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Keep an eye: An Open Source Audio AdBlock Project

As above, so below, y'know?

Block and Tackle. Was forwarded this interesting bit of business: AdBlock Radio, an open source project for a solution that “detects audio ads with machine-learning and Shazam-like techniques”… and blocks them, of course. According to a post published on the project, the solution appears to be primarily designed for web-radios (i.e. audio streaming platforms, I guess?), though it’s said to be compatible with podcasts as well. It’s put together by a French software engineer named Alexandre Storelli, who, fascinatingly enough, claims to hold a PhD in fusion plasma physics (!?).

Keep in mind: it seems to be a tool-in-development, and Storelli’s hope is that the project can advance through open innovation. As such, the best way to read the post is to view it as a rough prototype, or a living blueprint — a vessel of ideas of how such a solution could work. Let me dry myself out by saying: I’m not particularly literal in matters technical and software development, but I’m intrigued by a couple of elements highlighted in the blue-print. Notably:

  • Its speculation that a user-feedback loop is important, if not crucial in the facilitation of the machine learning process (that is, the resulting tool may be imprecise, and requires user participation to improve); and
  • The fact that native advertising — a prominent type of advertising product in podcast-land — would prove problematic for the solution on offer.

As a theoretical implement, it’s an absolutely fascinating thing to think about. (Also worth perusing: the relevant /r/programming and Hacker News posts, which are also linked in the Storelli post. Favorite comment comes from the top subreddit entry: “Really interesting work. Best of luck with the legal issues.”)

But of course, I imagine this post might be alarming to some podcast industry folk who might not appreciate the idea floating around, given that some considerable portions of the industry are already wary about ad-skipping behavior. (FWIW, I continue to think there isn’t much tangible evidence to support the idea that ad-skipping poses an existential threat… yet.)

I don’t really have a hard take on this just yet, other than to say: adblocking, as a more general internet user phenomenon, appears primarily motivated by consumer distaste around “irrelevant” or “annoying” ads. Which is to say: this won’t be a problem unless podcast adloads become excessively heavy, irrelevant, and annoying.

I am, of course, curious to know what you think, especially if you’re among those technically-oriented. [h/t LO]