Ad blockers are wonderful plugins that save bandwidth (and therefore money for people paying by usage) and protect computers against malware. But a lot of people, namely website operators that rely on advertisements for revenue, hate them:
This is an exciting and chaotic time in digital news. Innovators like BuzzFeed and Vox are rising, old stalwarts like The New York Times and The Washington Post are finding massive new audiences online, and global online ad revenue continues to rise, reaching nearly $180 billion last year. But analysts say the rise of ad blocking threatens the entire industry—the free sites that rely exclusively on ads, as well as the paywalled outlets that rely on ads to compensate for the vast majority of internet users who refuse to pay for news.
Sean Blanchfield certainly doesn’t share Carthy’s views. He worries that ad blocking will decimate the free Web.
As the war between advertisers and ad blockers wages there’s something we need to address: the use of the phrase “free web.” There is no “free web.” There has never been a “free web.” Websites have always required servers, network connectivity, developers, content producers, and other costs. This war isn’t between a “free web” and a pay web; it’s between a revenue model where viewers are the product and a revenue model where the content is the product.
If you’re using a service and not paying for it the content isn’t the product, you are. The content exists only to get you to access the website to either increase the number of page clicks and therefore give the owners a good argument for why advertisers should advertise on their sites or hand over your personal information so it can be sold to advertisers. In exchange for being the product other costs are also pushed onto you such as bandwidth and the risk of malware infection.
Ad blockers can’t decimate the “free web” because it doesn’t exist. What they will likely do is force website operators to find alternate means of generating revenue. Several content providers have started experimenting with new revenue models. The Wall Street Journal, for example, puts a lot of article behind a paywall and the New York Times gives readers access to a certain number of articles per month for free but expects payment after that. Other content providers like Netflix charge a monthly subscription for access to any content. There are a lot of ways to make money off of content without relying on viewers as a product.
As this war continues always remember TANSTAAFL (there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch) otherwise you might get suckered into believing there is a “free web” and let that color your perception.