Ad Blocking

We’ve all become very used to having access to a massive amount of content – news, videos, blogs, images – for free via the internet.

The consequence has been that a number of those content providers have lost advertiser revenue, which in the long term jeopardises our access to “free” content. Ad blockers were a recurring topic at the Web Summit last year and as one content provider said “we thought we had a deal”, meaning that we all understood that the free content came with ads.

I should insert a personal disclaimer here; I use an ad blocker. I didn’t for a long time but I got frustrated with the increasingly intrusive ads, particularly fly-over ads, large header ads forcing me to scroll (esp on my tiny laptop) and the video autoplays that make me jump out of my skin if I have the sound on.

Turn off your adblocker – please

Content providers are starting to fight back, asking you to turn off your adblocker.

Forbes now invites you to turn off the adblocker to access their “ad-light” experience, which is for 30 days and still includes a lot of ads.

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The Atlantic is more specific, asking you to disable it or take up a print (with digital options) subscription.

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The Guardian asks you to become a supporter, pushing the case for independent journalism; “your financial contribution will support our independence and our award-winning journalism”.

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TED has come to a somewhat different solution, you’ll still get an ad if you use ad-blocker, but it’ll be for a TED product.

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Other Ways Publishers Fight Back

Whitelisting

Some companies have asked visitors to whitelist their site, but a quick check with the non-technical people in my circle indicates they have no idea how to do this, and there’s some data reported that fewer than 1% of people take this option.

Native advertising 

Native advertising refers to content that matches the website or platform that it’s on, it often has an indication somewhere on it that the content is sponsored. Because this looks so much like content from the site it most often survives the adblocker’s filters.

Acceptable Ads Program

You can “pay to play“, one of the most commonly used adblockers will program their filters to allow non-intrusive ads to survive the adblock filters.

We’re all addicted to free content, subscribing only to the most loved publishers if at all. Since it costs money to create content it’s not unreasonable for those content platforms to look for revenue by subscription or by ads. As long as we retain the expectation of free content we can expect content creators to continue trying to serve us ads, while we – annoyed by the volume of ads – continue trying to block them. The days of free content may soon be over.

Image: Wall via pixabay

Linkedin ads are designed not to annoy you

Screen Shot 2013-08-31 at 11.16.56 AMHave you been annoyed by ads on Facebook lately? You’re not alone. A while ago I was served an ad for a product to quit smoking. I’ve never smoked, and I’m pretty sure I’ve never talked about smoking.

Have you been annoyed by ads on Linkedin? It’s rarer, and after a meeting with some of the guys working for Linkedin I started thinking about why.

Internet advertising works by matching your online attributes to the target audience of the advertiser and serving you their advertisement.

What online attributes are used? Your search or viewing history and your IP address, any information you’ve given the website (those popups asking you to help them optimise the experience are part of this) all contribute to a profile that allows advertisers to target  you.

If it’s a login service then any information in your profile or that you’ve contributed online can be used to build a profile for advertisers. Both facebook and Linkedin are sites where you are logged in, you build a profile, and you make ongoing contributions. So why is there a big difference between the perception of ads on the two platforms? It could be a difference in how the match is calculated between the profile and the advertiser – but I’m guessing that both companies have smart mathematics behind their algorithms and enough data to validate them thoroughly.

There are a couple of differences in the data collected;

  • on Linkedin members contribute data in a very structured way, it is possible to scan a profile and find out seniority level, occupation, membership of a group, fields of expertise and location.
  • Linkedin is valuable to grow your business network, and if you’re job hunting so there’s a clear benefit to adding more data to your profile
  • since your colleagues are also on Linkedin and likely to be among your connections you’re likely to be honest about your background
  • it’s a platform for professionals, so not every advertiser wants to be there – weeding out the tackiest advertisers

Facebook can also target based on your demographic information when that information has been added – but facebook profiles are often not completed in detail. The will also target in a way that works on probabilities, they know that if you liked Heineken there’s a 4o% chance you will also like Renault (a completely invented example). So the more brands you like on Facebook the more information about you Facebook has to sell to advertisers. This is pretty sound, brands have overlapping target audiences, so are likely to appeal to similar groups of people, and the masses of data collected about likes on Facebook will make pretty good predictions.

And that’s the biggest difference. Advertising is by far facebook‘s biggest revenue stream, at about 80% of revenue, so they need to keep advertisers happy as a priority. As the old saying goes if something is free it’s because you are the product. Whereas Linkedin has a range of revenue streams, most of which relate to services and professional subscription, so their need is to keep their members happy.

Or as the Linkedin guy said “we look at everything we do from a member first perspective.”

Which explains why their advertising is causing less interruption and irritation than Facebook advertising.

Image; push advertising / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0