'War,' Then Peace - Time To Shut Out Ad-Blocking Digital Shoplifters

At the same time that executives from ad-blocking giants warned they are "at war" with the ad industry, the perhaps now aptly named Peace iOS 9 ad-blocking app delisted itself from the Apple's app store.

Its founder decided that success just didn't feel right and that by blocking ads on all mobile Web site, instead of allowing users to choose sites individually, he had hurt a lot of people. It's a surprise conversion on the proverbial road to Damascus which is very welcome and comes as an open admission that ad blockers are sledgehammers to smash a peanut. By blocking all advertising, these ad tech gurus are not just stopping unwanted ad units from popping up and getting in the way, they are preventing sites from using traditional, universally accepted ad units from earning revenue.

So as the app that was topping Apple's charts pulls out of the game, there can surely be no better time for publishers to withhold content from browsers running ad-blocking extensions. The moral high ground undoubtedly belongs to publishers who are struggling to pay for quality and contend -- and can now even say -- that the guys behind the most popular iOS blocker realised they were in the wrong, so it's about time that others did too. 

Just think about it for a minute. What could possibly be wrong with refusing to give away free content to a person who has blocked ads? It is such a simple decision to make, yet publishers seem incapable of growing a spine and taking the fight back to digital shop lifters. If someone doesn't want to see your ads, that's fine -- but they need to know that comes at the price of receiving the content. If enough publishers get tough, it will put ad blockers at a real disadvantage. What seemed like a win:win of all the content with none of the ads will soon turn around as content is replaced by a polite message asking the person to disable their blocker to view the desired article. 

That is how simple this could be. Why don't publishers get a common form of wording agreed upon, or even a microsite explaining the issues? Something along the lines of people having to accept that free content has to be produced by people with mortgages who have the right to earn a living. Turn the ads off and you're effectively saying people should work for free. 

There will be some out there who will always see that content is cheap, it should be provided free, and there are other ways for publishers to make money. But their arguments are so out of touch with reality, they are just even worth engaging with.

So a polite message -- perhaps pointing out that the number one app for iPhones has ceased blocking ads because it was hurting people. Now is the reader's chance to let others earn a living -- to disable the blocker or look elsewhere for content.

There's no risk to the publishers other than reader figures going down, but higher figures don't mean a thing if people are just free riding on your hard-earned reputation for quality content.

I've raised this whole issue before, but the timing has never been more right to bring it to the fore again. Publishers have nothing to lose and everything to gain. If they carry on serving ad blockers free content, then they only have themselves to blame for their eventual demise.

3 comments about "'War,' Then Peace - Time To Shut Out Ad-Blocking Digital Shoplifters ".
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  1. Steve Baldwin from Didit, September 21, 2015 at 1:16 p.m.

    This is "the nuclear option" but I guess we've now ascended that rung on the escalation ladder. Only the hammer of terror can keep those ungrateful browsers at bay! 

  2. Benny Radjasa from Armonix Digital, Inc., September 22, 2015 at 4:14 p.m.

    If you like something and consumed it, then pay for it.  I like your term Digital Shoplifters, I like it so much I am goign to "borrow" this term, oh the irony of it all :-)

    Everyone has the right to earn a living, ad blockers prevent this.  It block all IPs and/or domains from known ad servers.  Which also means it blocks all form of advertising from the ad server  that it is blocking.

    Banners - Block!
    Sponsorship - Block!
    Native ads -  Block!
    Rich Media (Video, expandable, overlay) - Block!

  3. Paolo Gaudiano from Infomous, Inc., September 23, 2015 at 11:39 a.m.

    Calling consumers who refuse to be swamped with annoying ads "digital shoplifters" and saying that it is akin to preventing people from making a living, are insults that betray a fundamental misrepresentation of the situation.

    Consider the following two points.

    1) You use the phrase "preventing sites from using traditional, universally accepted ad units from earning revenue." Universally accepted by whom, exactly? Did anyone ever ask consumers how they felt about it? The answer is a resounding NO. Publishers jumped on the onine bandwagon, luring readers with clickbait and free content, then started destroying the user experience with increasing amounts of annoying clutter.

    2) Why aren't publishers (with few notable exceptions) simply asking consumers to pay for their content in exchange for an ad-free environment? How difficult would it be to let readers opt-out of ads in exchange for small payments or maybe for social shares? The answer is simple: much of their content is either not good enough or not original enough (or both) to be worth paying for. Instead, publishers choose to flood the Internet with content of sometimes questionable quality and originality, then clutter their own pages with largely useless, always annoying ads.

    And now that consumers are finally saying "that's enough," publishers and advertisers alike start to cry foul and invoke ridiculous arguments like democracy, free markets and the constitution. This is disingeuous at best, but when it gets down to outright insulting consumers - who by the way are the ones ultimately paying YOUR bills - the hypocrisy has gone too far.

    PS: I do not use ad blockers

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