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Tackling Adblock Plus

  |  September 7, 2007   |  Comments

Why the latest release of the Firefox plug-in is a threat to the online advertising and content creators.

Here's Adblock in a nutshell. Adblock, a free, open source plug-in for Firefox's Web browser, will allow you to browse the Web without ever seeing an advertisement.

As a consumer, how does this sound? How about as an advertiser?

The answer to both should be a resounding "no." There are many ways to explain why Adblock doesn't make sense for consumers. There's no direct correlation to a DVR's fast forwarding features -- even with that feature, at least the ads are being recorded, and skipping through them takes an action each time. But the real reason why Adblock doesn't make sense for consumers is advertising, even something as benign as Google's AdWords, keeps blogs, publishers, and other content providers in existence by allowing them to make sense (and cents) for their owners. It prevents publishers from charging access to their content by creating an ad-supported environment.

The industry has come a long way since its reactions to the first generation of ad-blockers. Pop-up blockers restricted the most annoying form of advertising, the pop-up (or -under) ad. We responded by producing less of them. Ad blockers in general have historically been distributed as paid software packages. This limited adoption, and therefore were less of an issue to the advertising and publisher industries.

What happens when ad blocking software is freely distributed? What happens when savvy, independent software developers can constantly modify it as they see fit, and the software isn't controlled by a corporation with standards and ethics requirements but by no one in particular? Then we've got a burgeoning problem, and that's exactly what's happening now.

Blocking ads en masse is a critical threat to the stability of the unwritten contract between publisher/service provider, and the consumer -- especially when the content delivered or services rendered aren't premium or paid. It's not only publishers who would be affected by mass adoption of something like Adblock Plus, but ironically, the consumers themselves by cutting off the life support to content-developing and -sustaining businesses.

What's the industry to do? Perhaps nothing overt at first.

Smaller independent publishers and bloggers have undertaken an initiative called, "Why Firefox is Blocked" . It's designed to block Firefox users from visiting their sites regardless of whether they have Adblock Plus installed. On the one hand, it risks angering many users who want to visit the site. On the other, it's potentially a great awareness tool for people using Firefox to learn about the situation at hand.

It's probably a good idea initially to let this be a grassroots effort letting users be diplomatic with other users, and maybe even resolving this situation. If not, this industry must act.

We needn't to panic, but we should pay close attention to these developments. The more easily audiences avoid advertising that is sustaining their enjoyment, the more comfortable they will find using this kind of software. If blocked at the root level, we can head this problem off at the pass.

If this is something that worries you, voice your concerns to Firefox. They're the only ones with power to disable this feature before it gets out of hand.


I'm usually the biggest advocate of positive user experiences -- with or without advertising. But there'll be no experience without advertising, and that may need to be explained sanely and sincerely to the end user.

Imagine, the Ad Council getting involved in an effort to save advertising?



Ian Schafer

Ian Schafer, CEO and founder of Deep Focus, consistently redefines the way entertainment properties are marketed online. Ian founded Deep Focus in 2002 to bring a holistic suite of interactive marketing and promotional solutions to the entertainment industry. The company's clients include America Online, Dimension Films, HBO, MGM, Nickelodeon, Sony/BMG Music, 20th Century Fox, Universal Music Group, and many others. As former VP of New Media at Miramax and Dimension Films, Ian was responsible for their most popular online campaigns. He's been featured as an expert in online entertainment marketing and advertising in numerous media outlets including Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Advertising Age, and CNN.

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