There is a lot of ink (digital ink that is) being spilled on the topic of ad supported content. The basic theory is that ad supported content allows you the reader to get a lot of content without having to shell out cash. Notice that I didn’t say the content is free. It is not. You are paying for it by allowing advertising to track you. Which in turn allows advertisers to show you more ads.
I don’t know about you, but it is extremely rare that I click on an ad. MAYBE a couple of times a month – but most of them are by accident. And I consider ads pretty invasive, so I tend to ignore them on principal.
Assuming other people are like me, that means most people are ignoring the ads, which means that publishers need to put more ads up in order to get the same revenue.
Now on to Apple’s ad blocking strategy.
First (and probably really last), users would like a simple, easy to use ad blocker to get rid of that annoying content. I am a geek, so I can install and tweak software to get rid of ads. That covers maybe 10% of the population. Apple is addressing the other 90%.
So if my first reason is not really first in Apple’s mind, what is?
If ad supported content does not work, who does that hurt? No, this is not a trick question. Yes it hurts a lot of people, but it hurts one company in particular and that is Google. Gee, do you think that Apple might want to hurt Google (AKA Android). NAH!
Now of course, Google won’t take this lying down and neither will the publishers. There may be editorials. There may be lawsuits. But in the end, this is a genie that is out of the bottle.
Now here is the conspiracy theory that I did not see before.
Who does ad blocking help? APPLE! Why? Because if advertising supported content goes away, it may be replaced by subscription based content. Which is sold through Apple’s store. Which Apple gets a 30% cut of.
Unlike Android, where you can subscribe to content directly without paying Google a cut, Apple really forces people to get their content from Apple – which is my basic beef with the company and why I don’t use any Apple products. That, however, is my battle to fight, not yours.
But the challenge with subscription based content is that people are not going to subscribe to 100 sites, even if it is only 50 cents a month each.
New market: content aggressors. Actually, an old market. Subscribe to one provider and settle for whatever content they give you. That may or may not be satisfying to the user.
BUT, someone (Google?) may figure out a way (micropayments?) to do content aggregation without doing content aggregation (maybe they do the subscription to the 100 sites but you subscribe to Google and they dole out the money).
So, if ad supported content dies, Google loses and Apple wins.
THAT is a goal worth pursuing in Cupertino.
There are other scenarios of course. We are already seeing sites that detect that you are using an ad blocker (since ads are two-way, it is pretty easy to detect that the ads are blocked). These sites throw up a banner that says if you want the content for free, turn off your ad blocker. There are only a few of these, but if publisher’s livelihoods are threatened, you may see more.
Some content providers will give you a warning but allow you to continue – for fear of offending you. Others will just stop the site from working unless you turn off ad blocking.
But I am OK with that. At least it is honest. You can then decide if you want to trade your information for viewing the content. If so, you can turn off ad blocking. If not, you can go elsewhere.
The market will decide the outcome.
Some content providers will go out of business.
Some content providers will decide that their content is not a DIRECT revenue source and ignore ads.
And still other very smart people (like Google) will come up with a new revenue model that ad blockers won’t kill.
It is fun to live in interesting times. Stay tuned for the next Apple-Google war.
AND, stay tuned for the next evolution of content on the web.
Some information for this post came from a Linked In Pulse post.