Is blocking adblock users really a good idea?

Do you use an adblocker? Many internet users do, myself included. The internet is just a nicer place without splash ads, flashing images, garish banners and auto-play videos to spoil my viewing pleasure. Now it seems website owners have had enough and are actively blocking users who have an adblocker running in their browser.

At the time of writing, (2nd January 2016) UK sites such as The Inquirer and Risk are actively planning to block users who use adblockers in their browser. U.S. sites such as Forbes are currently actively blocking users with messages asking you to turn adblockers off. Forbes offers an ?ad-light? experience in return, but still tracks you in over a dozen ways. Ads are currently anything but light too.

Is actively blocking savvy users really the right way to go? We have covered ads before and how the advertising industry has created this monster themselves. It?s understandable that publishers want to make revenue from content, after all, it doesn?t come cheap. But, is forcing users to put up with being tracked and having ads forced upon us really the right way to resolve this issue? Publishers say yes. Users, in the majority, say no.

Publishers barking up the wrong tree

The issue isn?t with being served ads. We are advertised at all day long and are blind to most of them. It?s the way they are implemented on websites that causes the issues. Poor placement, attention seeking banners, auto-playing videos with audio enabled, trackers and adverts that are hosted somewhere else entirely serve nobody. Any tech-savvy user knows that ads are also a potential source of malware so will block them out of hand.

Publishers seem intent on forcing users to change their ways instead of looking at their own. If they placed ads properly, used secure in-house ad servers, didn?t force those annoying auto-play videos onto every page or bombard us with flashing images or popups that got in the way of the content we probably wouldn?t mind so much.

Forbes for example uses all manner of poorly designed ads that only annoy users. They also place auto-play videos, pop ups, pop unders and even those annoying full page ads between article pages. Apparently they are called ?interstitial ads? and are the work of the devil as far as I?m concerned.

Forbes and many other websites also track our browsing habits both while we?re on the page and after we have left. What?s worse, they don?t even tell you they are doing it. Yet they complain when we take action to avoid it.

Browse on mobile and this issue is magnified. Pages are slow to load, poorly designed ads interfere with browsing and even small ads take up too much screen real estate.

Get advertising right and we won?t block it

Well placed ads are fine. Even banners or videos that don?t automatically play and that don?t pop up or get in the way of our enjoying the site content are more than acceptable. Most of us get that we need to contribute to the cost of good content and we don?t mind doing it.

While subscriptions are having a hard time taking hold, advertising is a much simpler way of getting revenue.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) is taking a more productive approach. They have introduced the L.E.A.N. principle. It stands for Light, Encrypted, Ad choice supported and Non-invasive. It seeks to educate publishers in the way advertising should be done. By implementing acceptable ads, they think we will stop blocking them. I think they are right. Get websites to stop tracking us too and I think they are definitely right.

In the meantime, the battle between websites and their users continues. Despite PR talk to the contrary, I think this can only end one way. With publishers accepting that they have to put the user experience first. Only then will we consider whitelisting their sites or turning off our adblockers.

Sidestep adblock blockers

As an aside, if for some reason you want to visit the Forbes website or any others that also blocks adblockers, there is a way around it. I use it on all my machines and it?s called host file blocking. You?ll be amazed at how good the internet is without annoying ads. You?ll also be surprised at how quickly pages load too!

Host file blocking stops ads, tracking cookies, page counters, banners, those videos and all manner of advertising rubbish without you having to lift a finger. Visit and see for yourself.

There are two caveats to using host file blocking. The first is that sponsored content in search engines will no longer work. The second is that you really need to support the sites you visit regularly in another way to keep them going. As content creators ourselves, we know only too well that good content doesn?t come cheap, so help your favourite sites obtain it.

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