The ad blocking wars heat up : Telecoms who own "the road" to the internet threaten Google & Yahoo

Ad blocking, the escalating war between consumers and publishers and ad networks in blocking and denying those blocks have really begun to shake the industry to the core. Publishers have tried varying tactics to keep readers & income. They've begged for readers to not use ad block, tried tactics like "you can have fewer ads if you unblock us" like Forbes did, ironically serving malware to anyone who obeyed. Some, like Techdirt, offered readers a way to simply turn off ads. Meanwhile, we put adland on the dark web to offer our readers an alternative route in, if they care about their privacy, as we run on Paypal and bitcoin:34CBC5ktw5TqzUSTXfEfGkMkNBWK4bFZF1 donations. It's clear that a new income model is needed for publications whose content, the news they write and video segments or podcasts they create, can't survive on advertising support when the advertising is blocked. Many publications are branching out, using other platforms such as Youtube in order to try and wrangle some income from the Google owned property that will never get banned from Adsense.

While Campaign writer Marco Bertozzi laments that ad blocking can end our industry, and wonders why nobody is stepping up to change that, there are alternatives appearing and ideas that might help. Marco Bertozzi notes that Three (3) are now blocking ads on a network level all over Europe, and it won't be long until all the other telecoms follow suit. We've already seen how Telia Sonera experimented with putting their ads over peoples content on cellular phones, telecoms are in a unique position as the "digital road owners" to block or add ads to their networks. The panic over ad blocking reveals there's platform wars coming, increasingly the social & media platforms we've been lured into using can prevent your "free" promotion, and they will start selling your reach. As Marco Bertozzi points out, the reasons advertisers never noticed the problem before was "They ask for media and they get media, often at a lower price than last year so everything is rosy." In short, they haven't been reading adland as closely as they should have, we've known for years that digital ads are a scam, digital paid media is a fraud. Marco ends with a rant about ad blockers rise to the establishment posse:

One thing we could all do is not allow ad-blocking companies into conferences as the IAB did in the US because the lights that beam on the stage, the food they happily eat in the break, the drinks they consume in the bar afterwards and everything in between is paid for by advertising. For that reason alone they should not be invited.

Eyeo’s AdBlock Plus offers publishers the ability to pay a fee to them, in order to allow certain ads through. This is not a new feature we had to switch domains in 2006 because our was automatically ad blocked, but big corporations like Apple had no problems at all. Publishers are split on how to tackle ad blocking, with 62% of UK publishers selecting to ask readers to "whitelist our website", while 90% of UK publishers were opposed to paying fees to ad blockers that allow specific ads to be whitelisted, and ultimately displayed, such as Eyeo’s AdBlock Plus. Marissa Mayer thinks better ads will prevent ad blocking, firmly slamming the issue onto the creatives and clients, but she's wrong. People block as much to keep their privacy intact as they do to avoid being stalked by the shoes they looked at when they were shopping online.

With everyone hit by malware, from TMZ to the Economist it's little wonder that readers & consumers finally had enough. What happened? We've widened the circle of trust too far : for each embed and javascript and network and tracker we allow onto our websites, we open up new security hole as they too have trackers and third party vendors. Optimal has a neat idea, their users pay to use the ad blocker, and Optimal splits the income generated with the publishers visited.

Apple launched "News"! where "everyone" can publish (though, they have yet to get back to us to explain how we can). A new browser has been born, Brave, which will block ads by default and insert approved ads in their place, protecting the readers privacy while still supporting the publication - and slicing themselves a cut of that digital media budget pie. SatoshiPay allows website publishers to earn bitcoin by adding a lightweight paywall to content, thus finally offering something akin to the micropayments discussed almost 20 years ago.

A Yahoo and a Google Exec called out mobile ad blocker Shine at an ad tech conference, signalling that the big banner ad dinosaurs might actually fear this change.

Benjamin Faes, managing director of media and platforms at Google was alarmed by the ad blockers that work directly with mobile carriers:

"I'm very uncomfortable by the idea that an operator or an ad-blocking company can decide on my behalf that I'm not seeing any ads," he added. "In that case, we see an issue for the user themselves. More and more, publishers just can't afford to give that content for free without the fair trade of ad-business content."

Meanwhile, his own company Google banned us from adsense on arbitrary reasons, but I guess he has no problem with his company deciding on our readers behalf which articles we shouldn't be writing. For us to escape the ban, we were asked to remove ads from specific articles that criticized sexist advertising - which comes dangerously close to policing a publications speech.

Nick Hugh, Yahoo's VP and GM of advertising in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, went one step further and warned the ecosystem might get destroyed:

"My concern with this blunt instrument is you're blocking at a network level. But, actually at a publisher or property level, there are some that are very good. If you block everyone, you completely destroy the value exchange and the ecosystem."

As a telecom consumer, I pay money for my data and in most cases I do not want to spend it on downloading an irrelevant ad. If my telecom network blocks all ads on a network level, this would be a service to me as their consumer. The only issue I see here is that nobody seems to worry about how the content producer gets paid. As usual.

Maybe we can all sell T-shirts?

about the author

Dabitch Creative Director, CEO, hell-raising sweetheart and editor of Adland. Globetrotting Swede who has lived and worked in New York, London, San Francisco, Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Stockholm.

Comments (3)

  • Marco's picture
    Marco (not verified)

    Thanks for the comments and references, how the publisher gets paid is completely the issue and I am huge supporter of the publisher, this is by no means just about ads, it's about the industry and all of its various parts. I present to schools on the value exchange of ads, data and content as it is crucial we get that message across. This article was more focused in this instance on how we improve our part of the equation. Thanks

    Mar 03, 2016
  • Dabitch's picture

    > about the industry

    Absolutely. The ad industry, shady as it may seem to some has been good at self-regulating poor practices in the past, but seems to have totally dropped the ball on email marketing (see Spam) and banner ad networks, partly due to the global connectivity of it all. The global industry needs to have an honest sit-down now that the ad-blockers seem to have gained the upper hand. This is an arms race between consumers and advertisers, and the kid caught in the middle is the publisher/content creator. We have devalued content to the point of it being worth zero to the creator, but millions to the person with the right database. This should certainly be discussed a lot more and I'm relieved that it finally is. Thanks for your piece and commenting here, Marco.

    Mar 06, 2016
  • Petter Flink's picture
    Petter Flink (not verified)

    When advertising were mainly print the consumer could decide themselves if they would like to read it or not. Good ads got attention and produced ROI for the ad. Bad ads got laughed at at best and ignored at worst. As we moved into a digital domain, ads began to turn into screen estate invasive and cpu consuming flash blobs in the hunt for attention and clicks. It was not about to out whit the opponent it was all about screaming loudest in the browser while tracking the consumers every step, every location and every mood they were in. Every time they visited any site. Content producers as well as ad creators have allowed poorly produced flash ads to fill their sites without any understanding or thought of what happens when you stop caring for your customer or your customers customer. On top of this the massive tracking and data analysis which could be used in a sound and fair way is becoming hard currency. I'm pretty sure we are on a path toward war instead of one seeking understanding. A balance where content producers as well as advertisers will get paid. But - and it is a huge but - it have to be on terms accepted by everyone. Even the consumers. If we believe the consumers are annoying factors in these equations we will lose consumers trust and I would actually say that it might even damage the brand value and loyalty in the end.

    Mar 11, 2016

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