Advertisers Win the Ad-Blocking War

Share this article

Ad blocking grew by more than 41% in 2015 and cost the industry $22 billion in revenue. Ad blockers are not new, but there has been a significant elevation in public consciousness partly owing to the number of options available. You have probably encountered ads from browser vendors promoting their ad-blocking systems. Only the popular Lynx browser is yet to implement similar technology.

Ad-Blocker Blockers

Publishers began to retaliate last year and several popular sites now show messages to any visitor running ad-blocker software. Messages range from gentle suggestions to purchase a subscription to actively hiding page content while an ad blocker remains active.

Detecting an ad blocker is simple. A script checks whether the advertising script has loaded or a specific DOM node has content. If ads fail to appear, the article is unloaded or the visitor is redirected to another page.

Beta Ad-Blocker Blocker Blockers

Ad-blocker blockers depend on client-side scripts which, themselves, can be blocked. Ad-blocker software teams can block the blocker within minutes of a new website script being reported. Several solutions are in development which thwart any publisher’s attempt to undermine the ad-blocking process.

Frail Loop

Advertisers and ad-blocker organizations spend inordinate amounts of time battling the innovations of the other. In computing terms, this is known as a “frail loop”. Two or more technologies recursively weaken each another until neither is effective.

Ad Network No Opt-out Initiative

Dozens of ad-revenue-dependent organizations have formed the Free Advertising and Responsible Targeting Syndicate. Their first proposal, the Advert Network No Opt-out Initiative, aims to end ad blocking forever by reversing content and ad publication methods.

Publishers normally create content which is hosted on their own servers to attract visitors. Their pages include scripts provided by third-party advertising networks which pull in advertising links and imagery from a variety of sources. From today, all publishers will be contacted by their ad network with new instructions. This will vary across providers but the general process is:

  1. The publisher will be issued with a number of static advertisements to include in their page templates. Updates will be posted regularly so the latest campaign graphics and links can be posted.
  2. The publisher must upload all their content to the advertising network, typically via FTP, REST, SOAP or fax. Plugins are available for popular Content Management Systems such as WordPress which automatically transfer then delete the article text.
  3. The publisher must add a script to their template where the content will appear.
  4. The page will pull the original article content from the advertising network and display it on request.

Visitors browsing without an ad blocker will see a normal page of quality content:

standard page content

Those using an ad blocker will prevent the advertising network download and the real content will not be shown; they’ll be presented with a page of advertising:

site running ad-blocking software

A syndicate spokesman, Ian Trusive, told us:

Our members depend on advertising revenue in order to publish high-quality, informative, life-affirming articles. This initiative requires minimal effort from advertising networks and content publishers. It finally defeats those who have risen against us in the ad-blocking war. We have won.

Our recent survey highlights that 98% of web users are prepared to exchange distracting, high-bandwidth, tracked advertising in return for free content. That’s a fact*.

Are you a publisher using the new anti-ad-blocking technique? Did your revenues increase accordingly?

Are you experiencing more advertising today despite using an ad blocker?

(*Full survey results not publicly available. Survey information may not be provided if you no longer meet eligibility criteria. Access request charges do not include taxes, insurance, interest or other quixotically-applied fees. Statistics are subject to change based on market conditions, regional deviations, daily percentage rates, and viewer ingenuousness. Contents may settle in transit.)

Craig BucklerCraig Buckler
View Author

Craig is a freelance UK web consultant who built his first page for IE2.0 in 1995. Since that time he's been advocating standards, accessibility, and best-practice HTML5 techniques. He's created enterprise specifications, websites and online applications for companies and organisations including the UK Parliament, the European Parliament, the Department of Energy & Climate Change, Microsoft, and more. He's written more than 1,000 articles for SitePoint and you can find him @craigbuckler.

ad blockeradblockadvertisingRalphM
Share this article
Read Next
Get the freshest news and resources for developers, designers and digital creators in your inbox each week
Loading form