Sunday, December 6, 2015

Ad avoidance trend threatens news media, TV industries

When advertising becomes intrusive, consumers will find ways to avoid it.
The more ads are packed into a television broadcast, the more people will opt to skip them with DVRs and by subscribing to commercial-free services like Netflix.
The cramming of ads and Web trackers on news and information websites has led to the rise of ad-blocking technology.
Consumers today are pushing back against advertising because ads have gone from benign to annoying. And the TV and online news industries are worried.
The television industry has responded with more product placements in shows (Pepsi on “Empire”) and live events where viewers are more likely to watch live and sit through the commercials (“The Wiz Live” on NBC).
Advertiser-supported websites are responding to the rise in ad-blocking software with more native advertising (ads disguised as articles) and blocking access to their sites when people are using ad blockers.
I can understand the appeal of ad-blocking software. I’ve tried out Ghostery on my Firefox and Chrome browsers and was shocked by how many applications websites run in the background. These programs slow down page load times and track your activities online.
Most news websites run about 30 to 50 web trackers. The worst offender I’ve seen so far is Dictionary.com, which used 101 tracking apps. (See screenshot below.)
Ghostery is not a perfect solution to ad blocking because it often blocks web functionality that I want to use, such as social media share buttons.
News websites and other ad-supported web services are understandably concerned.
Advertising pays for their web services and keeps them free for consumers. So consumers using ad-blocking software are breaking an implied contract to allow ads in return for free services like online news and email.
Publishers need to respond to the ad-blocking threat by making advertising less intrusive. They need to eliminate the pain points associated with pervasive advertising and web tracking that drove people to block ads in the first place.

Related reading:

The ethics of modern web ad-blocking (Marco.org; Aug. 11, 2015)

Ad Blocking’s Unintended Consequences (Harvard Business Review; Aug. 12, 2015)

It’s the End of the Line for the Ad-Supported Web (Dylan Tweney; Sept. 18, 2015)

Ad Blockers and the Nuisance at the Heart of the Modern Web (New York Times: Aug. 19, 2015)

The Ad Industry Is Finally Promising To Make Online Ads Less Terrible (The Huffington Post; Oct. 16, 2015)

Ad-block surge challenges digital publishers (Reflections of a Newsosaur; Nov. 12, 2015)

Photos: Joy of Tech comic on ad blockers; screenshot of Dictionary.com and Ghostery app.


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