You might think the conversation about ad blocking is about the user experience of news, but what we're really talking about is money and power in Silicon Valley.
Nilay is correct that this is all a big chess match that’s about more than just readers and publishers. However, I think that he’s oversimplifying the reason people use ad blockers. People don’t like ads (even advertisers know this), but we put up with them because we understand that’s what is paying for us to watch/read content for free. It’s a trade off…we get it.
However, while there are a small minority of people who don’t want to see a single ad ever, the vast majority of people are okay with seeing ads here and there and have not installed an ad blocker. But it seems like the average person is becoming more and more interested in ad blockers than ever before. The reason isn’t that Apple is allowing developers to make ad blockers for iOS, it’s that web advertising has crossed a line.
The web is getting harder to read than ever. I was reading an article yesterday and had two popups cover the content while I was reading and made me wait 5 seconds to dismiss them. I routinely have content shift position just as I click/tap so that I accidentally click an ad and not what I wanted. We have websites like The Verge that have huge ads that supersede the entire site. Fun story: when I clicked the link to Nilay’s article, there was no mention of The Verge on the page that loaded. I had to scroll down a few inches to even see The Verge logo.
And then of course there are the privacy concerns with these ads not only showing you content, but sharing your browsing data with whomever they please. You can go to Ghostery and check how many external connections are being made when you visit any site.
This is insanity, and it’s no surprise that people are looking for solutions when there are websites like this. Web advertising doesn’t have to be this bad, but The Verge’s ads create a terrible user experience. People are installing ad blockers not because they hate all ads, they’re doing it because they hate your ads. If you are the first site people think of when they go to try out their new ad blocker, maybe you should consider that you may be the problem, not Apple.