Saturday, May 14, 2016

Ad-blocking may change the Internet into paywall

New research indicates that ad-Blocking is costing publishers dearly and may well change the very nature of the Internet.

Few people like the intrusive pop-ups and irritating animated ads flickering next to an article we're trying to read, but with an all or nothing ad-blocker filtering out these elements on the webpages we visit, Internet users are essentially starving the publishers of their much needed revenue.

According to new research digital publishers stand to lose more than $27bn of revenue by 2020 as a result of ad-blocking. The report, Worldwide Digital Advertising: 2016-2020, from Juniper Research, revealed that developer activity is set to increase over the next five years, making ad-blockers more sophisticated and difficult to overcome [Register / Research Live].

And on mobile ad-blocking is also increasing and is becoming a growing threat to a mobile advertising market worth more than $31 billion [Guardian].

Even though a lot of people see ad-blocking as harmless, it does harm a lot of businesses. Indeed, for a commercially sustainable Internet, advertising is essential.

Without advertising, publishers will be forced to adopt new models for revenue, which will most likely mean less and low-quality content will be available for free. The rest will be on a pay-for basis.

Ad-blocking is a wake-up call for advertising agencies and the media who use them, it's telling them that consumers are becoming more discerning and demanding, but this could backfire as big news media and publications adopt more invasive advertising approaches including sponsored articles, back-links and so on.

But while the larger organisations will manoeuvre around ad-blocking technology, smaller publishers and bloggers will be harder hit. Smaller publishers are most at risk from the rapid adoption of ad-blocking software as they often solely rely on revenues from advertising to continue operating. And while independent bloggers may only make a few dollars per month from advertising it is an incentive for them to continue providing online content.

Many blogs are trite and not worth the digital space they take up. But free independent content is as important as the big corporate publishing houses. Without the smaller blogs and small independent publishers the Independent may become a domain in which only the likes of the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Daily Telegraph exist.

Such publications are already shifting towards limited access with a paywall implemented after a certain number of pages having been accessed.

Even 'free' services such as Google and Facebook may find themselves changing their approach as ad-blocking eats up their main source of income. For Google with so many branches to their tree, solutions may be less problematic. Paid users may essentially subsidise the free content. But for the likes of Facebook finding a business model to replace the ads may be more difficult. How many Facebook users would be willing to pay an annual subscription fee after all?

Advertising, targeted through Google tracking with adsense/adwords or not, never really bothered people until they became intrusive.

Once they were a simple classified type advertisement, maybe with a nice picture. But online ads started to become more and more invasive. Irritating Flash based ads distracted the user from what one was reading. Pop-ups got in the way of what one was reading and had to be closed sometimes prompting another page to open. And then there were embedded videos which autoplayed.

Not only did these ads irritate users, they also used up bandwidth and slowed down the loading time. For those on mobile connections or slower connections these elements are even more unwanted since page downloads will cost time and even money.

So while many web users would happily accept a sensible advertising policy many sites disrespected their readers forcing them to employ ad-blockers.

Unfortunately once people install ad-blockers few people will tweak them to exclude blocking on certain sites. Therefore everyone gets punished, the websites and the advertisers.

The battle is essentially lost and the web will gradually become subscription or PAYG as advertisers lose out to the ad-blockers and content providers are forced to apply different fundraising methods or disappear from the web altogether.

Facebook et al say they'll always be free but given ads pay for their services their hand may be forced. The same may be true of YouTube and other Google services. Ads pay for your Facebook, YouTube and 15 GB Google account. Remember there's no such thing as a free lunch.

In the end, it is not about feeling guilty for ad-blocking your favourite website, it is about realizing how your actions are to your disadvantage in the long-run. Indeed ad-blocking may kill the free Internet and turn it into a massive paywall [Guardian].

tvnewswatch, London, UK

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