The word on ad blocking

Mobile ad blocking

I run ad blocking software in the browser on my computer that prevents ads appearing on most web sites I visit. Chrome is my default browser; as I sign in to my Google account in Chrome, and have it sync across all my devices, I have the ad blocker available to me on all those devices including mobile. I have a white list of sites that I’m happy for ads to show, but they are few and far between.

There has been quite a bit of commentary over the past few weeks on the economic cost to business of ad blockers with one influential report saying that more consumers block ads, continuing the strong growth rates seen during 2013 and 2014.  There’s a trend there.

Consider these key points from the PageFair and Adobe 2015 Ad Blocking Report:

  1. Globally, the number of people using ad blocking software grew by 41% year over year.
  2. 16% of the US online population blocked ads during Q2 2015.
  3. Ad block usage in the United States grew 48% during the past year, increasing to 45 million monthly active users (MAUs) during Q2 2015.
  4. Ad block usage in Europe grew by 35% during the past year, increasing to 77 million monthly active users during Q2 2015.
  5. The estimated loss of global revenue due to blocked advertising during 2015 was $21.8 billion.
  6. With the ability to block ads becoming an option on the new iOS 9, mobile is starting to get into the ad blocking game. Currently Firefox and Chrome lead the mobile space with 93% share of mobile ad blocking

I have no compunction about using an ad blocker and I am utterly unimpressed by arguments that actions like this will put websites that have ads out of business, or that such blocking behaviour is unethical.

Marco Arment summarizes the situation very nicely:

Publishers don’t have an easy job trying to stay in business today, but that simply doesn’t justify the rampant abuse, privacy invasion, sleaziness, and creepiness that many of them are forcing upon their readers, regardless of whether the publishers feel they had much choice in the matter.

Modern web ads and trackers are far over the line for many people today, and they’ve finally crossed the line for me, too. Just as when pop-ups crossed the line fifteen years ago, technical countermeasures are warranted.

Web publishers and advertisers cannot be trusted with the amount of access that today’s browsers give them by default, and people are not obligated to permit their web browsers to load all resources or execute all code that they’re given.

Up your game, web advertisers and publishers! Make your ads such that people like me don’t mind them (at least); or can be influenced by them in a way that makes me want to engage with them (at best). You need to be thinking of your advertising as relationship-building content. Quartz has a good model.

See also:

(Image at top via TechAdvisor.)