AdBlockers, the white knight of web surfers had always been the tormentor for webloggers. With the increase in agitation over the cluttered pop ups & banner ads across the web, the usage of adblockers has become mainstream among the web fanatics. Adblock users justify their act by claiming that it provides them a sophisticated browsing experience whereas webloggers curses, as it leeches their revenue. And we can’t deny that both of them have legitimate points to some degree. But if we have a closer look, it’s silently revolutionising the way of digital advertising.
Let’s start with the brief note on ads & ad blockers. Advertisements(both commercial and non-commercial) are marketing stunts to promote product/ service/ organisations by creating brand awareness or by providing info. It is not new to the business world and exists even before the invention of the internet. Advertisements are done through various medium like mass media such as newspaper ads, TV & Radio ads, internet such as email marketing & digital ads in blogs, publishers and outdoor campaign such as banner ads.
All this drama began with the invention of adblocker by Henrik Aasted Sørensen as a browser extension in 2002 for Phoenix (then, now firefox) but didn’t get popular at that time. However, over the past few years, there is a sudden increase in the acrimonic mindset over digital ads among the people and in the usage of adblockers, especially among young lads. If we list down the reasons for that, it can be mainly categorized into 3 types. The first and foremost reason is, some (**Attention** : not all :P) unscrupulous publishers/bloggers percept the audience as more of a product than as a customer. They put a lot of efforts to make the user click the ads rather than making the content better viewable which literally kills the user experience on the web. Another major concern is the violation of user privacy. Ad engines inject code & drop cookies through the widget to track the user behaviour & interests when they are just meant for displaying ads. Last but not least, it paves the way for breaching the security by allowing third party libraries to execute which could spread viruses to a large extent.
As per the report by Pagefair and Adobe, it is estimated that ad blockers cost around ₹150 crores business to the publishers and have around 20 crores active users last year which increased by 41% when compared to previous year. As their primary revenue model gets affected, publishers are employing three different types of strategies to address the issue. Type 1, Engagement with customers(Saathvigam) i.e. reaching out to the audience to disable ad blockers or whitelisting their site in adblockers by explaining them the impact of ad blocking. Type 2, Block the AdBlock Users(Bayanakam) i.e. threatening ( literally) the users to disable the adblocker by denying the access to the content. Type 3, Providing Alternative Choices ( No, it’s not prachotakam 😛 but the milder version of Bayanakam ) It is the amalgamation of Type 2 & subscription model i.e. you should either disable the adblocker or subscribe(Monetary subscription, not email ) to the content in the website. On analyzing the results of these approaches, only 0.33% of the people has made the Adblock exemption on request, out of those, 33% eventually removed the exception. And for subscription model request, only 3 users per million who were given the option to make a donation did so. This represents less than $0.01 CPM which explains none of the approach yields the fruitful results.
Besides these values, even if you go through the process, except Type 1 all other approaches have been harsh on the users and were forcing them to come out of their comfort zone. Here, Publishers failed to understand, it’s not the war by users on them. Rather, it’s the war between the users and crooked websites who welcomes them with a bunch of popup ads and challenges them to find the legitimate download button among 10 others 😉 It’s against those amoral people, who least care about user’s basic privacy.
Advertisements have not been a problem for users but the way it is being implemented on the web is a concern for them. Yes! If it really provides the relevant/valuable content/ad in a non-intrusive manner, most of the people (at least me) won’t even think about using adblockers. The fact that Click through rate (CTR) of 44% for ads in the initial years declining to 0.06% in recent time evidently asserts that ads are not serving it’s purpose anymore. As John Oliver mentioned, there should be “clear line between Church and State”. Advertisements should be clearly tagged and separated from editorial content. And when it comes to relevant ads, instead of targeting personalized ads, ad engines could target contextual ads. For example, instead of throwing ads for flights from Delhi to Madurai in Stack Overflow site, if it comes up with career related ads or Amazon EC2/Azure instance ads which are relevant to existing content/people visiting that site, will also yields better result as personalized ads and could potentially solve the problem of privacy.
If the publishers/blogger thinks that they can make the user disable the adblocker by denying the access to the content, it is never going to happen. If they are going to use anti-adblock technology, the user gonna use anti-adblock killer. After all, it’s technology man! Finding a workaround for a technical problem is never going to be that much tough. And web surfers should also whitelist the websites that are not intrusive and provide pleasant browsing experience. It’s quite common to think, “Disruption in a business is not a big deal, unless I have a problem over that 😉 ”. But for the betterhood of the internet, both users and webloggers should encourage the efforts like acceptable ads and restore the parity in digital advertising 🙂