Tech Talk: Ad Blockers! Another Form of Theft?

AdBlock Theft AH 01

Advertising is a huge business online, in 2014 it was reported to hit $140 Billion across the globe in 2014. Simply put, the likes of Google and co are making a lot of money off of advertising. Some users aren’t exactly happy about that however, and many choose to block ads completely on their desktop browsers or using a special app on Android to block ads in games. Blocking ads has gotten a little more difficult over the past few years, but it’s still fairly simple and easy to do. For the majority of users, they see Ad Blockers as a way of getting banner ads and such out of the way to enjoy their browsing. What they might not necessarily realize though is that by blocking these ads they could be hurting the revenue of their favorite websites, game developer or favorite YouTuber. So, is Ad Blocking theft?

If we boil the whole ads vs no ads argument down to its most simple we’re left with two options; either content is hidden behind a paywall to ensure the best experience possible, or people have to endure ads to get a free service. Money has to come from somewhere, developing a mobile game, hosting a website and paying your employees cannot happen without any money, so there has to be money coming from somewhere. Looking at say, YouTube on Android, ads can be annoying at the beginning of a video, but you never paid for any of it. There are many YouTubers out there that work hard, upload videos all the time and we get to watch without paying a single penny, we just need to accept the ads displayed before us. It’s the same with websites such as ourselves, we wouldn’t survive without ads, and while they can be an annoyance, nobody pays to view our website, so there has to be a trade off somewhere.

Blocking ads on a website, or preventing them from loading in a mobile game might make things easier for the user, but it prevents certain revenue making it to the site owner or game developer. That means that by blocking ads you’re effectively stopping people from getting paid, which is sort of like theft, no? It’s hard to say after all, there’s no contract signed between reader and website owner that agrees upon ads, but then like I keep saying this reader has had to pay nothing to view the website. Adblock Plus even signed a deal with Google, Microsoft and Amazon to have their ads whitelisted when using the app, however the parties had to give Adblock Plus 30% of the revenue that would have been seen if none of their ads were blocked. Does this mean that Adblock Plus is stealing 30% of revenue as a result?

Undeniably, ads are getting more and more intrusive, and they’re getting creepier as well. Amazon follows me around the web offering me deals on previously viewed items and I could really do without that. However, I think to myself that without ads I wouldn’t have this job, and without ads existing many of my favorite content creators on YouTube likely wouldn’t produce content that I enjoy watching. Things are changing in the advertising world and with 27% or so of internet browsers using an ad blocker of some kind, things are only set to get more targeted and more creepy in order to see a genuine return. Whether or not ad blockers are stealing is something you’ll have to answer yourself, but what we need to remember is that if you want to enjoy free content online, then the money has to come from somewhere, and if it’s not coming from your pocket then ads are the only other option.