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By Thomas Baekdal - January 2009

Ad-Blockers Affects You Too

Aren't ad-blockers great? If you got one your internet experience is almost ad free. No annoying blinking windows, no in-page pup-ups that obscures part of the page, and no videos suddenly playing without you asking for it. But there is a flip side to all of this, and it affects you too.

The use of ad blockers is a growing concern, not only for companies and annoying spammers, but more so for people like you and me running personal websites and blogs etc. Ad-blockers make it almost impossible to do something for "free" anymore.

If you have a blog with ads on it, then you know what I am talking about. My guess is that you are not making that much money and that the impressions reported by your ad company don't match the page views. The reason is that your ads are being blocked by your visitors.

Ad-blockers in the early years

The internet was very different back in the early days. Back when ad blockers where first invented.

First of all, the number of personal sites that had ads was practically zero. Text ads, like those from Google AdSense, weren't invented yet. And the internet was a terrible place.

Every time you visited a site, you where overwhelmed by annoying blinking ads. And when you closed a window, and endless stream of pop-up windows appeared. It was hell.

We had to do something. This could not go on. Since the big companies were unwilling to "get their act together", the people of the internet revolted. The ad-blocker was born. We were finally back in control.

In the years that followed, a raging war erupted between the advertisers and the people. The advertisers tried every trick to unblock the ads, and we, the people, adjusted our ad blockers. But we were winning. The advertiser's attempts prove futile.

And in the past few years even the browser manufacturers have taken our side. Building pop-up blockers into the system, and created "private browsing" modes that prevents performance tracking. The advertisers have been defeated. Yeah!!!

But we all lost

Today this world is very different. The internet is no longer a place solely for the big companies and their ads. Today, our internet is driven by people like you and me. Everyone can make a blog, everyone can contribute to the community, and over 200 million do.

And of all these 200 million people, most of them would like to place "non-intrusive ads" on their blog (or web application). Not to get rich, but just to pay the bills.

But they can't because the ad blockers don't care. The ad blockers will block all ads, regardless of what site it is on. So it is blocking the ads on the local quilting blog, where several people share and enjoy their hobbies. They block the ads on your site too.

The ad blockers don't care if you are a big annoying company or a great blog run by one of your friends. Everyone loses. Nobody wins.

The affect of ad-blockers are very dominant on web centric sites like this one. In December I tracked the use of ad blockers on I simply recorded the number of times an ad was sent to the browser, and compared that to the amount of times it was actually displayed.

The result is that 68% use ad blockers on - 68%!!!

Let me put this in perspective; every time you earn $100, then $212 have been lost to ad-blockers... or... It would take you 12 months to earn enough money to buy a MacBook, but only 4 months if we didn't have ad-blockers.

Ad blockers costs me 8 extra months of hard work - every year.

Note: Not only are ads being blocked, but the latest ad-blockers also allow you to block web statistics - like Google Analytics. This means that you no longer have a reliable source of metrics. You cannot trust your own stats, because an important chunk of your visitors are not recorded at all.

The internet isn't free

Let's face it. We invented ad-blockers to get back control over the internet. And we succeeded. But in doing so we destroyed the very fabric that keeps the internet running. Nothing is free in this world, despite that some think it should be.

It costs money to sink a fiber-optic cable into the Atlantic Ocean (so that people in the US can see websites in Europe - and vice versa). It costs money to bury the cables to your DSL connection. It costs money to build WI-FI transmitters. It costs money to setup a server, buy firewalls and routers. And it costs money to employ a 24-7 hotline.

And that is just the technical side of it. It also costs money, and time, to create good content. People have to eat.

The "free" internet doesn't exist as long as the material and resources aren't free. The money has to come from somewhere.

And on the internet, the money comes from advertisements - which are being blocked.

We need to do something about this. Either we have to find another source of income, or we have to change how advertisements work and remove the ad-blockers.

Not for the sake of the ad-companies (whom I really do not care about), but for the sake of you and me - and people like us. For the person who runs small sites that makes a difference. For the people who invent new social web applications, and want to give it away for free (but monetized by ads).

I want an internet that allows individuals to prosper. Where people like you can make amazing things and get paid for your efforts.

We won the battle against advertisements, but we lost the war. So what should we do about it?


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Thomas Baekdal

Founder, media analyst, author, and publisher. Follow on Twitter

"Thomas Baekdal is one of Scandinavia's most sought-after experts in the digitization of media companies. He has made ​​himself known for his analysis of how digitization has changed the way we consume media."
Swedish business magazine, Resumé


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