Monday, 23 April 2012

Why don't more people block web adverts?

A few weeks ago I wrote a post, which guesstimated that the proportion of internet users who run ad blocking software on their browser was somewhere around 5%.

It's grown a lot in relative terms over the past couple of years, but much of that growth is down to increased usage of the Chrome and Firefox browsers, which make it easy. In absolute terms, the number of people who block ads on the internet is still very low.

My question today is why? As a user, the internet is a much nicer place without adverts in it. Google search results are more useful, because advertisers can't pay to monopolise the top slots, web pages load faster and nothing's competing for your attention with the article that you came to a website to read.

I work in advertising and I block ads on my browser, unless I choose to see them for work. Why would people who don't work in advertising ever choose to see ads on the web? I can think of three reasons.

  • People like web ads and find them useful. On balance, they'd rather have an internet with ads, than one without. But if that's true, then why are click rates and engagement rates with online ads in general, so low?
  • People recognise that advertising is how a lot of internet content is funded and so they choose to play the game. This is the argument that it's immoral to read an online newspaper's content for free at the same time as blocking the ads that it's trying to serve you. Could be happening, but with 95% of people? I don't believe that, especially since music piracy rates seem to be much higher.

    There's also a trouble making moral counter argument that if you don't like ads and wouldn't click them anyway, then by stopping a website serving you ads, you're stopping that website charging an advertiser for an ineffective impression.
  • Most internet users don't know that they can block ads, don't believe it works, or can't be bothered to set it up.

I'd like to use Wallpapering Fog for a social experiment. Assuming you don't have an ad blocker on your browser yet,

here's the Chrome link

and here's the Firefox link.

Either will take you seconds to set up. Why would you not click them?

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