I started AndroidHeadlines nine years ago based on a passion for Android and technology. At first it started as a hobby and made no money, although it quickly became an expensive hobby, at which point I had to make the decision of whether to try and make this a full-time job, scale it back, or close down the site completely. Looking back, I believe I made the right decision by continuing with the site. Today Google is implementing its version of an “ad blocker” although they prefer to call it an an ad filter. Which makes me happy and afraid all at the same time. Up until now I have been reluctant to share my opinion on this topic and have preferred to let the internet sort it out on its own, although now I feel it is the right time to share my feelings.
Ad blockers did not originate due to websites (or even ad companies) but due to advertisers wanting to push the envelope to make sure their ads were seen. Small and tiny ads on the side of the page were no longer enough with advertisers preferring larger, in your face, and louder ads. Needless to say, ad companies were obliged to comply with the needs of their clients resulting in the use of noisy and intrusive ads that were inevitably always going to annoy users. This in turn led to some looking for a solution to silence these ads and the era of the ad blocker was born.
Like most people, I hate ads. Whether they are on my website, my smartphone, my TV, my radio, in magazines, in my mailbox, on billboards, and even in washrooms – as they are literally everywhere these days. So it makes sense that some have opted to make use of an ad blocker. What I do hate more than ads though is no revenue for our company as when a site starts to make no, or very little, money there is a domino effect where people like me find it hard to pay bills, pay employees, pay the developers to improve the user experience, or for that matter, pay the IRS. This then leads to a wider knock-on effect where the people affected are no longer putting money into the economy, and there are job losses throughout the industry and the community. To be clear, this is not just a problem for me or my site, it is a problem for all sites, and everyone who works for, or with, a site – this is the larger issue where that domino starts to become more of a snowball.
While this might sound like an exaggerated viewpoint, it is not. The number one revenue loss for companies like ours is ad blockers. So while I personally do not like ads as much as the next person, they are the basis of the business model used by sites like mine. They not only fund the site, but also everyone who works for and with the site, and help us to produce the content people read. If everyone used ad blockers the internet would cease to exist as it is and would look very different. This is the reality of the situation as in the absence of ads, sites would need to find other (and more direct) means of generating revenue and some already do – such as charging the user money to read content. A $1 here, $100 per year there, and so on. I don’t want to pay to read content on a website and I assume other people do not want to either, as once that is the standard model in place then suddenly the internet – and everything that makes it great – will be inaccessible to some. Another case of where those who can afford, can do. So while ads are annoying, they do serve a very important purpose in our industry. Affording readers – everyone – the ability to read great content in exchange for seeing some ads on the page. Although ads are not inherently bad, some are. As there are those ads which include auto-playing videos, pop-ups, hide malware, and takeover homepages. Like most people, these are the ads that really annoy me on websites, including when they appear on our site – which is when I have to get in contact with our ad companies and ask them to block those ads.
This is what Google is hoping to help with, as the new ad filter is not designed to hurt the industry, or sites, but help both. Google knows ad blockers are bad for business (including its own) and is a real threat to the future of many sites. So what Google can hopefully do with this filter is weed out bad ads, which in turn will help to deter advertisers and advertising companies from insisting on using more prominent and intrusive ads in the future. This will not only result in a better and more acceptable user experience, but will also help in other areas of the experience. For example, less demand placed on web pages will result in quicker load times, and quicker access to the content readers are there in the first place to digest.
Some have also raised concerns about sites that run too many ads. I would be the first to admit that we run more ads on our site then I would like, but in the current climate there is not much of an option. As less ads is not viable right now. We have tried this and it has just not worked out with as much as two-thirds of our revenue disappearing along with those extra ads. Our revenue is no different to your income, if that too was suddenly cut by two-thirds it would most certainly have an impact on your life and the things you want to do. In spite of this, we are always looking to try to cut down on the number of ads and are right now working on several different ideas to make that happen – but the truth is, it is not easy. I am not here to tell people what to do and how to engage with the internet but what I would say is now is the time to uninstall an ad blocker and help support the industry. After all, if you are reading this, then you are a part of that industry. While ad blockers have served a purpose up until now Google is making a huge move here to try and fundamentally change the relationship the internet has with ads and while Google is a super powerful company, that change is largely going to be dependent on the wider community also doing its part.
Make no mistake ad blockers have the power to change everything. A grocery store, for example, sells various items and if someone was to continually access those items without paying for them it seems unlikely the grocery store would remain in business for very long. Websites are no different as viewing ads (not necessarily clicking through them) is a form of payment and ad blockers are aiding in avoiding sites being paid for the content and service they provide. This is a model that is unsustainable in the long-term. This is why Google is doing what it is now doing in the hope that users will uninstall their ad blocker and use its filtering service instead. By doing so, users will be actively helping to support their favorite sites on the internet. Which in turn will help those sites to improve and produce even better content in the future.
There will be people who worry about privacy and who fundamentally just do not like ads. These people no doubt will never uninstall an ad blocker while also arguing the case of why they should be used. On the flip side though, I – and literally 99-percent of the rest of the website owners – will continue to argue just how important it is to support sites by disabling ad blockers and allowing ‘good ad’ access. But again, while us, all of the other websites, Google, advertisers, and ad companies, will continue to try to undo the damage done by those who have abused the ad industry, the combined efforts will all be for nothing if people continue to use ad blockers. Here is the crux of our argument – if you don’t like the ads (or the number of them) a site puts out, then just don’t visit that site. This is a two-way relationship and sites that abuse the use of ads will be punished through readers not visiting. The issue with ad blockers is that they punish all sites equally.
Like everyone, sites have the right to be paid for its services, and pay the bills they incur through the generation and provision of those services. The alternative is sites will be forced to either lessen the quality of their content (or site), reduce the number of employees they have, or of course, fuel the perpetual cycle of displaying more ads on a page to compensate. This is where readers, along with the help of Google, can really make a difference as sites (even those with too many ads) will be able to decrease the number when each ad is effectively being used to its potential. The last point really is one to take on board as while ad blockers are seen by some as a “solution” they are arguably adding to the problem for those who have continued to support the industry by displaying ads. As more sites have been forced to increase the number of ads, introduce paywalls, limit the number of articles you can read for “free,” and introduce other direct ways of monetizing its readers. This is the true effect of ad blockers – people having to pay for content or face being limited to it.
Therefore, on behalf of myself, and all of the website owners out there, I urge you to take this opportunity to remove your ad blocker and let Google (and the industry at large) clean up the ad business once and for all to create a better user experience for everyone who uses this great place we call the internet.