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?

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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.

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.

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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?

16 comments

  1. Adblockers give the internet back to the people. When normal advertising has turned into spying on people and selling users private information, something was going very, very wrong with the internet. Whining newspapers who start crying, look at yourself and stop digitally exploiting and harassing people. uBlock and Privacy Badger are my best friends.

  2. I agree. I love all the free stuff available on the Net and understand that most it is actually paid for by the revenue the website receives from advertising. It is simply that I find some ads far to intrusive, obnoxious and potentially invading my privacy. A simple article/picture that I can read or choose to ignore is OK by me. All the other stuff can go jump …..

  3. Mekong has it exactly right: there is a serious distinction between advertising and nasty scripts that track your subsequent movements and report back to some corporation or other. I have no problem with ads per se, but I do have a serious problem with the ability of sites to track my movements following my initial visit to them. That is IMO a serious violation of privacy, and whether or not my agreement is buried in pages of legalese, the practice ought to be banned.

    Let me be perfectly clear: my information belongs to ME, NOT to some corporation following my submission of same on a data-entry form. It ought to be flat-out illegal to sell any information that I provide to any site, without my explicit permission, and further, that my agreement should not depend upon a casual click while speed-reading (or ignoring) the text of an ostensibly legal document. I recognize Caveat Emptor, but hiding 90% of the legalese in a window consisting of about 10 visible lines, a scroll-bar and an I Agree button does not, IMO, constitute full disclosure. On the contrary, it suggests that the site has something to hide.

    How is it logically possible to allow ads while simultaneously denying the rights of ad-blockers? Both share the identical “freedom of speech” rights: in the same way that you are free to publish documents that I might consider racist, I should be free to deny your right to send them to me. That’s where ad-blockers come in: while preserving the right of specific senders to mass-mail crap to everyone on their list, I should be free to deny said specific senders the right to fill my inbox with their crap.

    Ad-blockers provide a valuable service, which we might describe as Signal-to-Noise Ratio.

    Arthur

  4. A serious reason to run ad blockers are spying websites and advertisers adding bad code into sites web pages, that spread viruses.

    But my personal number one reason to block SOME kinds of commercial ads are Adobe Flash. Make them animated PNG or GIF and I have no problems. Use some light HTML5 videos or animations, and I will be fine with ads.

    Those Flash Animations can make any web browser slow down to surf experience of 100 kbps speed, or slower. So get rid of those pesky Flash animations and I will have the Ads there, no problems. I am rather good with ignoring Ads, so I don’t mind some animated ads, as long as they doesn’t ruin my surf experience.

  5. I use an ad blocker solely to avoid the pop-up that blocks your view of whatever you were reading or looking at. It’s been happening more of late, and I will expand my use of ad blocking as I find necessary. Currently, anything that pops into view is immediately closed and I will avoid to the best of my ability ever giving any kind of support to that company. I will put up with a column of ads alongside the article, I even have clicked through those if I find the item they are pushing interesting. Intrusive ads go directly to the bin.

  6. There is no free lunch in life. Therefore, that some “free” items available on the Net may no longer be free is a reality. “Free” is destine to fail eventually is a secondary truth.

    There is an economy of scale for advertising. Some companies are extremely offense (auto manufactures, insurance companies, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc.); they deserve to be blocked. And I encourage others to continue. Some actually have benefit. E.g., I use some banner ads because the retailer has proven, by personal use, to be worthy. Stuff from Google, or other search companies, I generally do not want on my site.

    A particularly offensive company these days is Yahoo! I used to use it every day; now only when I really have too. The journalism is poor. Ads and scripts run all over the place. If you use their IM, you know they are hacked all the time.

    When I go to most sites I am already put off by stuff jumping all over because they feel compelled to use flexible frameworks. If you are not in a real computer, stay off the web. I have about 9 cell phones; I never surf with any of them because of NSA and other major security issues. Why other fools do is beyond me.

    I don’t want any scripts that I haven’t asked to be run on any device. Ads make it all the worse.

    Here is my golden rule, IF they have to advertise like crazy (like GM does), whatever they are selling is not worth the underlying cost. (GM never made a car worth more $3995–the cost of 1972 Tornado. True that.) How many Lamborghini ads do you see? This works for any product. If it isn’t worth the cost (Microsoft in spades), don’t buy it. If people are not swooning over it and talking about it, it is not ready for the marketplace. Intuit is an example of another prime offender.

    I like ad blockers. As advertising firms move to thwarting ad blockers, I will avoid their clients. No site is worth being offending with advertising. Nobody is without competition on the WWW. As far as I am concerned, the advertising firms can shove it. They are an unnecessary evil. They are worse than the flu. Same with tele-marketers. I have had enough advertising to last me two lifetimes.

    TV and radio are getting outlandishly overrun. I stopped cable in 2005 because of the advertising; it is worse now. I am not paying to see ads. Even the NFL and Rush aren’t worth sitting through the Ads. Radio and TV need ad blocker programs…

    The messages are so base and intellect insulting, I can’t remember the last time advertising moved me. Maybe when I was in high school and computers were punch card sorters. If they have to advertise, IT IS NOT WORTH THE COST. Period. No exceptions.

    If what you offer on your site does not profit without crap advertisements and huge cash influxes, like public transportation (a real failed idea), better get a different job. The light you see is not the onset of success.

    The WWW, like all human endeavors, will intersect with reality. There is no free hot lunch. ©2015

  7. Ad Blockers are to the internet what headphones are to people who don’t want to listen to the BS around them, yes an over simplification but to the point. They let you concentrate on the content you were looking for in the first place not some annoyance aimed at getting you off track and away from what you are looking for. The new-ish Firefox Reader View is yet another internet crap cutter, if you use firefox you can see a little open book like icon in the URL text field, click it, click it now, bang all the crap is gone!

    Here’s to my fellow webpage white space viewers! Oh look there some BS from this site at the bottom on my cookie settings, guess they don’t like my cookie randomizer, looks like I’m now surfing from some other planet now? HA!

  8. I hate advertising in any form… television, magazine, online… even billboards beside the road. But, I also realize that it is a necessary evil in some ways. As for ads online, I don’t mind banner ads along the top, sides, and bottom of a web page. So long as an ad does not pop up in front of my face and block my view of what I’m viewing, I’m okay with them. But if I have to click an “X” to remove an ad, then my message to the ad agencies is “Okay, you crossed the line and now you can go die in a house fire.”

    Pop-up ads are the #1 method of spreading driveby malware, including the deadly CryptoWall ransomware. (Talk about some people who need to die in a fire.) I’m one of those people who ignore ads anyway and I make it a point to NEVER click an ad banner under any circumstances whatsoever. I hate having to sit through un-skippable ads on Youtube, but what I do, as a sort of a “middle finger” to the advertiser, is to scroll down so I can only just see the yellow progress bar under the ad, and mute my speakers. I don’t see or hear the ad. When the yellow bar fills up, I know the ad is done and I go back to watching the video. I don’t use an ad blocker at the moment, but I’m seriously thinking I should start.

  9. @KCTrexPilot
    That’s a bit extreme,don’t you think? Calm your tits and just get a free blocker.

  10. Just get a blocker like Ad-Block or Privacy Badger.Don’t say crap like “They should die in a fire.” I have known a family that almost did so shut up and get a blocker or stfu for the sake of others so we don’t lost our IQ levels from reading that.

  11. Various pundits and experts keep threatening us with pay sites if we continue to use ad blockers. I say Bring It On! Let the market decide. Let’s see how much money sites make from their paywalls versus how much money they make now with ad blockers being used.

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