BoSacks: Ad Blocking is Our Reward for Abusing Reader Trust
Full disclosure: I’m likely not be the normal reading consumer on the internet, and for the record, I do use ad blocking software. Without it my day on the web was increasingly a painful, slow, and a terribly intrusive experience. Also for the record, and most importantly, I am willing to pay for the reading material I want and need. I pay for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and Texture (formally known as Next Issue Media) among several others. In fact, it is no secret that most of my working day is either reading on the web or writing about what I read. So I am something of an expert about the online user experience.
Here is my take on the situation. Ad blocking is serious business brought upon by our own misuse of the reading public’s trust, the trust we had appropriately built up over the last 100 years as the guardians of publishing and of print. I have always felt that the publishing community and the rest of the internet advertising infrastructure has from the outset abused the privileges of permission online. I don’t want to be tracked by companies that want not only a large slice of my wallet but also the uninvited intrusion into my mind and how I’m thinking and where I am at any given moment. I am also offended that these unsought intrusions slow down my web experience with bloated and unwanted downloads.
This ad revenue problem for publishers is going to get much worse before we are mature enough to fix it. Stephen King once said, “The trust of the innocent is the liar's most useful tool.” Most readers on the internet are in one way or another innocents, and we are indeed lying to them in every way we can.
It seems to me that we will be forced to approach this dilemma with new and creative problem solving that we should have used in the first place. The only sensible solution is to gain back the trust of our readers. Do you think that is actually possible? There is so much fraud going on that it boggles the mind.
Forgetting the consumers for just one paragraph, the abuse we perpetrate ourselves within the system using ad fraud is unfathomable to this reporter: Ads below the fold that are never seen but count, clicks on ads by robots that count, and dozens of other misuses of power that are actually incredibly acceptable by the industry watchdogs. Do any of you watchdogs deny that this is so? Is it good for the industry in the long run? Are you really attempting to fix it or still just avoiding the problem of genuine accountability?
But back to the consumer, if we don’t trust each other, why, oh, why should the consumer trust us? Well the answer is they don’t. And I don’t blame them. We lie to each other and we lie to and disrespect our readers.
The ad blocking technology and its use will get better, and I tell you there is nothing we can do to avoid it. What we are doing now is working around it and hiding ads in plain sight by making them look like editorial, and that, too, is a real problem. Again it reeks of misuse and lost trust.
“Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?” -- Joseph Welch- delivered 9 June 1954 during the Army-McCarthy Hearings in Washington, D.C.
Bob Sacks (aka BoSacks) is a printing/publishing industry consultant and president of The Precision Media Group (BoSacks.com). He is also the co-founder of the research company Media-Ideas (Media-Ideas.net), and publisher and editor of a daily international e-newsletter, Heard on the Web. Sacks has held posts as director of manufacturing and distribution, senior sales manager (paper), chief of operations, pressman, circulator and almost every other job this industry has to offer.