The Need for Advertising and the Danger of Ad-Blockers
Wikipedia is one of the godsends of the internet. It’s the one-stop shop for factual and historical information, almost indispensable for the common web user. Wikipedia continues to grow and expand while continuing to provide free information for all. How do they do it? How can they continue to provide free information while maintaining their servers and their workforce? Well, because Wikipedia is a non-profit organization. It continues its operations through various benefactors’ donations and periodic fund raisers. But most websites that provide free information, services and entertainment have to resort to other means of funding, mainly through ads. These sites or their hosts are paid to post ads. Money is earned when these ads are displayed, clicked or both. What would happen if everyone or a large percentage of visitors were to block these ads?
One could consider websites to be alive. They’re made, they grow, they branch out and multiply and they die. Like all living things, they serve some purpose such as providing information or some form of service. For them to grow, they have to feed and if they can’t feed, they die. Now the primary source of food for many websites is advertising. Businesses pay these websites to display their ads, whatever they may be but mostly relevant to the content presented. A website’s continued existence depends upon how much these ads are viewed and clicked. But if they’re not viewed at all, you know what happens. Same way as any creature that can’t find food. They die.
Modern browsers now have read modes such as Firefox and Microsoft’s Edge. On reading articles such as this, users can make use of read modes to get rid of many page elements including ads to declutter the screen and read the article but the entire page has to load first. For those that don’t want to put up with load times, ad blockers come into play. Users can purchase ad blockers to keep any ads or other malicious pop-ups from appearing on web pages before they load. This keeps the distraction to a minimum and also works as partial security. The other beauty of ad blockers is that they keep bandwidth to a minimum which is excellent for data-metered connections as many internet service providers impose data caps or extra data charges. Ads, especially the flashy ones can seriously add to data charges even if the user only wants to read a few kilobytes worth of articles.
But a large percentage of sites on the internet is dependent on ads to keep their content and services free and earn some money at the same time. And fortunately for these sites, not everyone is aware of ad blockers nor do they have the time and money to purchase them. Fortunately, that’s a large percentage of internet users as well. Whether desktop or mobile, these websites are dependent on the non-blocking population to view their ads. But several new threats have surfaced that could further diminish the non-blocking population.
Apple’s iOS 9 for one, now supports ad-blocking extensions for Safari. So iPhone and iPad users are now scrambling to purchase ad blockers on the App Store after updating to iOS 9. With the release of iOS 9, ad blockers quickly became the most popular apps in the App Store. Another threat is the Adblock Browser for iOS and Android from the makers of Adblock Plus. This free browser will block ads without the use of any plug-in. Also, as mentioned, browsers with read modes remove most webpage elements including ads so that only the main content can be seen. And lastly, the newfound awareness that iOS 9 and Adblock Browser gave to people who were not aware that ads can be blocked in the first place. So, there are tools that can block these pesky ads!
So ad-dependent websites are more and more getting in a bind. How can they get their revenue if users don’t bother looking at the ads like when people quickly discard the classifieds section of the morning paper? These sites will find it difficult to continue operations if their ads are blocked. Many of these websites offer free info, free entertainment and free services in exchange for people clicking on their ads. Without ads, these services will no longer be free and every website on the net will require subscription membership or upfront payments.
Users with paid ad blockers are well within their rights not to be bothered with ads. It’s like paying for an unlisted number to avoid stalkers and telemarketers. They pay for the right to view websites without being distracted or bogged down by bandwidth-heavy flash ads. But ad-blocking as a feature or as a whole app could seriously affect the web. It’s strange to think that free ad-blocking could actually be a problem. What’s an advertiser to do? What are website owners supposed to do?
It’s difficult to say. It’s difficult to tell somebody to sit through a bunch of commercials before watching their favorite show unless it’s the Superbowl where people actually wonder what the ads will be. People will get ad blockers or ad blocking browsers when they’re aware of them and when these things are available. It’s a comfort though for websites that ad companies often find ways to get around these ad blocking software. There’s a technological arms race between ads and ad blockers. Ads will find a way to be shown just as spam occasionally finds its way into your email. White flags won’t be up just yet.