Al Capone. Frank Costello. Lucky Luciano. These names of organized crime shadowed the city streets back in the early 1900s, contributing to the curiosity and fear surrounding the mafia. Today, a new mafia corrupts the streams of the digitized realm: ad blockers.
The issues ad blockers produce today are similar to ones the music industry faced during the age of Napster. While the file-sharing platform enabled users to share their favorite songs for free, it hindered the revenue flow of music artists, producers and record labels. Napster’s threatening impact on the music industry led to its 2001 court loss against A&M Record, Inc.
The Recording Industry Association of America also filed a similar case against Limewire, an alternate file-sharing platform created in 2001. Limewire’s 2010 copyright infringement case led to a RIAA triumph.
As Napster and Limewire disrupted the music industry, ad blocking prevent publishers from monetizing their websites. People are defensive of music, a validated staple of entertainment, but are also accustomed to the idea of advertising being a virtual nuisance. This notion stems from sites who bombard visitors with numerous non-native ads that distract from a site’s organic content.
Implementing ad malpractices handicap the visitor-friendly experience and blind the public of the fundamental and legal issues adblocking fosters.
Ad malpractices are also how Adblock Plus, a notorious ad blocking boss with over 500 million downloads to its name, thrives today. Its pledge to shield web surfers from “annoying” ads led to the creation of its Acceptable Ad program. In true mafia fashion, the ad blocker only whitelists ads able to pass their criteria test. The company justifies its ad-selection system by claiming “it encourages the ad industry to pursue less intrusive ad formats, thus having a positive impact on the Internet as a whole. It also provides us with a viable source of revenue, […] which we need in order to be able to administer and maintain the program and continue development of a free product.”
Aside from blatant greed, ad blockers like Adblock Plus forget to mention how blocking an ad prevents publishers, who spend hours to provide visitors with endless content on countless topics, a source of earnings. Just as you’re expected to pay for a steak you eat at a restaurant, advertising is a website’s standard price of admission. Hence, the usage of ad blocking programs are responsible for the $21.8 billion in ad revenue lost to publishers worldwide in 2015. According to PageFair, over 60% of that missing revenue affected the gaming, social networking and Internet technology industries.
Publishers aiming to reimburse these losses now execute unique solutions to counter ad blocking. Forbes displays a pop-up screen that pairs its quote of the day with a polite message urging users to deactivate their ad blocker before continuing onto the site. YouTube provides YouTube Red in order to offer users ad-free content but still maintain site revenue. Insticator is stepping forward, as well, by implementing a method that makes AppNexus ads undetectable to ad blocking sensors. The Insticator Fire Widget also helps publishers track the number of visitors using ad blockers.
Though efforts against ad blocking are forming, online users remain unaware that they are being spoonfed misleading facts by the ad blocking mafia and are encouraging detrimental losses to publishers.The cunning words spoken by the mafia are why an intense need to unveil ad blocking’s true outcomes exists. In short, ad blocking businesses’ red tape policies will only begin to peel when the acknowledgement of advertising’s importance to websites and their publishers becomes a public norm.