Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Is ad blocking immoral?

The FT reported last week that mobile operators plan to block online ads, with one - unnamed - European operator planning to switch on adblocking before the end of 2015. Given that the software it will use was developed by Shine, an Israeli company back by Li Ka-shing's Horizon Ventures, it would be unsurprising if it turned out to be the operator 3.

Martin Bryant, editor of The Next Web, responded stating "Adblockers are immoral... proud ad-blocking folk out there are happily starving sites (that they rely on for information and entertainment) of vital income." How can anyone argue with the need to compensate those who provide us with the information - and other content - we consume?

And yet...

When my reading of an article is so severely impeded by advertising, I find myself with two choices, either I stop reading that content or I block ads. That example, from nearly a year ago, is relatively innocuous compared with some of the more recent display formats. So my question for publishers is: do you want to lose revenue because your readers can't abide the awful experience and walk away; or because they block your ads?

I mostly consume text media on my phone and I don't run an adblocker on it. Instead, when I find a publisher repeatedly using overly intrusive advertising, I stop reading, unfollow them on Twitter and permanently abandon them. That means publishers with better user experience policies get more attention from me. Am I the only one who does this?

As Martin Bryant says, advertising fuels much of the web. Much of the work I have done in the past ten years has relied largely on advertising revenue. Yet the "give-and-take" of which he speaks too often is not correctly set. Ads should at most feel like passing through security but sometimes feel like a trip to the back room and an unwarranted cavity search.

Readers should not block ads; ads should not block readers.

The Next Web has apparently been working on developing 'ads so good you want to share them'. Says Martin Bryant:
We’re still perfecting the format, but I’m proud that the company I work for is trying to create ads that people won’t want to block in the first place.
As I said last week, user experience is a source of competitive advantage.