What to Do About Ad Blockers
Ad blocking is a thorny issue online. Let’s face it, nobody likes sitting through adverts. In an internet culture where people want content to be quicker, more direct and readily available, there’s a greater aversion towards having to click away from, look at or even just be in the same place as an advert. Be it a video, audio or pop-up ad, it’s something that takes up your time. You’re probably thinking, I’m not going to buy this product or service anyway, so why bother looking at it? A big reason why people go to the internet for their entertainment, rather than television, is so that they don’t have to deal with as much advertising. This is why using adblock, software that filters ads from webpages, is so tempting.
Another reason people use adblock is because they feel that targeted advertising is invasive. Social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have come under fire for selling posts and user information to companies mining data for commercial purposes. Information about you, where you live or the sites you use may be used by advertisers without your knowledge. Of course, other media such as television also use targeted advertising to some extent, showing adverts for toys when children are likely to be at home rather than school for example, but some argue that there is a difference between advertising using broad demographics and advertising using your specific browsing history or details without your awareness.
But, here’s the rub. By using adblock, you’re crippling the sites you love. Most websites get their revenues from advertisers who put adverts on their sites and that’s how websites can supply viewers with free content whilst still being financially viable. The metaphor of not paying for a meal at a restaurant has been used to explain the effect that using adblock has on businesses. Adblock is particularly affecting small online businesses who rely on advertising more than sales or subscriptions from users.
Adblock does let some advertising through, what it considers to be ‘acceptable advertising’, including static, preferably text-only ads that don’t delay page loading. But this advertising can also be blocked by changing Adblock’s preferences. The problems that Adblock is causing the online industry need to be addressed. However, it’s important not to vilify those on either side of this issue. Some have said that adblock is like the Mafia, comparable to theft or fatal to online businesses. But this is to overstate the issue. Online advertising can often be intrusive and put people off, which also hurts online revenues. Those who use adblock aren’t breaking any laws and there are ways to compromise on this issue. On the other hand, commercial websites don’t have to stand by and put up with adblockers. After all, they’re giving out content paid for with advertising. If people want to use adblock, those websites are entitled to find another way to fund their content.
So what is the solution to ad-blocking for commercial websites? In 2010, Ars Technica performed a 12 hour experiment where adblock users were prevented from accessing the website’s content. The result of this experiment was a mixed bag. Some people showed their support for the site’s methods by subscribing to them. However, the site was also criticised for the inflexibility of the experiment in taking action against adblock users, as well as not warning them prior to the change. But there are other proposed solutions to ad-blocking.
One such proposal is native advertising. Many people decry online advertising because most of it is ugly and sticks out like a sore thumb on webpages. Native advertising is the idea to produce adverts that blend in with the content of the web page being viewed. These adverts would be less invasive, smaller and in line with what the web page content is about. One implementation of this idea used by Buzzfeed is to create branded posts and content, meaning that content is connected to the brand being advertised. The emphasis on connection between brand and content will make online advertising less jarring as the distinction between content and brand will be less marked. This means advertisers and content providers will have to work harder to fit advertising and content together, but there has been some research that this is effective. In a survey of consumers, most recognised native advertising as content rather than an advert. So this removes the need for users to block ads in order to have a better internet experience.
Youtube has also sought to tackle the Adblock problem by creating Youtube Red, a membership option with a $9.99 monthly subscription fee that includes no ads and unique content. As an industry grows around tackling the adblock problem, I’m confident that more creative solutions will be found that can benefit content viewers, content providers and advertisers. If you want advice about how your business can deal with Adblock, contact Wirebox for a consultation.