German publisher Axel Springer, which recently acquired Business Insider and took a stake in Thrillist Media Group, is taking its fight against online ad blocking to the legal arena with a new lawsuit in Germany. It seeks to block the promotion and distribution of a mobile ad-blocking app.
By American standards, it looks like a long shot, and it’s hard to see how it stands a much better chance in Germany, where the laws tend to be (even) more on the side of consumers.
As noted in a previous post, Germany is also leading the way in ad-blocking adoption, probably due to a combination of tech-savvy consumers and a widespread cultural concern for privacy stemming from the country’s history.
According to TechCrunch, Axel Springer subsidiary Welt24 has brought a lawsuit against Blockr seeking to, well, block Blockr from offering, advertising, maintaining or distributing the app. Blockr’s lawyers argue that consumers have a right to download apps that block particular kinds of content, including advertising, on their mobile devices if they so choose.
The final ruling from the court is due Dec. 10, but judges’ remarks in the preliminary hearing seemed to suggest they are leaning towards Blockr.
Among other things, they noted that Axel Springer has a variety of tools at its disposal for responding to ad blocking, including blocking consumers who use ad-blocking software.
Of course, that presents its own difficulties. A number of publishers have tried implementing systems that cut off access to visitors using ad blockers, but these are mostly short-term solutions, as developers delight in finding ways around each new roadblock.
However, Axel Springer had more success with a somewhat more conciliatory tactic on the Bild Web site. The publisher posted a notice explaining that ad blocking endangers quality journalism, and asking them to switch off the ad-blocking program or become a subscriber to Bild, at a cost of around $3.40 per month.
Presented with the choice, the proportion of visitors using ad blockers fell from 23% to the single digits, TechCrunch reports.
Blocking the blockers is only going to annoy the public, but giving them a paid versus free option will at least give them a choice. My guess is that very few people are willing to pay and will just give up using the ad blockers if paying vs. ads becomes a widespread initiative.