Of late, there’s been a debate about the use of Adblockers, with some calling it immoral (see a rebuttal here). Needless to say, Adblockers are popular: 300m people in the world have downloaded an ad blocking extension and about half have actually installed it.
The crux of the argument against their use is that Adblockers deprive the ‘content creators’ an earning and that it will eventually lead to content creation becoming unviable. Some have even argued that if we find advertising intrusive on some sites we visit, we should simply not visit them. My views:
Any technology which is available, found useful and free will be used extensively. Adblockers, like DVRs fall into this category. There is no point in content creators or media folks whining about it. If on regular cable TV channels the average viewer was given an option to block advertising, she gladly will. In fact, she is already doing it without any sophisticated technology. She either ‘switches off’ mentally when ads come or simply switches channels. Isn’t that loss of revenue and ‘insult’ to creators of the advertising? Is it immoral to not pay attention to the ad when its on air? Fact is, people access their channel or website for content. The distinction between ‘content’ and ‘advertising’ is inflicted by media owners and ad agencies, not by the consumer. So if an ad is enriching or rewarding as the content they seek, viewers may not switch channels or mute the ads. But that happens rarely.
Adblockers on browsers make a huge difference to content consumption, especially on Indian portals. Popular news portals have simply surrendered their real estate to advertising, user experience be damned.
TOI with and without ad blocker pic.twitter.com/Zz6MfQ3VAz
— bhatnaturally ? (@bhatnaturally) May 19, 2015
In such cases, can the user be faulted for blocking advertising? How many times have we encountered auto-playing video ads in a sea of open tabs? Annoying, pesky ads aren’t the only problems with online ads:
Some adblocking services offer options: some allow ‘acceptable ads’, some others allow for pausing the service or not running them on a particular domain. On certain domains like the New York Times, ads aren’t intrusive at all. Even when they are in your face (like the famous Apple banner ads for Mac vs PC) they provide great entertainment value. Dylan Berg of 72andSunny shared some banner ads created to promote use of Google app and ’OK Google’ in the New York Times. The ads were contextual asking Google relevant questions based on the lead articles. If I were to encounter such ads while browsing, I would not mind viewing them at all.
So I think its unfair to blame users for resorting to adblockers. As a blogger who has placed Adwords on my site (no, I don’t earn much from it) I can see why publishers feel deprived of their earning through adblockers. But summarily blaming those who use such Adblockers as immoral is not right. Why should they put up annoyances when they have an option not to. The onus is also on the publishers to not be greedy and cram every available space with ads, often intrusive and annoying. We all know how irritating it is when sports telecasts (especially cricket in India) are interrupted to accommodate an ad. If viewers had an option they would block it. Advertisers and creative agencies too need to work a bit harder in earning the online viewer’s attention.