Eventually, in response to continued and widespread ad blocking, more web sites will have to charge for its content and access.
There is an Internet controversy brewing that could change the face of net neutrality, and completely alter the landscape of Internet browsing forever.
Advertising on the Internet is different than advertising on television because it is so well targeted to the website user. But, even though the advertising could be of some interest to the website visitor, it is intrusive because there is so much of it, from pop-ups to side screens to sponsored content.
To address the onslaught of website advertising, some consumers, perhaps as many as 200 million, are now using ad-blocking programs such as Adblock Plus to block advertising on the websites they visit. Similar programs can be downloaded as apps on mobile devices as well.
If advertising does not get to the consumer, its effect is neutralized. If advertising on websites is not going to be effective, it is not going to be used. If it is not used, websites can’t make money from advertising, and ad dollars are the motor that runs the Internet from a cost basis as it exists today.
At its Worldwide Developers Conference last week, Apple showed off its new iOS 9 web browser, but did not promote the fact that app developers will be able to create ad-blocking software for its Safari mobile browsers. Apple is one of the few companies that don’t rely on advertising, so it can afford to determine which sites gets its ads through to consumers and which do not.
At present, the way the Internet works is that most content is free of charge because the content provider can offer advertising to companies who pay for the privilege of running their advertising on the website. If advertisers decide that business model is not effective, they will stop paying for the privilege, and website access will stop being free.
Eyeo, which makes Adblock Plus, says its product has been downloaded more than 400 million times. That’s 400 million customers who are not getting the advertising targeted at them, advertising that pays for the website those 400 million people are using.
There are a large number of estimates about how much advertising is being blocked, but no definitive research. Web sites that are visited by more tech-savvy consumers are the ones most likely to see their ads blocked. Video game sites, for instance, often see ad blocks, and there are some estimates that as many as half of all ads are blocked on those types of sites.
Web publishers are trying to get around ad blocks. Some use less intrusive advertising, while others are coming right out and telling consumers that if they block ads, the website publisher will have to charge for content.
Some sites are blocking users who use ad-blocking software. European companies are being very aggressive in this area, and several media groups in Germany have sued Eyeo for constraint of trade.
Some companies producing ad-blocking software, like Eyeo, have reportedly created what are being called “whitelists”, a list of companies that pay Eyeo not to block their advertising, which some people see as extortion. Either way, it changes the face of net neutrality.
Meanwhile, companies that produce the smartphones, tablets and laptops as well as operating systems are now banning ad-blocking apps and downloads. However, alternative web browsers are advertising the fact they allow ad-blockers, and consumers are downloading those web browsers on their devices to use for searching the Internet.
And it goes on. There are designs now for ad-blocking software that not only blocks advertising on web sites, but blocks it on apps as well.
In the end, advertising companies will pay only for ads on sites that are not blocked. Web browser companies will do whatever it takes, including paying, to make sure advertising gets through. Ad block producers will continue to offer “whitelists’’ to websites or advertisers to allow certain ads, those that have made a “contribution’’ to get on the whitelists.
What all this means is that eventually, Internet access will end up costing more as advertising dollars dry out. Remember “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.”
Kent McDill is a staff writer for Millionaire Corner. McDill spent 30 years as a sports writer, working for United Press International and the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill. From 1988-1999, he covered the Chicago Bulls for the Daily Herald, traveling with them every day through the nine-month season. He also covered the Bulls for UPI from 1985-88, and currently covers the team for www.nba.com. He has written two books on the Bulls, including the new title “100 Things Bulls Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die’, published by Triumph Books. In August 2013, his new book “100 Things Bears Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die” gets published.
In 2008, he resigned from the Herald and became a freelance writer. The Herald hired him to write business features and speeches for the Daily Herald Business Conferences and Awards presentations.
McDill also writes a monthly parenting column for the Herald’s Suburban Parent magazine.
McDill is the father of four children, and an active fan of soccer, Jimmy Buffett and all things Disney.