October 08, 2015

The Whining Of The Online Ad Industry

Now that the adolescent online ad industry is facing its first serious crisis, we are experiencing exactly the kind of behavior we should expect from juveniles -- whining.

The growing problem of ad blocking has generated a chorus of infantile bellyaching from online publishers and their apologists.

First, they are exaggerating the problem to gain our sympathy. The IAB claims that 34% of adults are using ad blockers. I am highly suspicious of this number. In fact, I'd be surprised if 34% of people even know that ad blockers exist. My guess is that the actual number of ad blocking software users is closer to half this number.

Next they say that there is an unwritten agreement between publishers and users. Publishers provide free content and, in return, we are obligated to receive the ads they send us. This is a lousy argument. The internet is not free. I write a hefty little check to my internet provider every month. The fact that online publishers have a dumbass business model and do not get any part of this revenue is not my fault or my problem.

They say publishers are going to go out of business and the websites we love are going to disappear. I doubt it. If 95% of the websites in the world disappeared tomorrow, there would still be a thousand times as many as we'd ever need.

The online ad industry does not understand its problem. The problem is ad tech. And the longer they cling to the obnoxious model of ad tech that currently exists, the worse their problems are going to get.

People are only mildly averse to advertising. They tolerate it in many forms in many media. What people hate is the type of ultra-annoying, creepy advertising that has been enabled by online ad tech.

If they would dump their addiction to ad tech a large number of their problems - fraud, blocking, price deflation - would take a nice step toward evaporating.

Sadly, they are willing to address everything but the problem.

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