3 min read

Adblock Plus Maker Proposes Letting Publishers Plead For Revenue

A change to the popular Firefox extension would allow Web publishers, with user consent, to prevent their ads from being blocked.
That position, however, implies that some contract exists between publisher and site visitor. And were such a contract to exist, publishers would be violating it as much as site visitors by failing to deliver a desirable user experience and advertisers would be violating it by failing at industry self-regulation.

At least that's the way users of ad-blocking software see it: They object to the fact that online ads are often intrusive, irrelevant, deceptive, manipulative, and/or malicious. One need only read the lengthy rules Google imposes on its advertisers to understand the kinds of excesses that are possible.

Further complicating the consumption of ads is the move toward monthly bandwidth caps. Who wants to waste one's monthly allotment of bits on advertisements, at the expense of content?

Mark Simon, VP of industry relations at Didit, a search marketing firm, argues that Google's Quality Score, which limits the exposure of ads that perform poorly, represents a more useful way to assess the relevance and effectiveness of online ads.

"Ad blockers show a serious lack of foresight on both sides of the marketing conversation," he said in an e-mail. "Marketers' intrusive ads make some content consumers feel that ad blockers are necessary; meanwhile, Web consumers who strip ads out of their Web experience undermine the very thing that keeps their Web experience free."

"And unfortunately, the solution proposed by Adblock Plus won't help much, since it relies on Web users trusting Webmasters who promise that they're offering ad content that's worth an opt back in," he continued. "I don't think content consumers would offer that trust blindly, and so I don't predict that a program like this would be a success (even if it does offer some hope for publishers)."

Simon noted that ad blockers are only used by a small number of people, people who aren't heavy shoppers, so he doesn't see them as much of an issue for the Web economy overall.

According to Palant, the number of users of Adblock Plus is small compared with the total number of Firefox users. He says that only about 5% of Firefox users have installed his software. That comes to about 13.5 million people worldwide, based on Mozilla's recent estimate that there are 270 million Firefox users. Palant elsewhere states that more than 10 million people use Adblock Plus.

The Firefox Add-ons site states that Adblock Plus is downloaded at a rate of almost 800,000 times per week and has been downloaded almost 49 million times. A number of other software applications and extensions also offer ad-blocking capabilities.

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