The problem with ads – why ad blockers prevail

As a publisher that relies on ad revenue it seems strange to admit that I’m no stranger to ad blockers. I’m not alone either – using ad blocking software to block advertisements on websites is increasing dramatically.

I try to limit using an ad blocker, but find it necessary when working in an office environment.

So why are people using ad blockers?

I don’t think it’s as simple as people being against advertisements – I think it’s more people being sick of intrusive, offensive and forced advertisements. This added with the relevance, frequency and quality of advertisements adds up to the perfect storm

With the rise of video websites like YouTube advertising has gone from passive to forced and often quite long interruptions before accessing content. Having to watch a 30 second advertisement before your favourite cat video loads just builds more ad blocker users.

Also, recently Google removed the limit of three ads allowed on a single page when using their AdSense ads – this has led to some websites seeing this as an opportunity flood pages with ads in a desperate bid to increase revenue – but this again only leads to more ad blocker users.

What does this mean to publishers?

The majority of web users won’t be concerned by this, but what they may not consider is the role advertisements play in keeping a website running.

Without the revenue from advertisements, publishers are forced to alternatives such as subscription-only access – which removes the free easy access to information that we experience almost universally across the internet. Other alternatives like affiliate marketing just confuse content with advertisements – how would you like to read a “review” of a product only to find the glowing review was because the website gets a kick back – how biased do you think that review is?

The future of online advertising

The use of ad blockers will continue to increase and ad networks and publishers will need to respond to this.

Ad networks

Ad networks, like Google AdSense, need better quality control on their advertising – they need to enforce stricter rules on the content to use ads are not increasingly annoying, large (in download size) and do not contain offensive content such as flashing images, auto-play sounds or video. More important they need to enforce rules on the use of their ads – limit the number on a single page again and ensure they’re not being used to deceive people or block access to the page content.

In Google Adsense’s defense they do actually have some good rules around the use of their ads — but as far as I’m concerned these are rarely enforce and do not go far enough.


Publishers need to take heed – the writing is on the wall, the passive income from advertising will continue to decrease.

The solution is not to increase the number of ads, this will only make things worse – if anything I think it’s worse considering using less ads and limiting to offensive ads (for example, religion and gambling) – instead overheads will need to be reduced (such as hosting) or alternative revenue from affiliate marketing or paid content “reviews” – none of which I think are of any real benefit to the end users.

End users

I don’t judge people for using ad blockers – I can absolutely see why someone would and find it necessary when in an office environment.

What you can do is consider white-listing websites you frequently use or know advertise ethically (i.e. don’t bombard you with Russian bride ads or force you to watch an ad to get to the content) or make a small donation to the website to help offset the lost ad revenue from using an ad blocker.