I don’t have the time to write as often as I would like however this week I felt compelled to give a shout out to the creator of the ad blocking app Peace, Marco Arment, for his decision to remove this top selling app from the App Store.
is was the Peace app?
The Peace app was the latest addition to ad blocking apps for iPhone users designed to block ads from being displayed when users visit websites and other apps using their iPhone. The app was so popular that it quickly become the top selling app in the App Store, apparently within about 36 hours. A massive success by any standard.
Why I thank Marco
Marco showed an incredibly mature and considerate understanding of the internet ecosystem in his reasoning for pulling Peace from sale. In his own words in a blog post on his site titled “Just doesn’t feel good” Marco explained:
Achieving this much success with Peace just doesn’t feel good, which I didn’t anticipate, but probably should have. Ad blockers come with an important asterisk: while they do benefit a ton of people in major ways, they also hurt some, including many who don’t deserve the hit.
Wow! Despite his amazing success, Marco thoughtfully reconsidered his position and the effect his app would have on the publishers of internet content. Ultimately he decided that the lost revenue to content publishers was not good for the internet as a whole.
You see, Marco Arment understands that ads pay for the content that most people would call free. Killing that revenue stream will kill many websites – how is that good for the web? It isn’t. Marco knows that and has acted with great courage in sacrificing his app for the greater good.
If you aren’t interested in ads they can easily be ignored so what is the harm in publishers displaying a few ads amongst their content?
Why ad blocker apps hurt
Ad blocking, or social media widget and comment blocking for that matter, significantly affects the profitability and shareability of content on the web. As discussed above this damages revenue streams and makes the prospect of publishing content without using a pay wall or subscription model almost impossible.
So far very few, if any, organisations have made subscription based content access work. People see the internet as a free medium and have an aversion to paying for news and information most of the time.
Can you imagine having to pay for every document as though it were a scholarly article? The internet was never meant to become a gated community. However, ad blocking makes it almost unavoidable.
Alternatively publishers have one real weapon left to combat ad blocking. The model I allude to is where ad copy, promotional material and other ‘advertorial’ style writing replaces content as you know it. Content and ads will become indistinguishable and your ad blocker will be rendered useless. Who wins here?
As an internet marketing consultant I think many online marketing companies breathe a sigh of relief when ad blockers fall out of favour. Online marketing consultants and the clients we service have a symbiotic relationship with content publishers where we work together to provide an integrated product to our readers and content consumers. We need advertising to make this whole system work.
Online marketers read web content too. I see ads that I think are pushed too aggressively (I hate interstitial ads and auto-play video ads for example) just like everyone else. But advertising has its place and can easily be ignored if you really can’t stand it.
Let’s not start killing the greatest information tool ever devised simply because of banner ads or a social sharing tool.
Don’t let your ad blocker may also stop you seeing the big picture.