Battery Drain Blocking, Invasive Blocking, not Content Blocking

…most people just want to block garbage—privacy-invasive trackers, JavaScript that slows our devices and drains our batteries, obtrusive ads that cover the content we’re trying to read.

John Gruber—NYT: ‘Enabling of Ad Blocking in Apple’s iOS 9 Prompts Backlash’

I’m in complete agreement with Gruber here. Advertising is necessary for “free” content. It’s a touch more nuanced than garbage vs tasteful, though. It’s about how much each of us is willing to “pay” for the sites and content we enjoy.

I don’t mind some sort of profile tracking that presents me with more relevant ads, but I detest the auto-play videos and pop ups with timers to close. Others won’t tolerate anything more than a static image. Some won’t stand any ads at all (which you’d think would be a huge boon for Late to the Party).

Where this discussion has fallen off the track is that this should be a conversation with publishers (who in turn need to have quite a heart-to-heart with their ad networks). The truth is: publishers need revenue to sustain their ability to create content and their customers shouldn’t have to pay more than fair market value.

If a publisher has decided that they need the revenue that only loud, pop-up video ads provide, the consumer needs to make the decision that they’re either (A) willing to accept this ad or (B) ok with not consuming the content. There really shouldn’t be a middle ground where I consume the content and block the ad. The issue, of course, is that we don’t know if the site is going to match our vision of advertising fairness until we click, at which point the damage—battery drain, data usage—is already done.

Perhaps the answer is in subscription fees (what’s old is new again). Maybe we were on the right track with the “Do not follow” check box—a user-preference similar to content blocking that blocks types of advertising rather than entire networks or URLs. This could be built into our responsive designs so publishers could adjust.

“If you won’t accept video ads, we’ll have to show you three static ads instead.”

(As a UX guy I don’t really find the user-preference angle all that appealing—the paradox of the active user is a strong one and pretty much says we’d never customize those settings anyway.)

Instead we’re left with content blocking—a scorched-earth solution that’s already become a game of cat-and-mouse. It’s untenable.

We need publishers willing to push back on harmful advertising. Advertisers willing to take a tasteful approach and customers willing to meet them all halfway.

I’m not sure I can see it.

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