Ad Blockers: Friend or Foe to the Internet?

As it stands, online publishers around the world keep their content free because of the revenue they make from advertising. The advertising models of web publishers create a strong incentive for them to defend their ad revenue in every way possible, extracting as much value from each pageview as they can without compromising on the site experience. Naturally, not everyone likes advertisements, and some of them are going to use software called ad blockers that automatically block them. In response, a great number of publishers, including Ars Technica, have declared war on ad blockers by claiming that their use drops their revenue. Is this true? And are ad blockers really killing the Internet?

The Threat


On the 6th of March, 2010, Ars Technica published a piece that explained how ad blocking is ruining your favorite sites. This wasn’t the only time that an author on some high-profile online publisher made such a statement. The BBC also dove into the subject on the 18th of September, 2015, with several experts pitching in regarding the death of free content on websites due to ad blockers. This makes it appear as if ad blockers are really a nuisance, doesn’t it?

Some of the people interviewed argue that the amount of capital flowing to publishers from ads is going to diminish to zero if people continue to download ad blockers and utilize them at the current rate.

Why Ad Blockers Are Really Not a Threat

Most of the people who talk about the threat presented by ad blockers come from advertising agencies themselves. Yes, using their current business models, advertising platforms may lose some part of their revenue as ad blocking becomes more popular. The thing is that innovation doesn’t stop with products like AdSense. In all likelihood, either ad publishers or advertising platforms themselves will find ways to adapt to the ways of ad blockers.

In the worst case scenario, advertisers could use their own capital to make their way around ad blockers. Such was the case in February 2015 when Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Taboola paid Adblock Plus for a portion of their ads to be unblocked, according to a report by Business Insider. While this may be a bit sleazy, the Internet is a free and open market. Of course, users who use Adblock often justify their use of the software by saying that they do not want to see annoying and shady ads.

Everything Is an Ad!


Publishers and advertising platforms often fight a tough battle with ad blockers. However, the publishers have one more advantage: They have more flexibility to get around ad blockers even when they are working perfectly and removing every sign of scripted ad content. Having a raw HTML <IMG><A> tag, for example, would still have a chance of displaying an ad. Providers cannot replicate this since they depend on JavaScript for syndication. Aside from that, there are also companies willing to sponsor certain articles published on a site for which the site earns a certain amount of cash.

Everything and anything can be an ad. YouTube videos often have product placements or reviews, which may have come about as a result of a payment from a company to the person recording the video. In text-based media, any mention of any company can be an advertisement. As the number of users visiting sites with an ad blocker increases, the market will be incentivized to adapt and implement models like these.


Before I let you move on from this article, there’s one more thing I forgot to mention: People using ad blockers are, in all likelihood, the kinds of people who already ignore ads. Since the most popular method of advertising is pay-per-click (PPC), then in the grand scheme of things the sites hosting the ads have experienced no loss by having someone who would have otherwise just seen ads, been annoyed by them, and moved on without giving up a single click. Only sites that receive payment per 1000 views (PPM) would have a loss because of ad blockers, and those kinds of ads are few and far between.

Do you think ad blockers are trouble, or are they a great innovation that allows people to browse the Web undisturbed?

Miguel Leiva-Gomez
Miguel Leiva-Gomez

Miguel has been a business growth and technology expert for more than a decade and has written software for even longer. From his little castle in Romania, he presents cold and analytical perspectives to things that affect the tech world.

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