Not long after Google controversially removed the Adblock Plus app from their Play Store, they paid the very same company to include their ads on the Acceptable Advertising whitelist- a list of ads Adblock Plus has deemed acceptable for its users to view. The move has raised serious questions about the approval process for acceptable ads, but also highlights the threat presented by ad blocking.

Google Confirms Ad-Blocking Epidemic

The fact that an internet giant like Google has acknowledged this issue speaks volumes to the scale of ad blocking- it’s significantly cutting into their ad revenue. Why wouldn’t they take advantage of the opportunity offered by Acceptable Advertising? The media reaction suggests that Google has bribed Adblock Plus to approve their ads, but the discussion around this decision reveals that Adblock Plus users had no issue with Google’s search ads. The bottom line is that they made the move to recoup some of their blocked ad revenue; we estimate its value at $887 million annually, based on 2012 revenue from their own sites and a modest 10% estimate of global adblocking.

Ad blocking cost Google Adwords $887 million in 2012   

Google’s move validates that ad blocking has become an epidemic, affecting small publishers and internet giants alike. With Adblock Plus reporting 50k downloads for Chrome every day and another 100k for Firefox, the volume of Adblock users is growing rapidly.

Acceptable Advertising: Who has it?

While many internet users agree that pop ups and noisy ads are annoying, the majority are not bothered by the static, non-intrusive ads that can bring in revenue. If it comes to it, are we as a collective prepared to pay rather than view a few banner ads? A recent study shows the contrary:

“Less than 10 percent of the people polled would prefer an ad-free Internet where users paid to access blogs, entertainment sites, videos and social media sites, while 75 percent surveyed said they prefer the existing Internet model where most content is free, but includes ads.” – Amy Gesenhues – Marketing Land

Adblock Plus claims that it seeks to “make the Internet better for everyone” and that “Purging bad ads is a good start”, but if we continue to block ads then websites will become unsustainable. Their Acceptable Advertising concept has been around for the more than two years and is open to publishers of all sizes, so why aren’t more publishers following Google’s lead and submitting their ads for approval? Cost isn’t an issue – it’s typically free to request access- but the approval process is difficult to overcome. Almost all of the currently approved ads are text-only, sponsored-search ads, which are not typically used by publishers. If Acceptable Advertising cannot easily support mainstream display advertising such as images, then it is of little use to websites in general.

Early Steps to Save the Internet

Google has taken a step in the right direction by acknowledging the scale of ad blocking and consumer distaste for intrusive advertising. Other publishers must follow suit and rethink digital marketing strategies and the way they interact with customers, or our web experience may change drastically in the near future. The concept of a fully pay-per-view internet is a frightening but potential reality. Adblocking downloads are increasing at an alarming rate, while feasible alternatives to banner ad revenue are not. These ads may be a small inconvenience, but blocking ads will eventually lead to websites being forced to adopt costly measures we really don’t want.

At PageFair we’re working to make Acceptable Advertising available to the masses, while educating your visitors about the repercussions of ad blocking.

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