Ad blockers are causing a stir in the advertising industry and don’t seem to be stopping anytime soon. Consumers are using them, publishers are trying to stop them, and advertisers are panicking, all while ad blockers seem to be reaping the rewards. While there is no reliable estimate on how many people use ad blockers, the general consensus is that the number is growing. Which begs a few questions – at what point will certain sites stop being free? Will this hurt new concepts that need to generate trial and rely on ad revenue?
While some ad blocking services are non-profit, most are trying to make money just like the advertisers themselves. Adblock Plus—possibly the most popular ad blocker on the Internet—is a business. Many equate it to the online ad mafia because its business model basically exists on taking a cut from advertisers that pay them to get whitelisted. Sure, they make it seem like they are protecting consumers from evil data collectors and attention-hungry advertisers, but the reality, according to WIRED and industry media buyers, is that if the company displaying the ads is willing to split the revenue gained by whitelisting with Adblock Plus, then that’s acceptable. Adblock Plus has also reached out to some to solicit their business.
Other ad blockers, such as mobile app Crystal take a similar bribe, we mean, whitelisting approach. It’s only a matter of time that these ad-blocking companies are taken to court over extortion charges. Ghostery, another popular ad blocker, makes money by collecting anonymized data on what those trackers pick up. It repackages that data and resells it to publishers, websites, and other companies. Talk about a breach of privacy.
Either way, the good news for creative agencies and clients is that more marketing will be native— content that dovetails with the editorial material itself. For other types of online publishers, they’ll have to find other ways to generate revenue through their entertainment, information or a social platform. And if they don’t charge a subscription, they’ll be using your data in a far more personal way than a targeted ad.