I love to play Scrabble. I’m fairly good at it. Okay, that’s not true. I’m really good at it.
The problem is, I don’t love it enough to pay for the premium version of my EA Scrabble App, and no, it’s not because it’s expensive. I, like many others, just like the idea of free stuff. How then does EA recoup the money and time investment into creating the app?
Which is fine, really, except that the ads are a nuisance. After every Scrabble move, I have to wait for a few seconds for some location based advert – usually Jumia/Konga – to load, so I can skip it and get on with my game. The problem is, the close button is so obscure, such that I often end up clicking the ads, and getting redirected to some website. Ruined experience. Same thing happens when I hop from tab to tab in Safari. I find myself unintentionally opening multiple windows, eating into my computer RAM, sometimes showing lewd content, generally being a nuisance.
I really hate adverts. I find them intrusive, and sometimes, offensive.
Enter Ad blocking.
Adblock Plus, the most popular browser extension on the internet, with around 300 million downloads arrived on the scene to rescue web users from the clutches of intrusive advertising. What does this mean for ad publishers though? A closer look at the blocking process revealed that the ads are still being served (read: ad views are still being paid for, even though the end user doesn’t see them), and that even users who search for publishers’ keywords will not receive their sponsored results. Money down the drain for everyone but the end user. Oh, and Adblock Plus too.
Here’s where it gets interesting.
Adblock Plus “reaches out” to larger companies, like Google, Twitter, Amazon, to have their ads whitelisted, as part of the “Acceptable Ads” program. Basically, they approach these companies with a digital “ransom note”, offering these companies the opportunity of paying not to have their ads blocked. Their fees are commensurate with the size of the publisher, with some paying a flat fee, and some, a percentage of their revenue. Sounds a lot like racketeering to me.
Users who use this plugin consume websites’ bandwidth and server resources, which have to be paid for, typically by ads. Using extensions like Adblock Plus means that for each of those users, the websites hosting these ads operate at a net loss. Should such a small plugin be such a huge threat to the internet’s most prominent business model?
The way I see it, the real problem here is not Adblock Plus itself, but the fact that online content creators and, by extension, curators have gotten complacent, so innovation is all but non-existent. We know that it’s nearly impossible to get users to pay for non-essential content (which is what most of the web is, anyways). The solution to this problem is to develop new income streams, especially ones that don’t depend so heavily on user activity.