Please Turn off Your Ad Blocker to Continue

adblocker

It’s so easy to see the appeal of ad blockers. You can watch YouTube without any ads, scroll through Facebook without being advertised to, and avoid those annoying flashing ads on blogs you read. And, it’s legal. That sounds great, right? But there’s an ethical conundrum to all of this. We’re able to access all of this content for free because the creators are able to make money off of these advertisements. We want to support these content producers, but we also really don’t want to have to watch ads. Before you make the decision of whether or not to turn off your ad blocker, though, let’s take a look at some facts.

What Are Ad Blockers?

An Ad Blocker is a plugin you can install in your browser that will block ads. This includes Youtube ads, Facebook ads, banners, pop-ups, and more. You have the option to turn off the ad blocker for specific websites. The most popular ad blocker out there is Adblock Plus.

screen-shot-2016-10-25-at-4-55-56-pm

An ad blocker would prevent this Target ad from showing up

Usually ad blockers are just used on computers, but last year Apple enabled integration with third-party ad blockers for Safari, meaning people can now use ad blockers on their phones as well. This is huge, considering how much web browsing and video watching people do on their phones.

15-17% of people in the U.S. use an ad blocker, and, not surprisingly, millennials are the group with the highest rates of ad blocker use.  Some people use it because ad blockers can stop sites from tracking them and violating their privacy, and also allows web pages to load faster, but other people use them because they just don’t want to view the ads.

What’s the Impact for Businesses?

Simply put, if the ad is blocked, the producer of the content won’t get the advertising revenue.

This of course can harm large companies such as Google. If ad blockers are preventing Google’s search ads from showing up, then Google can’t make money from a user potentially clicking on that search ad.

Screen Shot 2016-10-25 at 4.57.39 PM.png

A sponsored post from Virgin America on my Facebook newsfeed

But this doesn’t just impact large businesses that can afford to take a hit. It also impacts individual content producers such as bloggers. Many bloggers can make a full-time career out of running their blog by running ads on the top or sides of their blog.

PewDiePie, a YouTuber you’ve probably heard of because he has over 40 million subscribers, said that 40% of his viewers use Adblock. This means he makes 40% less money on advertising revenue. Although for someone like him 40% still leaves millions of people who aren’t using an ad blocker, he points out that for YouTubers that are just getting started, it’s a lot of lost potential revenue.

This is really where the ethics of ad blocking gets murky. Of course we don’t really care if YouTube or Forbes isn’t making money off of ads – they’re such large corporations and they’ll be just fine if I happen to skip by a few ads. But then you start thinking about the everyday people who are producing content for free and are losing revenue because of ad blockers. There is the option to turn off ad blockers for specific websites, but let’s be real, how many people will actually go through that effort to allow certain sites just to have to view annoying ads?

What Are The Options for Businesses?

The first is to do what Facebook did, which is to bypass the ad blocker and let the ads still show up on users’ newsfeeds. Another option is to do what Forbes does, which is to detect that users are using an ad blocking software and require them to turn off the blocker before allowing them to proceed onto the website.

The issue with those two options, though, is that it becomes a constant battle with the ad blocking producer. When Facebook made that ad block bypass, Adblock Plus released an update to bypass the bypass. In even less time, Facebook disabled the update. It becomes a never-ending back and forth between the two development teams. This brings up the question that is all of that time and effort worth it?

YouTube released YouTube Red, a subscription service that costs $10 a month and lets you watch videos ad-free, as an attempt to counter Adblock. It also includes a few other features such as offline download and original content.

Another suggestion is native advertising, where the content is sponsored but it looks like actual content. A good example would be BuzzFeed sponsored posts, where it’s made to look like a typical BuzzFeed post, but is actually sponsored by a company. However ad blockers can still detect the words “promoted by” or “sponsored by” and can still block those posts.

Screen Shot 2016-10-25 at 4.58.51 PM.png

Here’s an example of a native post by Google on Buzzfeed

For people like bloggers or YouTubers, they’ll have to get more creative. Instead of a blogger using flash ads to bring in revenue, they could try partnering with brands and creating sponsored posts.

Adblock Plus actually has an Acceptable Ads initiative, where they have a set of guidelines that describe what would make an ad non-intrusive in regards to placement and size. If ads meet those criteria, they will not be blocked by the ad blocker.

So what do you think? Are you going to turn off your ad-blocker, or should we just hope that ad blockers will force advertisers to rethink their approach to advertising to make their ads into content that users will actually want to see? Or will you do a mixed approach by using an ad-blocker for sites of large companies, but turning it off for bloggers and YouTubers?

8 comments

  1. I considered AdBlock Plus one of the greatest apps in existence before reading this post, but your discussion of ad blockers’ impacts on smaller content creators has definitely forced me to reconsider the ethics of clutter-free content consumption. When someone who I follow is forced to resort to native ads, I can’t get over the thought that they’ve sold out, whereas traditional ads are at least honest about trying to convince you to part ways with your cash. In that vein, I’d love to support people who are doing great work without selectively white-listing every site that I enjoy. Maybe the trend away from ads could lead to people asking for individual donations, like many podcasters seem to be doing. On the other hand, maybe the battle between ad blockers and sites will rage on, leading every blog post to be sponsored by crisp, refreshing coke zero.

  2. I personally love AdBlock, and I don’t really have a problem with using it. It’s perfectly legal, and even with the plug in I still see a significant number of ads on numerous websites, so there are definitely people who are still raking in ad revenues. If a blogger or YouTuber I follow does make a point to address the ad-blocking issue with his or her audience, then perhaps I’d pause AdBlock for the time being. But for the most point, I don’t feel an obligation to businesses or even many content-creators to turn off the feature.

  3. I had never felt guilty about blocking ads until this post! I can see why this poses a moral dilemma. MY one ad block wont hurt an internet celebrity or corporation by any means, but if everyone has this mentality, it really starts to add up. I’m surprised that people are willing to pay money for ad-free Youtube but if you’re an avid user, I see the appeal. This reminds me of Wikipedia’s business model. They have promised their users to remain ad-free by launching donation campaigns instead. Although Wikipedia is still ad-free, I wonder how much more they would be making if they started allowing ads. Great post and interesting topic!

  4. sandytanny · ·

    Nice post! Like others have mentioned, I also love using AdBlock but never really considered the implications that this had. Though it is easy to not feel bad about giants like Google making a little less money because their ads from the Google Search Network and Display Network aren’t showing around the web, we often forget about other people that depend on these ads to bring in revenue. If you support bloggers or others who create original content, this is a real dilemma. Sure, partnerships and sponsored posts would be a nice alternative, but this is not possible for everyone, especially those who are lesser known. It will be interesting to see how both users and advertisers navigate this issue moving forward.

  5. daniellep2153 · ·

    I personally use ad blockers on my computer, but not on my phone. For the average millennial, this new addition is great, but companies will suffer. Working in advertising, I’m beginning to learn about all the work that goes into placing one advertisement. Even though the industry is aware of ad blockers, a big part of advertising for clients is through online ads and finding new ways to get around these limitations to reach the consumer is getting harder and harder. However, companies are being forced to be more creative, which has led to some of the most interesting advertisements ever made. Great Post!

  6. What gets me is that many of these producers think it is their “right” to show ads. You have to find another way to monetize my attention and be more creative about advertising that makes me not want to find a way around it.

  7. jagpalsingh03 · ·

    Like the commenters above have said, I never really thought about the consequences of using Ad Blocker until this blog post. But upon reflection, I really don’t feel guilty. Personally, I don’t mind targeted ads on the side of a page or just somewhere that isn’t impeding my ability to read or watch the content. So while I’m fine with Google ads usually, but Forbes has to be one of the most annoying websites to visit because of their intrusive advertisement and their ridiculous slideshows. Websites like Forbes are why I use ad blocker. On one hand, I feel like blocking ads forces content creators to step up and deliver better quality content which should lead to partnerships and such. On the other hand, I do empathize with individuals attempting to make a living off Youtube and blogging who need ad to survive.

  8. I think Adblock is just the evolution of a battle between consumers and advertisers. In the past, when there were ads during a TV, companies like ABC saw a huge dip in viewership until the show came back. This was an “archaic” version of Adblock as it was done manually, but consumers just dislike ads. Adblock is just an automatic version and advertisers / companies just need to adapt. Like you said, many companies are forcibly telling people to remove Adblock before proceeding while companies like Reddit have little messages where the ads were supposed to be saying “please turn off adblock or else this moose will be sad!”. In a 10 year period, I wouldn’t be surprised if Adblock is pretty obsolete just because of how the advertisement industry develops.

%d bloggers like this: