Commentary

Why I Don't Use An Blocker -- And Why I Wouldn't Mind Trying One

Yesterday, my colleague Philip Rosenstein wrote about why he uses an ad blocker and why he doesn’t mind disabling one. His post got me thinking about why I don’t use an ad blocker -- and, perhaps, wouldn’t mind trying one.

First off, Phil cited an article by eMarketer from last year that reported that two-thirds of millennials block ads. The figure, based on a Fractl and Moz study, has likely increased, perhaps by as much as one-third by now.

Second, we’ve all read that ad blocking has cost publishers an estimated $22 billion in lost revenue, via the 2015 Adobe and PageFair study.  In 2016, Adobe and PageFair examined mobile ad-blocking and found that as of March, there were 14 million monthly active users of mobile ad-blocking browsers in Europe and North America. That number was 159 million for China, 122 million in India, and 38 million in Indonesia.

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There are many other data points for desktop and mobile ad blocking—too many to cite here. The one thing we can be sure of is that those numbers will continue to climb unless something is done to reevaluate the value exchange between consumers and publishers, and also consumers and advertisers. This point has been made by many experts who have been interviewed for RTBlog and Real-Time Daily, and who write op-eds for RTD.

I’m not a millennial, so I don’t fall into that bucket of people who are more likely to block ads. But beyond that, I don’t block ads because right now, I cover the digital advertising ecosystem. And, shocker: I want to see ads. Yes, I want to see them.

I want to see the ad content, presentation, creative formats, how ads impede my workflow, interrupt my “user experience,” and other stuff. But I have to tell you, because I research on a minute-to-minute basis, I’m often slowed down by advertising. When I’m impeded from moving to an article or a video by a clunky overlay, or interstitials that make me wait for an article—like on Forbes.com, for example—I’m slightly frustrated, but I want to see what’s happening. What content am I being served? What’s the process?

Philosophically, I really don't want to use an ad blocker because as a journalist, I don’t want publishers to suffer. And yes, there are many publishers that are serving ads that disrupt my reading and ability to even access an article.

I also believe that some of the best advertising includes decent content. As a writer, I’m always looking for my visceral reaction to ads, creative, copy, video, captions, slideshows, etc. I believe in ad-supported publishing, but I also believe in other revenue models too. I pay for several digital subscriptions and they aren’t all ad-free.

For the same reasons that I don’t have an ad blocker on right now, I may download one tomorrow—because I need to study the experience of having one. Will I sail through my research? Are the article pages loading faster once I don’t have to see ads?

Will I be relieved that the dress I bought from Macy’s and returned isn’t following me around for more than six weeks after the return? I won’t have to be a victim of blanket, weeks-long retargeting.

What is the difference between my experience of having a blocker off vs. on? I may enjoy my New York Times experience much more by using a blocker. In fact, I may try it tomorrow.

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