Along with ad blocking technology comes a sort of defiance or proclamation of liberty. Advocates insist they have a right to banish digital advertising from their browser experience. In many ways, this is a natural reaction to the numerous annoyances brought by over zealous advertisers: pop-up ads, auto-playing video ads with sound, sticky ads that stay in place regardless of how a user scrolls the screen, countdown ads, and more. These ads are indeed annoying; who could blame a visitor for wanting to be rid of such things?
Interestingly, some are using ad blocking unknowingly. When blocking is built into a browser or a feature of some other product, users may not know whether blocking is enacted or how to turn it off.
At the same time, other users insist that they should not have to be subjected to any advertising. It seems that some users do not grasp the tacit agreement between access to free content and the viewing of ads. This model or unspoken agreement is a common one, one that has existed since the beginning of radio and television programming and dates back to early newspapers and magazines.
As we well know, content costs money. Free content really means access to content without an outright payment of cash in exchange for being subjected to advertising. Ad blocking diminishes or completely threatens that model.
Anti-ad blocking or unblocking has been around for several years and produces mixed but generally good results. Apomaya has introduced a new technology that efficiently defeats ad blocking, rendering it ineffective. Despite having a way to protect the health and viability of their operations, some publishers struggle with the thought of undermining the user. If a user does not want to be subjected to ads, isn’t it adversarial to go against them? If we unblock ads, will we ruin the relationship we have with readers and diminish their loyalty?
To begin with, there is the well-established social contract of quid pro quo: free content for ad viewing. As I mentioned, this model predates even the existence of radio and television programming.
In one sense, overriding the user-publisher social contract with ad blockers is akin to theft. Insisting that one should get access to content without any direct or indirect cost is akin to believing that taxes or traffic laws don’t apply to oneself. While this may be an extreme view, there are shades of it that might be felt by some people. Similarly, some may feel that because advertising on certain sites has gotten out of hand in terms of annoyance and intrusion, they have permission to block all ads.
If a reader or visitor chooses to violate the implied contract that governs the exchange, a publisher has the right to respond in kind. By using unblocking technology, publishers could choose to (1) bar a visitor from content, (2) require that the visitor first pay to have access to the content or (3) override the blocking to deliver the ads as intended. Visitors could even be offered a choice between the options.
Unblocking enables publishers to right the social contract or empower users to make a responsible choice. Of course, this also presents a challenge to publishers to ensure that users are not besieged with ads that are either annoying or intrusive. It also charges publishers with protecting the privacy and security of their audiences.
Unfortunately, because publishers lack transparency and control of their sites due to the extensive use of third-party code and calls required with today’s digital ad ecosystem, they are limited in what they can do to uphold such responsibilities. This simply cannot be achieved unless the third-party system is changed to a first-party one in the way Apomaya transforms it.
As publishers begin to use ad unblocking technology, they should also commit to protecting users and ensuring the best experiences. These two capabilities should go hand in hand.