Last night, curious to see if Joss Whedon’s recent adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing was available for streaming anywhere, I checked CanIStreamIt and found the only place it was listed for free was ad-supported with “HitBliss.” Curious, I clicked through and found a service that essentially pays you—or, rather, lets advertisers pay you—for watching ads. (Then, after I finished writing this article, I noticed Juli covered it here, too, when it first launched in March of last year.)
The way it works is that you download the HitBliss app to your computer and set it up. For the highest earn rate, you give it your demographic information and let it check your web history for what sites you visit so it can tailor the ads to you. Then you watch the ads, and it pays you a little for each one. Then you can convert it to an Amazon Gift Card when you’re done. (Or you can pay for an ad-free month of the streaming music service Pandora with it. Perhaps do other things, too; I didn’t poke around too much.) It took less than fifteen minutes of ad watching to earn the $4 I would need for a 24-hour rental of Much Ado from Amazon Prime (via the “HitBliss Store” built into their app).
You can’t “cheat” on watching the ads, either; every so often you have to click a button to prove you’re still paying attention. (The more often you click quickly, the fewer times it asks you, but it will still ask from time to time.) Also, it pauses the ads if you mute the sound or tab to another window. And there don’t seem to be too many advertisers as yet, so I got a lot of the same ads over and over. (Liberty Mutual insurance, AFLAC, The Hangover Part III, buzzed driving is drunk driving, etc.)
Still, I found that watching ten or fifteen minutes of ads at once wasn’t as annoying as having them pop up in the middle of a show or movie. I expect it would also be preferable to getting an ad or two every ten minutes of Pandora listening for a month.
The service is currently in beta, and not taking its own cut of the ad revenue yet. When it leaves beta, it might require a bit more commercial-watching to earn out.
The service seems focused on video and music right now, but there’s nothing that says it couldn’t be used to purchase any digital media, such as e-books, if they saw enough demand for that. Or someone could start another such service if they didn’t.