Freedom. Deal With It!

From the BBC: 

Is it ethical to block adverts online?

“It’s no spoiler to share that most publishers or advertisers have little time for Adblock Plus – and recently that annoyance has stepped up a notch. Descriptions like “extortion”, “protection racket” and “like the mafia” are all terms being voiced to describe the operation, says Mr Blanchfield [chief executive of Pagefair, a firm that monitors how often advertising is blocked on websites].”

To describe what Adblock Plus does as “extortion” and compare them to the mafia is nonsensical because the 60 million or so people who actively use Adblock Plus chose to do so. No one pointed guns at people’s heads or threatened to destroy their data if they didn’t install the Adblock Plus browser add-on. 

So what these accusing publishers are actually pissed about is the fact that around 4.8% of the world’s web users (excluding China) have chosen to block online ads. Well, deal with it. Suck it up. That’s life. That’s your customers expressing their preferences. That’s freedom. Sure, it’s a challenge, but it’s how we get all this wonderful innovation and value in the world.  

There’s also nothing wrong with companies paying Adblock to be put on their ‘whitelist’ (a list of sites that Adblock doesn’t block advertising on). Those business that can’t afford to do the same or that don’t want to, surprise surprise, don’t like this arrangement. Again, deal with it. 

And indeed there are ways to deal with it. Some sites don’t allow visitors to view their content until they disable Adblock. If your content’s compelling enough, then people will happily oblige. Indeed, I do so sometimes. Which, incidentally, is another feature of Adblock; the ability for the user to manually add any sites of his choosing to the ‘whitelist’.  

There’s nothing ‘unethical’ about the interactions and arrangements between Adblock, consumers, producers and publishers. It’s freedom, beautiful freedom.

The challenge posed by people choosing to use Adblock will spur those advertisers/publishers that accept it to set about finding ways to make their advertising more compelling or less annoying (from the perspective of consumers) and less likely to be blocked. Those that are willing and manage to do so will out compete those that aren’t and don’t. Ultimately then, everybody wins. Web surfers win because they get better quality advertising which is more compelling/interactive – this is something that’s starting to happen already – and so to do those publishers who accept the challenges of freedom in a market economy. 

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