Brian Monahan, a media buyer at Left Field in San Francisco, told us last week that he feels that the more experienced a Web user is, the less likely they are to click on a banner ad. Many old hands view the proliferation of ad banners as an intrusion on the Web surfing experience.

One of the first in the industry to respond was Adam Boettiger, vice president of marketing and advertising at eyescream interactive Inc. in Oregon.

“I don’t think it will have a significant effect. After all, if you don’t want to see banners you certainly don’t have to pay $40. There’s this cool new feature called ‘Graphics Off’–it’s on most browsers,” said the moderator of the Internet Advertising Discussion List. (To join this list, send email to: ia@gs2.revnet.com and put JOIN in the body of your message.)

“Connectivity speeds are increasing rapidly, and within the next year or two I don’t think connectivity will be a problem; therefore, it will be irrelevant to make a statement that online advertising slows pageloading.”

“The reason the Internet industry is growing so quickly is largely due to the online ad industry and revenues generated by it. People don’t realize that the old adage that information and content are ‘free’ on the Internet is no longer true,” he said.

“SOMEONE pays for it, whether it is you paying a monthly subscription fee to access the information or whether the site itself does not charge a fee because their costs are compensated by sponsors, product sales, subscriptions and paid advertising–or a combination of all of the above.”

CYBERsitter 97 was originally designed as a pornography filter. “Now with Web ad filtering and the ability for parents especially to block transmission of personal information, CYBERsitter stands out as an all-empowering tool enabling them to have more control of their Internet activity,” the company said.

Free trial versions of CYBERsitter are available for download from Solid Oak Software’s Web site. The product itself sells for $39.95, and offers free filter file updates. A network version, site licenses, and educational discounts are available.

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