Will Ad Blockers Eventually Lead to a Pay-For-View Internet?


Ads – The Price We Pay forFree

As soon as companies realized the sheer reach and potential of the world wide web, it quickly became the “in” medium for pushing products and promoting sales. Ads galore – it doesn’t matter what site you visit, you are almost certain to be confronted with ads – some right there in your face, others of the more subtle variety.

No wonder then that millions of users have turned to ad-blocking software to rid themselves of this annoyance and, at the same time, increase their enjoyment of using the Web. BUT, and it is a huge but, is this proliferation of ad-blocking software now itself set to slowly but surely change the inherent nature of the internet via its negative impact on revenue?

The first steps on the road to pay-for-view have already begun with news sites such as The New York Times, The Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Times all limiting content for non-paying readers. Now, German tabloid “Build.de” is preventing users from even accessing the site if they have ad-blocking software installed and active:

bild.de-ad-blocker message

The two alternatives are currently to either disable the ad-blocking software or pay $3.40 per month to access a mostly ad-free version of the site. According to publisher Axel Springer, these measures are necessary for Bild.de to make ends meet:


Our 500 reporters report for you from around the world. To make this possible, we have to rely on advertising revenue.

Your Adblocker locks advertising on BILD.de. But excluding revenue from the sale of advertising space, we can not finance the work of our journalists ~ translation from the Bild.de site.

Make no bones about it, we are not talking pennies here, site owners are taking a huge hit from ad-blocking software – estimated to be around $22 billion worldwide in 2015. Of course, smaller sites such as DCT, which work with smaller overheads, require an exponentially smaller revenue stream. However, it’s all relative and the impact on these sites is felt no less.

ad-blockers

Some might say that, by saturating the net with advertising, site owners have only themselves to blame. However, there are many sites which do not overly use ads and tend to go with less intrusive ads for their purposes. The problem being that most ad-blocking software doesn’t discriminate and simply blocks everything by default. That’s why you’ll often come across pleas, especially from owners of smaller sites, to whitelist their site.

So Who’s to Blame?

At least a proportion of blame must rest on the shoulders of the advertising industry which, through its over zealousness, has tended to abuse the privilege. In fact, Scott Cunningham, senior vice president of technology at the Internet Advertising Bureau and general manager of its Tech Lab, admitted as much in a recent article:

We messed up. As technologists, tasked with delivering content and services to users, we lost track of the user experience. We were so clever and so good at it that we over-engineered the capabilities of the plumbing laid down by, well, ourselves. This steamrolled the users, depleted their devices, and tried their patience.

iab-logo

Mr. Cunningham goes on to express his opinion that “The rise of ad blocking poses a threat to the internet and could potentially drive users to an enclosed platform world dominated by a few companies“. A view with which I totally concur.


Bottom Line

In a medium where subscriptions to view online content are far from the norm, ad-blockers and their negative impact on revenue certainly create a catch-22 situation for site owners. At the moment, pay-for-view appears to be limited to a section of the news media, however, if something doesn’t change, I don’t believe it’s unreasonable to assume that more sites will follow suit.

Ultimately, I can see more and more smaller sites closing down and an internet dominated by sites backed by large corporations, defeating the true purpose of the internet in the process.

NOTE: Most ad-blockers do come with a whitelist option, allowing ads to be displayed for a particular site or sites. However, current statistics irrefutably demonstrate that the vast majority of users are not utilizing this feature and just using the software to block everything across the board. I’ve no doubt ad-blockers are here to stay, however, please do utilize the whitelist feature to allow ads for those sites you visit and use regularly.

 

About the Author

Jim Hillier

Jim is the resident freeware aficionado at DCT. A computer veteran with 30+ years experience who first started writing about computers and tech back in the days when freeware was actually free. His first computer was a TRS-80 in the 1980s, he progressed through the Commodore series of computers before moving to PCs in the 1990s. Now retired (aka an old geezer), Jim retains his passion for all things tech and still enjoys building and repairing computers for a select clientele... as well as writing for DCT, of course.

12 Comments

  1. I really don’t mind the ads if there aren’t too many of them on a page, but the Internet industry needs to get smart and figure out how to structure the pages so that the content comes up fast and the ads load later without interfering with scrolling. I use an ad blocker only to speed up my browsing. It tells me how many ads have attempted to load – the number is sometimes over 100 which makes the page almost impossible to view in a timely manner.

    • ^This!

      I’m pretty good about not actually being influenced by page ads (mental-blinders) when I’m on there to look for something…But as you say, when ads completely impede me being able to do ANYTHING on a page due to constant ad-attacks…I either must ad-block or close that page. How about instead of blaming the end-user, the industry propose a framework for ads & monitor their own, hmm? Then, we wouldn’t need ad-blocking tools.

  2. Hi Jim,

    I don’t have any sympathy for advertisers because they go way over the line of ‘fair play’ with their continued bombardment and repetition, and too much is a great big ‘turn-off’ for the products they are trying to sell.
    Where is the advertisers common sense in understanding that Mr & Mrs Average will turn away instead of ‘rushing to buy’ the products, and TV advertising creates the same distaste.

    It appears to me that interesting, humourous, and clever advertising is no longer the case with the current trend of ‘in the face, rowdy and boring’ street-style spruiking.

    Surely ad-blocking sends a message to advertising producers, and small companies are not getting value for the good money they spend on advertising.

    I do support small businesses with nil ad-blocking, but never the greedy media moguls.

    Jonno.

  3. Hmmm… that’s a worrying prospect! But I use Adblock and have selected ‘Allow some no-intrusive advertising’. I also disable it for some sites – including Daves computer tips 🙂 So hopefully, I’m not hastening the advent of the pay per view internet :-/

  4. Two comments –
    1. And for me this is an easily correctable issue, for me: Getting hit with a request to sign up for “website_X’s” newsletter when I have already signed up for it — in fact for example I got to this page of DCT from DCT email sent earlier – and if you are in a hurry and just click on it to speed/power your way through things, you can end up receiving multiple copies of that URL’s newsletters.

    2. Since I believe so-called “hidden ads and marketing research tools” which most people never see or are aware of constitute, IMHO, the greater volume and share of “advertising and marketing” over usage I use a product called GHOSTERY, from http://www.ghostery.com, and yes Ghostery is from Evidon.com, but I no longer have to use ad-blocker software, and there are some websites, http://www.weather.com for example where 25-30 hidden pieces of malware are revealed and blocked.

    I personally consider the invisible items revealed by Ghostery to be far more pernicious and an invasion of my privacy and security, but agree advertising in general is a bane on one’s Internet existence.

    You didn’t, either, for example, discuss the selling of search engine results such that with Google, you can end of with the entire first page filled with “commercial paid for hits” which have nothing to do with your/my search efforts. Its one of the reasons I stopped using Google unless I absolutely have to — I do not allow it as an active search engine on any of the several browsers I use, even Opera “new skul” version about r.32 now where Google is hard-wired into the code of the browser and I have to manually reset the default search engine each and every time I use OPERA.

    Since I don’t believe the advertising and marketing entities have the insight or ethical character to voluntarily limit their own revenue (because how many things, products, or services being advertised do so with s/w generated in house and how many rely on “advertising and marketing” houses to do the dirty work for them I propose instead a board, an impartial internet committee, to set guidelines, that way consumers and advertisers as well as marketers will have a forum in which to present and rebut each other’s ideas.

    • @Richard,
      1. I can understand that popups can be annoying, but we need it to grow our readership. DCT has always been above the board on everything we do, and this is no exception. The popup is set so that it doesn’t interfere with the content and only shows as the visitor is leaving the page – it’s the best compromise. If you close the popup with the “x” in the upper right hand corner you won’t see it again for a very long time.

      Also, it isn’t possible to subscribe an address to receive multiple copies of our newsletter to the best of my knowledge. The only way for that to happen is if you used a different address or used something like Gmail’s ability to append text to an address using the + symbol.

      If you believe you’ve successfully subscribed to multiple copies just drop me a line and I’ll have a look!

  5. I remember when the sites which supported ads, did a good job, limiting the amount and placement. That was then. I now use ad blockers 100%, because I find there is more ad content than useful information. I have only come upon sites that inform me not to block, but I still do. If I’m blocked from a site, ’cause I’m blocking ads, the site tells me it’s more interested in ads, so I’d not bother visiting that site ever again.

    I find the placement of ads a bother to my reading. Enough said (sorry DCT), Mindblower!

  6. How about someone developing an app that fits in the bar above, that easily allows you to manage an exception?? I would use that a lot.
    I Just put your website into the popup exception, but it took a little while to find it.

    Making it easy to mark an exception would go a long way t o making it easier for everyone.

    I do agree that the advertisers abused their privilege, so much so, that most users just block everything. They (ADVERTISERS) must take ownership of THEIR problem and fix it. Standards for ads, with penalties for abuse, would go a long way to making the situation better.

    • The way I see it Zack; if, instead of just blocking everything, all ad-blocker users were to utilize the whitelist system properly, the whole thing would become self-regulatory. Site owners would know that if they are overly zealous with ads or the ads are too intrusive, they will be blocked by most users, but, if they include only unobtrusive ads at an acceptable level, most users would allow their ads through.

  7. The #1 reason I use AdBlockPlus. Is all those little “Bad”wares!!{adware/spyware/malware/grayware/browser hijacks on & on & on} I run AdBlockPlus over WiFi on my Androids. It’s not that I don’t want to see any adds at all. Yet pop up/unders/overs, get in the way, making a site mostly Unusable. Then the flashing banner adds-They are annoying & they trigger Migraines(for me). A few websites I use daily, they work very hard to keep their sites & adds Clean. Yet all those little “wares” can still slip threw the cracks. I’ve seen reports like this over the years….Heading “Free Internet” soon to change. Am I missing something some where? Why I’m paying a ISP so I can get on this “free-internet”? *LOL* ;o} How did we get our news before the internet? I’m 51, only had the net 12 years of my life. Only free news was on TV. Ya had to Pay for the News Papers, the Magazines subscriptions etc. Building a good, safe website isn’t free. Keeping that site good & safe isn’t free. Bandwidth isn’t free. Wasn’t a law made re:Hotlinks? Because those chewed threw a sites bandwidth. I no longer watch the 15, 30 seond videos on The Weather Channel App. Why? Vedio Adds that are just as long as those videos! That app when I first started using it had No adds. Then the flashing banner adds, then new spaces for regular adds, Now the video adds. *rolles eyes* They found a way to by pass AdBlockPlus over Wifi. There are many apps that offer a paid version, with No adds. But they have adds to install this app & that app. So Free or Paid ya still have some kind of adds in your face. I’m sorry my use of a adblocker is hurting the little guys. Again its Not about not wanting to see any adds. The #1 reason I use one is because of the “bad”wares that can slip in via adds! I’m Not saying All are bad! Its the bad people sliping their junk in. Its hard enough to keep a half a step ahead of the bad guys.

  8. Thank you for alerting me to the ad blocking software. Yahoo has so many ads on its web browser that I sometimes gave up trying to use it since it took so long to load. It now loads as quickly as Google. And, the WSJ, NYT, et al, blocked non subscribers before there was ad blocking sotware, so no harm, no foul.