Aug 30 2012

To Block or not to Block: The Case Against and For Adblock

omqyoof1 To Block or not to Block: The Case Against and For Adblock

There are relatively few single-sided issue in this world. No matter how convinced you are of how right your particular conviction is, it won’t take long to found someone believes equally and oppositely. But there’s one area that we all seem to agree on: Everybody hates adverts. And in the vast hate pyramid of adverts we hate, you’ll find few adverts more hated than the ones you’ll see on the Internet.

This is what Adblock Plus was created for. An open-source extension for browsers such as Firefox and Chrome, Adblock Plus filters content to prevent adverts being downloaded and displayed on your computer.

Having heard that I imagine half of you have now opened a new tab to Google this magical new product and install it on your computer. Well, before you go I’m going to attempt something dangerous, something rarely tried before, something edgy and controversial.

I am going to attempt to defend the existence of Internet adverts (pause for shocked gasps and women fainting).

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Okay, so let’s remind ourselves of where we are right now. This is the Internet. The Internet, as you know, is a vast, worldwide network of computers, originally designed to allow scientists to exchange ideas but now you used to exchange pornography, pictures of startled kittens, and yes, SO MANY ADVERTS.

Now let’s look at what you use the Internet for. Email? Social media? Reading the news? Watching people fall over on YouTube? Cool, that’s all a valuable use of your time. Well, that’s sorted then. I’m going to go over here and do a Columbo impression now.

Just one more thing…

How much did you pay for all that stuff you did on the Internet?

It was all free you say? And what do you think paid for the coders, web designers and, God forbid, writers, bloggers and journalists that made all of that possible? Yes, that’s right. The adverts that you hate so much.

Now many people think that adblocking doesn’t actually hurt these sites anymore than going to grab a drink and use the loo during the ad breaks on TV. After all, if you’re not actually going to click on the link (and who EVER does that?) they’re not going to get any money from you being irritated by the advert are they?

Well, no. That’s not exactly the case. See, most sites aren’t working on a PPC basis. They’re working on Pay Per View. The other reason this isn’t like TV is simply this: Your TV isn’t watching you. When companies pay for a TV advertising spot they have make a bunch of complex guestimates to work out if you’ll actually see the advert and be persuaded to buy products with it.

With online advertising, your very presence causes the little advert view counter to tick over – so long as the advert isn’t blocked.

And so much rests on this model right now. With newspapers seeing their income plummet to brand new depths, the on-site adverts are on of the few revenue streams they can still rely on. Facebook, the way most of us seem to communicate with one another now, ONLY has advertising as a revenue stream (and with the way Facebook shares are going they need all the help they can get).

The Internet has made us all massively entitled douches- we get upset when sites like The Onion and The Times install paywalls, but get annoyed at the few revenue streams free sites have. This is the sort of attitude that leads to people getting all their music and movies from sites like The Pirate Bay, which is paid for by what? You guess it! Adverts!


Except You Totally Should

These are all very sound arguments. Except for one indisputable fact: Adverts are really, really annoying, and they’re getting worse. First there was the ubiquitous pop-up. It’s not enough to have the advert slide down the side of the screen like a newspaper advert, oh no. It has to leap out right in front of whatever it was you were trying to read and you have to spend time searching round the screen for the well hidden X symbol to dismiss it! Some adverts won’t even have that, they’ll throw a trailer up that will demand you watch AT LEAST the first few seconds before it’ll let you skip through.

But that’s still not the worst online adverts have been doing. Oh no! They’re latest thing is to start playing a television advert as soon as you click onto the page- but it’ll be hidden somewhere down near the bottom of the page so you have to go hunting around for it, and even once you find it, trying to cut the advert’s sound is a challenge in and of itself. If adverts are going to go that far out of their way to irritate you, can you really be blamed for trying to get rid of them? After all, even if you’re in your first marketing graduate jobs you know that adverts are supposed entice and charm their audience, not irritate them.

Then there’s the other reason to block ads. Sometimes you want to visit a site without actually giving it money. The Daily Mail is a perfect example of this. Regularly the Daily Mail will publish articles saying things that are racist, misogynist or just downright stupid. Liberals and lefties will rise up and post all over Twitter about the terrible things that the Daily Mail is saying, and everyone will go to look at the original story to see what the fuss is about, and THIS is how the Daily Mail makes its money. Denying them the sweet, sweet ad money that comes from angering people doesn’t seem so bad.

So really, the question isn’t to block or not to block. It’s about how you use adblock to vote with your feet (or fingers I guess). If you love a site and want it to do well, make sure it’s whitelisted so that the website gets all that lovely ad revenue. If a site is one you detest but have to visit for other reasons, or simply has really terrible spammy adverts, block away!


Chris Farnell is a freelance writer working with Marketing Director Jobs.

 To Block or not to Block: The Case Against and For Adblock