Wednesday, September 23, 2015

(The Big Disrupt) Ad Blocking: So Who's Afraid Of The Ad Blocking Wolf?

Ad blocking is not or revolutionary and have been around for a decade but the effect they could have publishers and advertisers could change the shape of the internet as we know it.
The rise of ad blocking has sent a silent shivers down the spine of both publishing and advertising executives backs as a lingering threat in the wings has now taken centre stage. However, neither party can be shocked with explosive rise in the popularity of ad blocking as nobody likes ads on any platform but everybody hates ads on the internet.

People don’t like ads on TV or radio because they get in the way of favorite shows but no one likes ads on the internet because, intrusive, creepy and annoying. They slow down sites, are a little too on the nose about our preferences and are getting harder to get rid of as almost all of them are built using flash, possibly the worst software known to man.

Being someone who reads a bunch of articles across a number of sites, I more than most people experience annoying ads that slow down my mobile never mind the site I’m on because advertisers, for some strange reason, like paying publishers to run ads they’re aware annoys their target audience so much that are flocking to providers of software that threatens their entire industry.

Apple opening the market for ad blockers on the iOS9 OS is a clear shot across the bow of Google but whether Apple would have opened up the market for ad blocking or not, I suspect the clamor to block ads would still be prevalent. As mentioned earlier, people generally don’t like advertising (particularly advertising that’s hard to get rid of) on any platform you can name but unlike other platform, they’re more willing put up with the excesses of a 30 second TV spot than they would a load time lag inducing banner ad when they visit a site.

This quite a strange fact given that we’re all aware that ads are all over the place because no one wants to pay for content (especially in written form) and without those screen eating, emanating out of nowhere, and super creepy ads, all our favorite sites would have to charge us for access to their content or go out of business. Whether we like it or not, ads serves as a necessary evil that ensures that the internet stays a largely wallet free zone as far as content is concerned and doesn’t become one big paywall after another. However, no matter how much publishers and advertisers repeat this line, ad blocking will continue in popularity and thanks to Apple’s none too subtle two fingers ups (not the peace sign, the other one) in the direction of Google and Facebook, the publishing and advertising industries are going to be even tougher industries to crack than ever before.

Online ad’s already suffer from the much talked about viewability issue where the majority of ads online aren’t seen and if ad blocking proliferates, they’re likely to stay that way.  The easy answer is that publishers and advertisers should get creative and produce better ads or at least abandon using ads people hate (pre-roll, pop ups) but these answers are often provided by people who aren’t affected by ad blocking or in some cases, directly benefit from ad blocking.

In sum, I’ve always been of the opinion that the only question that really matters when writing about a technology is “who get screwed?” With ad blocking, the answer to that question can be larger than first thought.

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