5 March 2017
Apple’s new mobile operating system allows users to install adblocker software that removes adverts, analytics and tracking while using Apple’s Safari browser. This decision has caused an uproar from the mobile and web advertising industry who claim that adblockers are a huge problem and this ultimately raises the question can we have a ‘free’ web without advertising?
Why People Use Adblockers
Most people use adblockers to stop intrusive advertising from ruining their online experience, especially on mobile. Examples of these are pop-ups, ads that distort the web page and being forced to watch long videos with no skip feature. A number of websites use third party advertisers to insert ads into their webpage, while this is very time effective it can mean that the site’s publisher has limited input into what ads feature on their page which in turn leads to ads that can be intrusive, irrelevant and occasionally offensive.
The digital advertising industry argues that adblockers undermine the source of revenue for websites that rely upon ads to stay active. They argue that without ads the only option for new competitors is subscription based revenue that is used by larger businesses. Although this is partially true this arguments is based solely on the idea that new competitors (whether they are websites, social media or apps) have large user bases to draw from for this revenue, which of course is not true. A majority of new start-ups rely on investment to grow and only after this growth can they begin to advertise.
However it is unreasonable to say that content shouldn’t be paid for. We try to ignore adverts in printed media but with mobile ads there are different consideration such as app data. It is estimated that, depending on location, ads use 10-50% of a users app data.
As consumers we understand that to gain access to this free or low cost content we are being exposed to ads and in general thats acceptable, but the number of adblockers is increasing.The UK’s Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) believe that 15% of British adults use adblockers. This large proportion shows that the advertising industry is doing something that as consumer we don’t like.
Finally I feel that it’s perfectly acceptable for mobile and web users to install adblockers and to have the choice to ‘opt-out’ of a sea of annoying, irrelevant and page distorting ads. However we can’t have it both ways, if we are going to see a decrease in the number of ads, whether it be all together or just the irritating ones, we have to be willing to accept that paying for certain types of content might be the answer. My opinion is that as a compromise that websites who still wish to display ads that are in the category of those discussed earlier warn users prior to accessing content and those who display more user friendly ads should allow for users to skip videos or have the ads remain as sidebars etc.