Last week I installed my first ad blocking software. I had not cared to do it earlier because, well, I am an ad man, and I have a professional interest in advertising. But last week I changed my mind.
I was trying to learn the results of presidential elections in Argentina by checking the local media on my PC at home, in Ft. Lauderdale. The main Argentine news sites would cause my browser to crash before fully loading, while attempting to play multiple video ads simultaneously. I could hear audio from two or three different ads, one on top of the other, but not where it came from. I had no choice but to mute my computer. It felt like being harassed by a crowd of loud and obnoxious salespeople in a dark room.
Like everyone else in the industry, I spent the last couple of months following the ad-blocking debacle. One of my favorite articles was the NY Times research about the cost of advertising in terms of extra loading time in the top 50 US mobile news sites. I decided to make my own little test and run an ad blocker on the Argentine sites. I picked Ad Block from the Chrome store and was running it within 5 minutes. The same sites started loading instantly.
The difference in speed was astonishing. Right after learning that the top two candidates were headed to a runoff, I tried my new ad blocker on other sites. No wonder this technology has become popular: it is a huge time saver. There are glitches. For example, Verb.company’s measurement site was blocked in full. But Ad Block offers some personalization: I just had to add it to my custom list of safe sites.
Ad Block also allows what it calls “non-intrusive advertising”. This might need some work: while sponsored content on the Argentine sites was allowed, it was blocked entirely on the New York Times. Anyway, the product is free, but I was satisfied enough with the results that I made the voluntary contribution that Ad Block suggested. The whole experiment would have been valuable just for letting me access the sites I wanted to see. Even more so for what I learned about the future of advertising.
A little icon to the right of the navigation bar shows how many ads were blocked on a specific site; it can be anywhere from three to 17 on some sites. As I see the grayed out space where the blocked ads are supposed to be, I am painfully aware of all the revenue the industry is missing for each person running ad blockers like me. But who doesn’t want their favorite sites to run faster? And who is willing to pay to burn their mobile broadband on loading ads? Ad blocking technology is here to stay.