There are dozens of adblockers to choose from, from the market dominator Adblock Plus to the new Silicon Valley darling – open-source uBlock – as well as those that block out practically everything but the sun.
The number of people blocking ads is skyrocketing apace: the adblocking population is now estimated to be around 144 million, up from 21 million in 2010.
All of us adblocking people are nibbling away at the revenues of ad-driven companies, and it’s adding up to a huge bite.
PageFair, a company that works with publishers to measure the cost of adblocking and to help them come up with non-annoying, less intrusive ads that can be whitelisted by the adblockers, estimates that Google would have made $6.6 billion more than it did last year if it weren’t for adblockers.
Somebody formerly at Google – a somebody who was close to the enormous sucking sound of lost revenues – has decided to fight back.
Ben Barokas, the former general manager of marketplace development at Google, is the adblock blocker guy.
Barokas is CEO and co-founder of Sourcepoint, which launched on Thursday with $10 milion in Series A investment funding, Business Insider reports.
Barokas told Business Insider that Sourcepoint has the technology to take online publishers’ lunch back from the people who are now eating it by sucking up content without looking at ads, thereby denying companies the revenues they deserve.
That entails “punching through all the ad blockers,” BI reports.
Sourcepoint isn’t the first company to offer ways for publishers to handle adblockers.
Other services, such as those offered by PageFair, encourage publishers to engage with adblocking visitors by appealing to, and educating, them, by testing the effectiveness of a given customized appeal, and learning what appeals to those visitors.
As Business Insider describes it, Sourcepoint’s adblock blocker works in a similar fashion, by giving publishers a few choices on how to proceed when encountering a site visitor who drops by with an ad blocker installed:
- Circumvent the ad blocker and serve the ad in spite of it,
- Tell the visitor that “our ads pay for your content, how about you choose to allow them?”
- Allow the user to choose how ads will get served up: three ads for three stories, for example, or
- Ask ad-blocking visitors to pay to subscribe.
Here’s the thing: if ads weren’t so annoying, nobody would choose to block them, Business Insider suggested to Barokas.
If you block the blockers, aren’t you just ruining the site experience for users, plus annoying them anew?
Barokas countered by pointing to what he called the extortionary practice of paying to get ads past Adblock Plus: a whitelisting process that lets ad-buying big boys such as Google, Amazon, Microsoft and the content marketing platform Taboola quietly pony up money to keep their ads from being blocked on Adblock Plus, which is the world’s most popular adblock software.
Business Insider quotes Barokas:
It's blackmail. It's extortion. It's not fair. That being said, is not against the law. It's legal in Germany, the US, the UK ... but at the end of the day it's also legal for publishers to give people messages and say you can choose ads. It's not fair for journalists like you not to have food at your table, it's not fair not to have a roof over your head. It goes back to transparency and fairness ... if users opt-in to having advertising subsidizing the experience, we can serve that ad, [and if an ad blocker continues to block the ads] then that would be illegal.
Adblock Plus project manager Ben Williams has laughed off the blackmail charge, telling the BBC that
If we are racketeers we are terrible racketeers because 90% of the people on the white list don't pay anything and the criteria is the same for everyone.
The tug-of-war over eyeballs to market at rages along.
First there were ads, then there were adblockers, now there are adblocker blockers. We’ll probably next see adblocker blocker blockers.
At the end of the day, we’re still left with the vexing ethics of it all: the question of whether adblocking is, as many have suggested, theft.
Journalists have to eat. They have to pay their electric bills. They shouldn’t have to churn out content for free, without recompense.
VentureBeat’s Gerhard Stiene has compared adblocking to hanging out in a coffee shop, gobbling up its bandwidth without buying anything.
The Guardian’s website, for one, has already gone with Sourcepoint’s option of displaying a (guilt-inducing!) pop-up when an ad-blocking visitor visits, politely pointing out that it’s noticed you’ve got an ad-blocker switched on, so perhaps you’d like to support the Guardian in another way?
“Yes, I would!” I said when I saw it earlier this week, glad to be given a low-friction path to supporting my hard-working journalist brethren and sistren.
I clicked on the box that held out the option for paid membership.
I think my adblocker blocked the adblocker blocker popup box.