They are, however, guilty of being a bit naïve about the online advertising industry they have commandeered. That will get adjusted over time as they gain more ground between advertisers and publishers.
The vitriol coming at them from the online publishing community — including, most vocally the IAB president — reminds me of what former Online Publishing Insider columnist David Koretz used to say. He would point to the participant arguing the loudest in a high-volume conflict and say, “The lady doth protest too much.”
Is Adblock Plus doing something that much different from what Google did to publishers? The latter showed up and sat right between consumers and publishers. Google then picked publishers’ pockets by helping themselves to their content and using it to lure and capture consumers before they entered a publisher’s turnstile. Google then made money during this hostage takeover by selling ads.
Adblock Plus has situated itself between consumers and publishers by building an ad-free room that millions of people have freely chosen to enter. Then these smart guys locked the door, put up some velvet ropes, and became bouncers, charging a cover to publishers to enter provided they wear “acceptable” attire.
This strategy is brash. The IAB president calls it extortion. I think it’s genius — and ironic that the opportunity Adblock Plus is exploiting could only exist because the online publishing industry continues to treat consumers to an awful Web user experience.
You can assume online publishing executives and association presidents are not blocking ads. You can also assume they visit a fair amount of Web sites during their workweek, so they see plenty of pop-up ads and ad units that expand over content. They get treated to video ads that auto-play with sound. They visit sites that have an ad-edit ratio that insults the term ratio. They click on links to “read more” and are then treated to Web pages that bump and grind before they properly load. They see creepy ads from advertisers who have spied on their Web behavior. They see ad creative that promotes belly flab and toe fungus remedies, as well as “sponsored content” that features disturbing images with misleading headlines.
You can also assume online publishing executives and association presidents visit Web sites from their smartphones, so they know how much worse the Web ad experience is on a mobile device.
So it’s safe to assume publishing executives and association presidents are aware the online ad experience is awful. These are also really smart and savvy businesspeople who know the best defense is a good offense, so they attack the ethics and morality of the people attacking their business. That works really well in politics, but it’s not going to work here.
Adblock Plus has more work to do. The transaction it offers publishers to get “white-listed” lacks clarity and shows a lack of knowledge of the ad sales process. The company’s messaging and pricing may need to be refined to better suit the publishers it plans to charge. Clearly publishers believe the price needs to be lower than the 30% of revenue Adblock Plus thinks it can tax.
This fight is not about business ethics or morality. It’s about leverage and money — and the volume of this conflict is driven by a lady who doth protest too much.