Ever since the early 90’s, Web users have always wanted to block pop-up ads from invading our desktops. It’s been kind of a push-then-shove fight between users and Web sites. I’ll share my perspective on the battle with online advertising and share some insight on both sides.
No one likes ads, on the same note, not many want to pay for high-quality services. Even when people did pay a premium for services, they still were shown ads (e.g. Flickr, AOL, Yahoo*) and users today are given very little choice with their online experience, except for guerrilla tactics by using third party programs to block/hide/prevent advertisements from reaching their eyeballs.
Do providers listen? Sorta.
A majority of online marketers understand that people’s Web browsers have pop-up blockers and acknowledge that their marketing techniques stepped over the boundary that users are willing to accept to access a given Web site. Instead of pop-ups, marketers have resorted to more “organic” marketing such as text link advertising. Google AdSense is the best example of this. Whatever, at least I didn’t have 768×60 pixels of real estate blinking at me.
Anyhow, a free addon for Mozilla Firefox, AdBlock Plus, has come under fire lately because it enables users to manage their online experience by blacklisting known advertising networks and heuristics on possible ad-related strings in Web objects. It landed on my five extensions that I can’t live without as number one. The author of the addon responds back to the campaign against ABP stating the profit has to be earned and isn’t a right, and questions the profitability of ads themselves for Web site owners.
Essentially, the argument is based on the assumption that ads generate revenue and that sites would become extinct without the ads. While possibly true in some circumstances, the demographic of ABP users are folks who have become blind of ad sizes — you know, you just ignore anything on a page that is a 468×60 block of content.
In a nutshell, here’s the talking points about ABP:
- Puts users in control.
- Results in faster load time.
- Forces a Web site to offer compelling content to satisfy users.
- Users that enjoy content become more engaged.
- With only a plausible 2% saturation rate, they still profit from the 98% of users.
- More happy users, happy users == $$$ users.
- ABP violates copyright by infringing on a Web page.
- Steals revenue from Web site owners.
- Impacts other users who do view ads, making it unfair.
- Makes blocking ads “too easy.”
- Breaks the display of certain Web sites. (Broken experience)
Are advertisers about to have another pop like they did with pop-ups? Maybe users don’t like ads anymore. Users evolved and the only way to defeat ABP is to use in-stream contextual advertising and not use massive advertising networks that can be blocked. Should it become a cat and mouse game? Depends, are advertisers and Web owners ready to respect their users?
Innovate or die. Web site owners need to find new methods to monetize their users. Maybe, giving an option for ads to be turned off if they pay a fee, or after a certain account tenure? Not a decision for me to make, but one for a site owner to determine based on their demographics.
What about the loss of my dollars as a Web site owner? Listen to your audience, and cater to their needs. This could mean adding a premium content areas, it could mean monetizing the content itself (“…Brought to you by Coke!”). Second, CTRs have been dropping as users are simply not interested and have cognitively become blind to the traditional ad spots.
What do you think? Are ads good to keep the Web moving, do they hinder users’s experiences, or could a good experience for users and authors be made with ads? Post in the comments below!
*Yahoo – Yahoo “Plus” users are given a “premium” e-mail box with less ads and POP access.