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Ad Blocking on the Web

Hi everyone,

When iOS 9's new ad blocking feature was first announced, it triggered a series of thought pieces about ads on the web. Publishers claimed it would mean the end of free content, while others claimed that publishers would lose "only" $1 billion next year, so it's not a big deal. How important are ads to the web, anyway?

In my mind, ads are vitally important. It costs a nontrivial amount of money to run a successful website, and ads allow sites to offer that content for free. Compare that to your average magazine or newspaper that you pay for and it still has ads inside! It's a pretty good deal.

Further, publishers are encouraged to provide content for free so that search engines can crawl their site and get good search results rankings. That's not possible on subscription sites where content is hidden from crawlers behind a paywall. Subscription-only sites have a self-imposed limit on audience because people can't easily "accidentally" find their content using a search engine.

The sad fact is that publishers have abused our willingness to accept ads for free content. Ads have become more obnoxious, harder to dismiss, and more obstructive to the reading experience than ever before. That's why ad blockers exist: not because people hate all ads, but because people hate the types of ads they're getting.

I've had great success with a single small, static, out-of-the-way ad on my site. I'm not trying to trick anyone into clicking, so that means I get fewer clicks and therefore less money. However, what I get in return is a relatively stable (if not small) income stream that helps to keep my site up and running. This is where I'm hoping ad blockers will go: not that they will force publishers to remove all ads, but that they will force publishers to get back to quality ads that aren't annoying and don't completely ruin the user experience.

Be well.

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