The Life and Death of The Internet Publisher
The War on Ad Block Plus

By: Daniel Imbellino
Updated: Dec 20, 2015

Over the course of the past decade the number of internet users blocking ads on the web has grown at an alarming rate,ad blocking sign with people implementing programs such as Ad Block Plus to block all those annoying popups once and for all. Unfortunately, what many have failed to realize is that, all that ad blocking software is causing serious economic turmoil today, costing content publishers on the web billions of dollars in annual revenue, forcing the loss of millions of jobs worldwide each year, and squeezing out employers at a time when people who need work the most are already struggling to find it. In essence, the internet now lies on its death bed, slowly fighting an inevitable demise that’s been long foreseen, all while ad blocking programs like Ad Block Plus revert to extortion in order to earn revenue from larger publishers.

Here we’re going to explore some of the implications and effects that ad blocking programs have on the internet, as well as some possible solutions for both users and publishers alike.

It’s All About You Right?

Despite the economic chaos that wraps the web in a vacuum of destruction, the average internet user doesn’t have a care in the world that the ad blocking programs they use on a day to day basis are forcing family’s to move into their mini vans and out of the middle class work force they once called home. The truth is, while the world would like to believe the internet is free, it definitely is not. Somebody had to create each and every piece of content that is available on the web today, it all requires hard work, and just like you rely on a pay check from your employer to cut your bills each month, so do internet publishers and those they employ, essentially tens of millions of workers! What this basically means is, when you block ads on the internet, you are virtually robbing people of their own pay checks, and putting families in the poor house, and once thriving online businesses on their death bed.

The Cost to Publishers:

Recently, Mochimedia, one of the worlds’ largest distributors of online games announced they would be shutting their doors by March 31st 2014: Mochmedia Winding Down, and its apparent they are now no longer solvent, and not without cause. Ad blocking programs have ruined much of the online gaming industry, and in the case of Mochimedia, the implications for others will stretch far and wide. With the platform shutting down, online game sites could lose a majority of their games and be forced to follow suit, and all the game developers and publishers on that platform are now essentially out of work.

Mochimedia distributed over 90,000 online games to more than 40,000 publishers, and likely around 60,000 websites! The job losses will easily be in the tens of thousands, and a lot of online game sites will likely shut their doors. Although other issues besides ad bocking programs were also to blame for their demise; including the fact they allowed developers to dump out low quality games to their platform, and the ads were often way too long (30 seconds on average).

Holding Sites for Ransom:

Like many ad blocking programs on the web, Ad Block Plus makes money by holding websites for ransom! As stated on their own site here, the company earns revenue by forcing publishers to pay up, otherwise their ads will remain blocked. It’s all part of their “Acceptable Ads” policy, in which web publishers are allowed to show non intrusive, text only ads, for a fee, if they actually get approved that is. That’s right they are essentially threatening hard working entities on the web, including smaller publishers, into submission. In fact, Ad Block Plus is making a killing right now, with millions of dollars of annual revenue, while many of the publishers they extort drown in debt. In the case of Google, the loss of revenue is about a billion dollars annually, and Google now pays ad block plus in order to remain on their “white list” of publishers, although no one knows how much. That’s a billion dollars worth of pay checks down the tubes each and every year.

Ad blocking programs serve only one purpose on the web, and that’s to extort as many publishers of their revenue as possible. In recent years developers have been dumping out new ad blocking programs onto the web faster than you can blink an eye. One thing the developers and organizations involved in this industry all share in common is that, they’re all sociopaths bent on getting rich any way they can, even if it means wiping out the entire internet in order to do it. With them, it’s all about the money, nothing else matters.

Essentially what this means is, as long as you can pay us, we will leave you alone. This is akin to having robbers break down your front door, holding you at gun point, taking all your belongings, only to call days later and offer your stuff back for a sizeable fee. Other than to pilfer publishers of their revenue, these programs are literally created to rob the internet of its wealth, and they’ve done an excellent job of this so far.

Ad blocking programs tamper with the functionality of websites. They work in many different ways, usually by blocking ad networks that disperse advertising across the internet, but in some cases they go to extremes and block HTML elements directly in web pages, and often they end up blocking the wrong elements, causing some websites to display improperly, and causing a lot of headaches for publishers and internet users alike.

The Cost to Internet Users:

That ad free experience you enjoy also affords you a web full of useless content and unending spam! Being as the average publishers revenue streams are now drying up, many publishers have now resulted to mass publishing techniques, in which they publish as much content as quickly as possible in hopes to rank for more content in order to make up for their short falls in advertising revenue. The results for end users are disastrous.

In other cases, many publishers are unable to create the level of new, informative, and useful content for users that they once did. Less revenue means less content creation, less editors, and less to offer to those surfing the web. In the case of this site, I am unable to complete tutorials that those looking to learn about IT could use to make their lives in the industry better. Not to mention server costs alone can be enormous. All being said no revenue means less informative content and more spam on the web. People aren’t going to just go to work for free every day.

They Violate U.S Federal Law:

Besides the economic consequences that ad blocking programs bring with them, they also happen to violate U.S federal laws, such is the case with the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act , in which it clearly states “A computer which is used in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce or communication, including a computer located outside the United States that is used in a manner that affects interstate or foreign commerce or communication of the United States...”, as noted Here. Being as virtually all communications on the web are considered interstate communications, ad blocking programs are definitely in violation of federal laws. When these programs block ads, they’re essentially tampering with the communication of data on the web, without the explicit consent of the person who owns that data. Not to mention they also violate laws regarding extortion that are defined within this act as well. So far the U.S Justice Department has never taken any civil or criminal action against those involved in the ad blocking industry, but this is likely to change in the future as more and more publishers feel the squeeze of financial ruin and begin to take legal action in order to protect their property.

What about Those Annoying Ads?

While they may seem annoying to you, they’re also the entity that breathes life to the internet so that it can continue to function. Yes, there are bad publishers on the web who dump a ridiculous amount of popups and sliding ads across their sites, but this doesn’t account for all internet based publishers. What about the sites you visit the most often? Obviously you must trust them, or you wouldn’t be there! So why are you not supporting them? What if those favorite sites of yours disappeared? Often they now are! That’s it, get mad at one tree and cut down the whole forest!

At present, Google is ramping up their efforts in combating sites with too many ads above the fold (The visible content you see when a web page loads), including the use of too many popups, and ranking those sites much lower as a result.

If ads annoy you, then be forewarned, ad blocking programs are actually a major cause of domains now being riddled with too many ads. Some sites hammer their audiences with tons of ads in hopes of making up for those who block them, destroying the experience for those who don’t use ad blocking programs when browsing the web. That being said, the use of these programs actually causes more problems than it ever solves.

What Users Can Do:

If you do use an ad blocking program during your web browsing sessions, consider disabling them for the sites you trust, this shows your support for those who’s content you engage with often. You can always leave your ad blocking software on for the sites you don’t trust. This keeps the sites you enjoy the most online, and provides them with the revenue they need to keep creating great content for users like you.

What Publishers Can Do:

Some publishers have now begun to implement anti-ad blocking software programs to thwart software applications such as ad block plus, and they do work, such as the one from Antiblock.org, which effectively blocks adblocking programs before they can strike. The script from Antiblock gives publishers the option to lock a web page upon visitor arrival, notifying them they must turn off their ad blocking software in order to access the site. Publishers also have the option to require that users have javascript enabled.

While I haven’t gone to this extreme yet myself, the likelihood of this happening on this domain in the future is very probable. At present, as much as 40% of all daily visitors here are using ad blocking software when accessing this site, definitely a cause for concern.

Another option for publishers is to find alternate avenues of revenue, such as the creation and promotion of ebooks, as many tech bloggers have already taken this route, and many draw a sizeable living this way. Other publishers offer specialized products or services related to their content somewhere at the end of their post, this too can drive sales and bring much needed revenue.

The Way Forward:

While I could make the age old statement of “support the web, turn off your ad blocking software”, the statement would be useless, and it’s unlikely to make a difference. Again, what internet users need to understand is that the quality of your experience on the web relies on advertising. All those fun things you do online like, play games, chat on social media, and read the latest news, would never exist without advertising revenue. If publisher’s ads don’t load, they don’t get paid, and in many cases they go out of business entirely as a result, and users then lose access to those sites and their content forever.

Just as you wouldn’t want people you don’t know coming into your home and tampering with your belongings, online publishers too have a right to protect their property.

For publishers today, many options are on the table to take back control of the internet we once worked so hard to build, such as the idea I mentioned above about using anti-ad blocking programs to block those culprits, taking legal action when necessary, and advising internet users as to the costs these programs bring to the web.

Either way, a war between internet thieves who steal revenue and those who actually work hard to support the internet has just begun. In the long run, it’s likely a majority of web publishers will simply block those who use ad blocking programs, with many sites already doing this now. If enough sites begin to block enough users, it will eventually become a choir for those surfing the web to constantly disable their ad blockers in order to access anything on the internet. That being said, it’s possible that ad blocking entities like ad block plus could eventually get choked out of business the same way they choked out publishers for so long.

While it may feel like the death of internet publisher is not far ahead, it’s likely many publishers will learn to adapt to an evolving internet by finding alternate avenues of revenue as I previously mentioned above. On the other hand, internet users by now should know that advertising is just part of the internet, and it’s one of those the things the world will just have to learn to accept.

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