At Bent Pixels, online advertisements are our lifeblood. However, as you look at this page your computer is most likely running some sort of ad blocking technology. The top internet browsers all have the capability to block most (and, more often than not, all) of the ads in your browser. The most popular ad blocking program is the Google Chrome extension AdBlock with over 15 million installs – and that number doesn’t include the downloads for AdBlock on Safari, Opera, or Firefox. Roughly 23% of internet users currently use some sort of adblocking technology, and in 2013 there was a 43% growth increase in AdBlock users.1
People are becoming more and more aware that they can totally eliminate ads from their internet experience. Let’s be honest: who actually wakes up in the morning wondering what exciting new ad will play before his or her next YouTube video? No one, which has led us to this tremendous movement to free the internet of annoying and intrusive ads. But, like most free glorious things in life, there is always a catch. With more ad campaigns being stopped before they even get to your computer, ad-revenue based websites (read: the majority of the internet) are losing revenue at astounding rates.
The first websites to see their bottom lines slashed are gaming and technology based, as their tech savvy customers are often the first ones to find out about new internet capabilities (ie: AdBlock). One of these technology websites has seen a 25% ad block rate, eliminating roughly $500,000 per year in ad revenue.2 This dramatic loss of revenue has forced the company to start charging a subscription to access their content. Websites have proposed this idea of subscription based internet browsing in order to keep ads off your screen while still allowing access to their quality content. As you would imagine, there has been huge backlash to this idea within the internet community. Ever since the creation of the free, unadulterated World Wide Web by Tim Berners-Lee, there has always been an unofficial adage by which the internet and its users have abided: “Keep the internet free.”3
Google has always been a big proponent of keeping the internet free and user-driven. As a host for several ad blocking extensions in Chrome, the company has the capability to eliminate ad blocking technology – and in January of 2014 did just that. Google shut down AdBlock Plus and immediately received tremendous backlash from the internet. Within 24 hours AdBlock Plus was up and running again.3 Learning from the energetic reaction in January, Google has since struck a deal paying AdBlock Plus a fee, which in turn allows some ads to be displayed even though AdBlock Plus is still running. This move has reportedly saved Google roughly $887 million every year in ad revenue.3 Other sites have shown similar responses: Hulu, Blip.tv, and SouthPark will no longer grant users access their content unless ad blocking technology is disabled.
The growth of new AdBlock downloads and internet users’ increased ability to avoid advertisements has generated an expanding problems for websites that rely on ad revenue. The double-edged sword of consumers wanting an advertisement-free internet experience while still accessing content that is financed through advertisements poses a growing dilemma. There will always be demand for high quality content on the internet, and with the decline in ad revenue a creative and comprehensive solution will need to be created. But as we have seen in recent internet history, the world wide web is a self-regulating body that suffers when outside legislation (ie SOPA and PIPA) steps in to regulate. So in attempting to find a solution, we should therefore look no further than the ever-evolving innovative engine that drives the world wide web: its users.
by Jacob Frost