Sourcepoint founder Ben Barokas says ad blocking & media is "at war"

Ben Barokas founder and chief executive of Sourcepoint, said that ad-blocking was "an extinction-level event" for publishers and the advertising industry at the Dmexco conference in Cologne, Germany. Apple really shook up the industry when they introduced ad blocking to iOS, and publishers around the web panicked as their incomes took a hit. The number one ad blocking app in Apple iTunes store, called "Peace", was pulled by the publisher himself soon after launching, due to ethical concerns. Barokas called that app out specifically: "The app is called Peace, but it’s really war. Ad-blockers have pitted publishers against their users."

Ben Barokas argues that the current arms race between ad blockers and publishers is "an extinction-level event" for publishers and the advertising industry, because it "kills content." He believes it's too late to change the current system: "The genie is never going back in the bottle." His business, Sourcepoint, detects when someone is loading a web page with an activated ad blocker. It then allows the publisher to decide either to serve the content, ask the user to view the ads in order to see the content, or to subscribe - similar to what Pagefair offers in analytics and nag-options.

Barokas knows that legal action won't help, citing the case of four publishers who took Eyeo, which makes AdBlock Plus, to court in Germany. Consumers have a right to protect their privacy, their data consumption, and their devices. Being given the choice to skip an ad is no longer enough, and pavlovian habits, like me never clicking on a Forbes link just to avoid the carpal tunnel from their "quote of the day" or advertising splash page, won't die until the ads go away. Even if Chrome has killed flash, malware and trojans still weasel in to devices via ad networks and javascript exploits. Noscript, Ad block and other plugins are a means of keeping devices unharmed as much as they are for avoiding ads.

"Everyone has a right to install an ad-blocker, but a publisher also has a right to block content to those who have ad-blockers." Barokas said. But even those can be trouble, as The Economist infected readers with malware via their Pagefair analytics, how ironic.

Barokas: "In the past, the understanding was implicit. Publishers gave people content and put ads on the side thinking the value exchange would happen. But now the ad has been taken out, people don’t realize that blocking ads is sabotaging the creation of content." Barokas promotes the idea of freemiums and premiums, much like we have Hulu and Spotify as subscription services today, which gives users the choice to either get ads, tailored ads, or pay to go ad-free. While we agree with this idea in principle, I worry it's a little too late. "Give the choice to the user - 99% of people would rather not subscribe to lots of sites and will watch the ads" Barokas is convinced, and this was true before people could just zap the ads and still get the milk for free. Barokas argued that publishers needed to have an honest dialogue with their readers on how the ad economy works.

I'm pretty sure most people know how it works by now. CPM killed the blogging stars, birthed clickbait and site phenomena like Upworthy who attracted $12 million in funding, as they simply remixed found youtube clips with annoying headlines, then slapped and ad on it. Production cost is basically zero at that point. With readers now fatigued by the outrage-culture, the easy-share-clicks and with poorly researched articles, it's possible that education may make them "invest" in ad watching on their favourite publications, or simply pay for what they consume. But only if quality improves. You know the old saying, you get what you pay for. A free magazine usually isn't worth the paper its printed on.

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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.