How does in-browser ad blocking affect websites on the Internet
Ad blocking tools in the browser
Some users install software or browser extensions (also called “plugins”) to “block” ads from appearing on their machine. These tools disrupt the delivery of the image of the ad or in fact any information from the Publisher-side ad server (See Chapter 2 – Publishers) to the user’s browser. Ad blocking was more functional in the days of dial-up when bandwidth was precious and loading an ad meant an extra ten minutes of page load time. Today bandwidth is so quick that ad blocking would serve very little purpose in speeding up page load times (ads usually make up a tiny percentage of the “weight” of the whole page as the files are downloaded from the server). Instead these ad blocking tools are used to provide an ad-free internet experience. All stakeholders operating in Online Advertising need to be able to respond to questions about Ad Blocking but since the mechanism is so simple it is the wider impact of these tools that requires focus as an Ad-Free internet experience is a threat to the whole medium of the web. This in turn concludes our summary of the relevant features of the browser in Online Advertising.
With such far reaching potential, the web comes with its own politics and the politics frame the development and demands for further supporting technologies. The web is predominantly used, by its users to source and digest written and (more recently) video content. Content takes time to produce. I once set about building a content heavy website: it took hours, days and weeks of time to compile. Apart from learning obtaining new skills and having the warming experience of contributing to a giant database of useful information about the world, I was only compelled to continue adding such content by receiving money in return.
The two most compelling options for a website owner to produce quality content are to charge a subscription fee for the service (plaguing the user with a cost out of their own wallet) or to seem to offer the content for free to the user, at the cost to the Advertiser (who are really just paying for the attention span of a “targeted” user).
Ad blocking is not an undetectable weapon on consumer combat; the failed attempt by the server to deliver ads is detected each time it occurs. As this failure rate grows, there is an inverse decline in the size of the audience for the website/Publisher to offer to their Advertiser base. A decline in the audience size means a decline in revenue, which ultimately leads to a decline in both the amount (and more importantly) the quality of the content because less money is available to help produce it.
Content is king online. The best content draws the most attention and although the growth of user generated content (UGC) has been rapid and far reaching; the quality user “traffic” remains with big Publishers where it always has done (and more niche “long tail” audiences hop to more obscure websites with lower levers of traffic). Thankfully technologies like Advertising Exchanges are making some ground in balancing the books.
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