September 19, 2016

AdBlock Plus Launches Its Own Ad Network

Ever heard the one about the ad blocker that started its own ad network?

Well, it’s not a joke. AdBlock Plus – the world’s most popular ad blocking tool – announced on 13th September that it would launch its own ad network called the Acceptable Ads Platform. The sheer irony of this I found difficult to fathom.I’ll explain. AdBlock Plus is downloaded by users to block annoying and intrusive ads on websites, and it is those very ads that produce revenue for the sites upon which they sit. Unless there’s a paywall, this is the site’s main source of income – it’s the model upon which digital publishing is currently built. Free apps carry advertising too and users are often able to pay for an ad-free version.So what happens when you’ve created a hugely successful product that has been downloaded millions of times across the world? You try to monetise it. And the only way for AdBlock Plus to do this, is to entertain the very model they set out to dismantle.The ad industry has been critical of the move. In the past, former culture secretary John Whittingdale has called AdBlock Plus a “modern-day protection racket,” and IAB UK’s CEO Guy Phillipson has remarked how this “cynical” move is “a new string in their racket.”“Now they’re saying to publishers ‘we took away some of your customers who didn’t want ads, and now we are selling them back to you on commission’,” Phillipson added.Google has insisted that it will not be working with AdBlock Plus to sell ads. AppNexus has also announced that it will end its relationship with ComboTag, the demand platform that would serve ads to AdBlock plus.Luckily, the adblocking fightback by premium publishers is working. When prompted, 25-40% of users turn their adblockers off to access content. The number of users using the technology in the UK has also settled at 21% in 2016.I would hope that some users might even choose not to use an adblocker for ethical reasons. Just a quick read around the workings of online publishing would reveal that blocking ads does a disservice to the journalists, editors and other contributors that create the content that we all love to consume. Then again though, people initially said this about illegal music downloads before the music industry reluctantly embraced streaming services.And if that’s anything to go by, then there’s an interesting journey ahead for all of us.Tom Phelan, Account Executive

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