US media group Salon wants to use your processor to mine cryptocurrency

14 Feb 2018

Monero coin. Image: Wit Olszewski

Salon is looking at new ways to earn digital currency with the help of its readers.

Many online readers find web advertising to be intrusive and annoying, from multiple videos playing automatically at the same time, to spammy calls to action.

While advertising is crucial to digital media, many users are opting to install ad-blockers to make their online experience a bit quieter. This is causing many sites to lose out on revenue (unless users whitelist particular addresses), but US media group Salon is trying out an innovative solution to the problem.

First reported by the Financial Times, Salon has started a beta test programme centred around cryptocurrency.

An innovative approach

If you visit the site with an ad-blocker turned on, you may see a pop-up instructing you to either disable your ad-blocker or choose a new option: ‘suppress ads’.

This choice will allow Salon to make use of your computer’s spare processing power to mine Monero using Coinhive’s JavaScript-based mining tool. It’s basically a way for the company to avoid adding a paywall, which many outlets have turned to in recent years due to plummeting revenue from advertising.

Your processing power will then be used for calculations in the Monero mining process, and everything is executed in your browser’s sandbox, with no need for any installations on the user end.

New value for websites

Salon explained its decision to launch the programme: “We realise that specific technological developments now mean that it is not merely the reader’s eyeballs that have value to our site – it’s also your computer’s ability to make calculations, too. Indeed, your computer itself can support our ability to pay our editors and journalists.”

Salon CEO Jordan Hoffner told Fortune that the new plan has several users already and the mining option is just one aspect of the company’s monetisation strategies; another of which is a paid tablet and mobile app to come later in 2018.

While Monero will be the first cryptocurrency to be involved in the plan, Hoffner said Salon is planning to build a portfolio of digital coins.

Salon screenshot

Image: Salon

Monero recently made headlines when Coinhive malware schemes hit thousands of websites, including government addresses. Coinhive had been installed on users’ computers without their consent.

Although it may not produce outstanding financial returns for Salon, Hoffner explained that it was about a more long-term plan: “We are earning something when we were earning nothing.

“We just want to right now collect coins and see what happens.”

There is no risk to your machine’s security from participating in the scheme, but you may notice Coinhive taking a toll on your computer’s performance. The effects of this will vary depending on your processor.

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects