After the rise of the Internet, advertising technology (ad-tech) promised to provide a transparent and efficient ad marketplace. The hope was to reward excellence, meaning that good content would receive the attention and funding it deserved. The users would receive the right message instantaneously and content would enrich the ecosystem. In short, users' attention would be valued properly.
However, it did not go as planned. The current ad-tech ecosystem is being overrun by "middleman" and many intermediaries. The advertisers and publishers face opacity and complexity. The users have lost their digital privacy and also have been subject to malware threats. The system has forced users to download ads and pay high bandwidth fees.
This paper proposes a blockchain-based decentralized, transparent ad exchange system. The first component of the system is a privacy-focused browser called Brave. The second component is a token for decentralized ad exchange called Basic Attention Token (BAT). The BAT system directly connects users, publishers, and advertisers. The system values relevant user attention by removing the social economics associated in the today's ad network.
How is Attention relevant?
Attention is a form of scarcity. It is a focused mental engagement where item(s) come into our awareness, which results in a decision to act. Throughout history, advertisement has been a mechanism to capture Attention, raise a level of Interest to incite some Desire to translate that into Action.
Prints, radio, and television were straightforward marketplaces for advertisers, publishers, and users.
The Promise of the Internet:
The internet promised to provide better speed and information than its predecessor. However, we saw the opposite effect.
The new attention marketplace is a bloated, opaque and hypercomplex network of intermediaries. At every step, an excessive number of middlemen factors to a high transaction cost.
How the Internet failed Ad-tech:
The publishers faced substantial fees and intermediary costs for operation, deployment, analytics tools, and revenue sharing. The ads placed by the ad exchange, which the publishers have little to no idea of, have caused controversies among its loyal readers. The publishers have lost direct revenues if many networks or partners show the same ad to the user.
The user experience has suffered from an array of unwanted and distracting ads, which the publishers allowed to be placed in hopes for greater revenues. The violation of privacy is the single most social cost to the user. Popular sites have more than 70 trackers set to log user's activity without their consent. The ads trick the users to click on malvertisements that infect their machine with malicious code. Hackers have also used the system to steal users' financial information.
Even mobile data have been severely affected by ads. Users have to download a significant number of ads, trackers, and other related data. It hampers the speed of the websites.
The Rise of Ad Blockers:
Users have adopted ad blocking technology because of malvertisements, slow load times, data costs, battery life and privacy loss. This resulted in a reduction of revenue for publishers and any potential for future revenue growth.
In short, publishing industry faces an existential threat. Legacy publishers have faced declining revenues for decades. They have started optimizing their content for clicks instead of providing valuable content. The clickbaity websites have made the publishing industry dysfunctional.
Attention-based Economy in the Blockchain:
The last two years have seen the two major advertising players - Facebook and Google - taking a majority of the advertisement revenue pie. They claimed over 73% of online digital ad revenue from 2015-2016 and 99% of all ad growth. They act as the only gatekeepers through which publishers can manage their advertising platform.
Gone are the days when publishers were paid for the attention given by the user. The current monetization model indirectly pays the publishers through ad exchanges. The publishers are paid for the indirectly measured attention given by users to ads. The publishers have to work with this model and have become powerless to control their revenue.
Basic Attention Metrics (BAM):
To improve the efficiency of digital advertising, it requires a new platform and a unit of exchange.
The platform is the Brave browser, which, is a privacy-focused browser that, by default, blocks ads and trackers. The Brave browser also contains a ledger system that anonymously measures user attention to reward publishers.
Basic Attention Token (BAT)
The unit of exchange is the Basic Attention Token (BAT), which is a token for a decentralized ad exchange. The token is based on the Ethereum blockchain, which is a distributed computing platform with smart contracts. The token is a denomination of user attention.
Privacy, Attention & Engagement:
Trust and respect are the core foundation of the system. The Brave browser keeps user data on the device in an encrypted format to shield the identities of the user. The system measures user intent privately by monitoring at the browser level. This allows development of rich metrics for user attention.
Attention is measured by the content viewed in the active browser. Attention Value is calculated based on duration and pixels in view in proportion to relevant content.
The user engagement, with a feedback mechanism, ensures that the users receive relevant product matches. In-device machine learning algorithms assess the total attention given to a website. The Brave ledge system automatically donates with the same proportion to the publisher. The donations are made anonymous using Zero Knowledge Proof schemes by the ledger system.
In the new advertising and publishing economy, the users have now become active participants instead of being passive participants like today.
By keeping the data on the device only, encrypting the data and shielding the identities of our users as a core principle, BAT forms a bond with users that proves that not only does their data hold value, it holds substantial value that has been ignored and exploited by the middlemen year after year in the current industry model.
Other Token Use Cases:
BAT tokens can also be donated to individual content providers or publishers. The other use cases are specific targeted advertisements, access to premium content using the token, micropayments, commenting system ranked or voted using BAT tokens. The right to post may also be purchased for some minimal payments, to cut down on abusive commenters.
Basic Attention Token (BAT) is a token for a blockchain-based decentralized ad exchange. It addresses the broken digital advertising market by connecting advertisers, publishers, and users. BAT is a payment system that rewards and protects the user while giving better conversion to advertisers and higher yield to publishers.