Ad Blocking Game Changer

On February 15th, Google will enable ad blocking from within the Chrome browser, affecting 60% of web users, which is Chrome’s market share. Affected ads include full page, auto-playing sound and video, and flashing or otherwise intrusive ads. Google is using its near-monopoly power with Chrome, to try to improve the “user experience” of the internet, and specifically the web. Without debating what constitutes a good user experience and whether Google is justified in deciding this, the actual business motivation is that Google makes more money when lots of people are spending lots of time on the web. In their view, aggressive ads hurt the web experience, especially on mobile, and drive users into the arms of relatively uncluttered walled gardens like Facebook. Google absolutely has the will and ability to reduce or eliminate (subjectively) aggressive ads. Publishers that currently rely on this type of ads will likely lose 60% of the revenue associated with them.

Can you block the blocker? At the risk of sounding defeatist, it is a bad idea to try to subvert or block Google’s ad blocking. This was fine when defending against the myriad of ad blocker plugins, none of which have overwhelming market share – a fair fight. But Google is the 800 pound gorilla of the Internet. They have all the power, and can seriously hurt your site. When publishers have tried to subvert Google algorithms in the past it has usually ended badly for them, up to and including being delisted in search results.

Publishers using low key advertising techniques like banners and native ads have nothing to worry about, but those using more aggressive techniques better have a plan to replace the revenue. A better strategy is to produce quality content that people want to read, advertise alongside it non-aggressively, and even better: charge a subscription fee to access it. Long term, work to grow a direct relationship with your audience, and email is a great channel for this.