Apple buried the lede in its WWDC keynote. iOS 9. Apple Watch has a heartbeat. You’re being forced to buy a new iPad. Apple Music. And one more thing…
No, not Drake. Ad-blocking as an add-on for Apple’s Safari mobile browser. That’s the big news. Publishers are cowering. Advertisers at this point are throwing up their hands. The CEO of AdBlock Plus is hating life.
The initial reaction is ‘hell yeah’ from users who think Apple is doing them a solid. An end to slow loading websites. Maybe the horrible Safari mobile browser won’t crash as much. That’s a big ass maybe. The heavens have opened, and everything is free. Or, did they?
Apple is not doing you a favor. The company cares about earnings. Apple is Wall Street. Meeting this quarter and guiding higher. That’s the goal of every listed company. Sure, they may have fancy slogans of innovate this, don’t be evil that. But come on. We know the score.
It’s profits first stuffed in an altruistic box topped with a privacy bow.
How Does Ad-Blocking Work
You can’t dive into an issue without understanding what it is. The basic premise of the current extensions is they block both HTTP and HTTPS requests based on source addresses.
These extensions keep a running list of the addresses and the banners never show. Flash elements can also be blocked, eliminating the auto-playing video banners. I’m with the reader on the absolute disdain for those ads.
It should be noted Apple has never supported Flash, and the rise of iOS gave rise to HTML5 video.
The rumble across the Internet are two camps preparing to scream at each other. Having a regular conversation on this? Yeah…
How will publishers survive? Should content be free? The general answer from the proponents of ad-blocking is publishers will have to adapt, and content should be free.
Adapting to Adblock
Most users have become ad-blind. No real surprise, we are skimmers. The sidebar ads have become ineffective. In-content works to an extent but has to be weighed with user experience. That’s a tough one. How much is too much?
It’s one I wrestle with, along with Alex. I know I hate auto-playing ads, so that’s not happening. But, what about the question of adapting?
You have to know the purported capabilities of Apple’s system first. According to NiemanLab, dev docs say, “Content Blocking gives your extensions a fast and efficient way to block cookies, images, resources, pop-ups, and other content.”
That includes traditional ads as well as digital revenue’s current darling. The advertorial. How would Apple enable this? Easy, the FTC lays it up perfectly. Advertorials have to be clearly marked.
Add in the correct rules and the listicle advertisement is gone. Can you play whack-a-mole with that? Yes, but the image blocking makes it a temporary band-aid. It can cut off new streams of revenue quicker than you can tap SOS on your Apple Watch.
Are there ways to overcome ad-blocking? Absolutely. Video has stunning examples of how publishers can overcome blocks. Podcasts have roared back and are unblockable with their ads. You can’t block a read. You can unsubscribe, but you can’t block it.
And maybe therein lies the answer. When technology keeps pushing the barriers, sometimes a simple wheel works. Take the NBA finals. I tune every day to watch SVP and Mike & Mike on ESPN. I swear to god, I’m being inceptioned to eat at Subway, let Progressive insure my car and shop 1800Flowers.
It’s old school reads. The question is, how do you do the same with written content?
Content Should Be Free
I love how technology is at once creating billionaires and push-button entitlement. Some work, work and work some more. Everyone else groans at pre-roll ads and hunts down an extension to block it all. Yes, some users are altruistic and whitelist their favorite sites. That’s great, but there were 40 million users of AdBlock on Chrome alone in 2014. Do you set and forget, or do you regularly update the whitelist?
Content isn’t free. If it is, your favorite site is gone. Do you love the essays from The Atlantic? The photo spreads from Boston.com? Both cease to happen. It takes time, effort and cash to build out content.
Ad-supported content is the answer. Paywalls simply do not work in the age of distributed content. Can we change how advertising looks so it doesn’t bog down a browser and piss you off? Yes, and it should be the conversation happening at every major publisher and advertiser.
The user who is tired of being bombarded with 10+ ads and auto-refreshes every 60 seconds. Publishers are trying to squeeze revenue from every facet of digital content.
Picking on ad-blocking users gets you nowhere. Instead, publishers should look within and at advertisers. Do you need the relentless refreshes that just seem to piss off a browser? If it crashes a web browser, imagine the feeling of the reader.
Clean up the sites. Squeeze every ounce of speed you can and meet the user halfway on ads. Advertisers? Your sole job is to be compelling, not annoying. Figure it out. Users? There’s no such thing as a free lunch. Instant gratification today turns the web into a ‘where’s my favorite site’ tomorrow.
And Apple? Well played. Trying to shoehorn publishers into your closed-off ecosystem and wrapping it in an altruistic/privacy package. I’d clap if it weren’t so incredibly shortsighted.