I speculated about the goal of Apple's advertising patent that allows advertisers to test whether users have watched an ad, locking them out from... something... at the hardware level if they had not. My guess was that Apple was going to use the feature to offer "free music", earned by those willing to watch ads.
But then along came the iPad. The larger format, and what appears to be a strong effort by Apple to bring traditional media to its new platform, suggests that users might be able to access firewalled news content after verifiably watching an ad. Websites such as Salon have experimented with advertising-based "day passes", and increasing numbers of sites are introducing ads and interstitials on all content. The Apple patent seems like a good tool for bringing some revenue to traditional media outlets while allowing users to get "free" access to their content, but limiting their ability to "cheat the system".