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Is a truce possible in the ad-blocking war?

Taylor Armerding | May 3, 2016
The rhetoric between online advertisers and ad-blocking companies remains incendiary. But both sides say there may be a middle ground – less intrusive, less bandwidth-hogging ads that put user experience above all else.

“They are the rich and self-righteous who want to tell everyone else what they can and cannot read and watch and hear. They are self-proclaimed libertarians whose liberty involves denying freedom to everyone else.”

He wasn’t the only one. Ben Barokas, CEO of Sourcepoint, a startup launched a year ago to help content sites track and defeat ad blocking, said at the conference that the attitude of ad blockers is, “we don’t give a (expletive). We’re going to continue our raping and pillaging of the content creators.”

 ben barokas
Ben Barokas, CEO, Sourcepoint

There is even bad blood among those with different models for ad blocking. Meyer accuses AdBlock Plus of “extortion” because it unblocks or “whitelists” ads that meet what it calls its “Acceptable Ads” standard– in some cases for a price.

According to the AdBlock Plus website, it charges a “licensing fee” to the largest 10 percent of the companies whose ads qualify for its whitelisting service. That fee, it said, is “30 percent of the additional revenue created by whitelisting its acceptable ads.”

Meyer scoffed at that, arguing that, “they say 10 percent of the companies, but that’s 90 percent of the business.” He said the Ghostery business model doesn’t charge advertisers anything. It makes its money, he said, from a “data donation model” – users who agree to share their browsing data with Ghostery anonymously.

“We then package those data into a suite of solutions and sell them to companies that use them to make their sites cleaner, faster and safer,” he said.

Meyer also contended that AdBlock Plus is essentially a blunt instrument, blocking everything by default (except for whitelisted ads), while Ghostery doesn’t block anything, “until you configure it. It’s all in the hands of the consumer.”

Ben Williams, director of operations and communications at Eyeo GmbH, the company behind AdBlock Plus, called the accusations of “extortion” and the “profiteer” label, “slander, of course – talking points developed by a PR firm somewhere.”

He said the contention that AdBlock Plus doesn’t give consumers any control is dead wrong. He said they see ads that meet the “acceptable” criteria, but have the option to block them all if they wish.

ben williams
Ben Williams, director of operations and communications, Eyeo GmbH

“The thing is, most don’t – the opt-out rate is in the low single digits – which shows that we’re on the right path with the criteria we’ve developed with our users,” he said.

Yet another player in the ongoing conflict is the anti-ad-blocking industry, which includes companies like Sourcepoint. And a recent press release announced the merger of Adaptive Medias with AdSupply, which markets BlockIQ, “a technology that it claims detects and bypasses ad blockers, including industry leader AdBlock Plus.”


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