Banning The Blockers To Be Legalised -- EU Gives Green Light To Brave Publishers

The mood is ripe for consternation every time the EU makes a declaration on Brexit or carries on the work it has been doing for years with an update on a new directive. Hence the updated wording of a new, proposed ePrivacy Directive has got a lot of people hot under the collar this morning. As with anything that requires so many member countries to agree to anything, the wording has been a long time in the making, and it will take yet more time until it becomes legally binding.

There's something in there for everyone who wants to herald the EU making digital marketing impossible -- and indeed, the IAB US got in touch overnight to point out sentiments along those lines. Essentially, greater opt-in powers for consumers will hinder advertisers and the sites and apps they use to reach people. Of course, this is particularly true for the American messaging and email giants who are being told they must treat their services as if they were taking place over the telephone. That means no scouring text or recipient details for keywords that can influence surrounding advertising and build up a profile for that user. 

The piece that has sprung out at me, however, is what will pretty much amount to a continuation of what we are beginning to see with some brave publishers. Namely, blocking ads is to be legalised, but so too is the right for a publisher to detect whether a user is blocking ads. Let's be honest -- that's where we're at right now, unofficially. There has been a legal challenge, suggesting that ad block detection is illegal, but few thought the action from a committed campaigner would get too far because it fails the common -sense filter. If you are going to strip ads out, surely it's only fair that the publisher can detect this so they know ads have not been served, meaning that a brand isn't charged, but also that they can make a decision on whether or not to release content that is not ad-supported.

Attempts so far to combat ad blocking vary from polite "please deactivate" notices, withholding content and even promising an ad-light version for those disabling blockers.

Now that all these approaches are to be enshrined in law, the wording may change by the time this happens, but the overriding principle of being able to legally detect ad blocker use will remain. It's all publishers could hope for because they were never going to get ad-blocking technology banned -- all they could expect was the right to know when ads are being blocked so they can make a decision.

There are two responsibilities for publishers now. First of all, they need to ensure that their own house is in order with ads that are not intrusive enough to prompt the public to resort to blockers in the first place. Then they need to treat ad blockers for the digital shoplifters that they truly are and tell them to get lost. If they want content, they have to accept that is ad-supported. If that's a deal-breaker, then they can go forth and find a publisher who is willing to bankrupt themselves by giving away free content that doesn't even have the support of advertising. A pretty short-term business plan that can only lead to site closure, I'm sure you'll agree.

if you do, the only answer is blocking the blockers. Now publishers growing a spine and taking the fight to the ad-dodgers can ramp up their efforts with the full backing that EU lawmakers are lining up behind them.

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