You are probably aware the there is a war being fought in the world of digital advertising. Unfortunately, the combatants are publishers and their readers who use ad blockers. With the release of iOS9, which supports ad blockers within Safari, the fighting escalated to another level. I’ve written a number of posts on this topic, why users are using blockers, and how screwed up the advertising-supported world of digital media has become. This is not going to be another one. Instead, just as every war has “collateral damage”, I want to focus on a side effect this war is having, one that is causing harm even to sites (like mine) that are ad-free.
Simply put, ad blockers have the effect of throwing the baby out with the bath water. They often will “break” sites, leaving them unreadable or unusable. More importantly, even if the sites render correctly, ad blockers will often block the analytics – Google Analytics or Adobe Omniture – that most sites use to measure traffic and other things. That means that it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to get an accurate measure of which content users like, what’s useful, how the site is performing technically, how to optimize the viewing experience based on browsers, etc. Publishers have no clue.
I’ve admitted before that I use both Ghostery and Privacy Badger. That said, I do whitelist Google Analytics and Omniture so that sites I visit know that I’ve been there. I’m not proud that I block most of the ads, but I’m also not a fan of what many sites have done with respect to commercial loads, pop-ups, rendering speed, and constant remarketing. If, as is being talked about in some places, many publishers band together to collectively block their sites to people who don’t want to give some value in return (check out The Washington Post’s actions), I’ll either make a site by site judgement with respect to whitelisting them (as I do some ad-supported sites now that carry reasonable ad loads and aren’t a mess) or I will find the content elsewhere. I understand their position; hopefully, they care about mine.
Where I do draw the line, however, is with the analytics, and if you use an ad blocker I’d ask you to think about letting sites measure traffic. Your privacy is still maintained (yes, I’m aware it’s possible to track individuals across sites but that’s the exception) and you’re providing some value in return for the content you’re receiving. It’s a small step towards avoiding collateral damage while this war rages on. You with me?