Original question from Quora:

Is it morally wrong to use AdBlock?

My Answer:

When someone gives away their content with advertising attached to it, they are gambling on one important thing and if they screw it up, they are out of business. Allow me to explain…

One upon a time there were newspapers and magazines. They sold for a relatively small amount of money, so for them to make money they had to write things worth reading.

Because they liked making money, they wrote about interesting things. News, current events, stuff that made your life better, and so on. This was a practical time.

Eventually, they realized they could sell advertising for other businesses that would sit alongside their articles. This helped offset the printing cost, and improve profitability. It had the side benefit of the ads themselves being useful to the reader.

Now, this next part is important, so pay attention.

What happened when a reader found a useful ad?

Well the answer is simple, they would buy the product or service being advertised. That might sound crazy, but it really did work.

This was good for the reader, the publisher, and the advertiser. Everybody gets what they want out of this deal and they are all better off.

Seeing the promising initial results, newspapers and magazines did the rational thing…

THEY SOLD MORE ADS!

and more ads….

and more ads…

…until they filled their publications with ads.

And then a funny thing happened.

The ads became less effective. All the ads. What used to be a profitable investment, spending $100 to make $5,000 turned into spending $5,000 to make $5,000 or worse, spending $10,000 to “promote the brand” and make $0 in trackable sales.

Oh and another thing happened.

Readers stopped paying as much attention to newspapers and magazines because they were filled with ads. Eventually, the internet happened and both subscriber and advertiser revenue plummeted.

All of this could have been avoided had they kept the balance of reader experience, advertiser payout, and their own profit margins.

What they failed to see is, advertising only is sustainable when the readers take action on the ads. If the ads don’t make dollars, they don’t make sense.

On the internet, you see sites - especially local newspapers and large media sites where there are more ads than content and the ads themselves aren’t designed to help the reader, they are designed to up the advertising dollars by another 10%.

The extra popup, banner, and content blocking quiz are making them short term money, but losing them readers, and crucially are training readers to hate/ignore ads.

Readers are naturally turning on ad blockers in response and I don’t blame them. A publication only works if it delivers a lot of value to the readers, who then buy subscriptions to the publication or go out and buy things being advertised in the publication.

Media outlets lost sight of this and it cost them money and readership. Ad blockers aren’t the problem at all.

I promise you that ad blockers aren’t hurting media companies as much as much as they hurt themselves with poor management of their own business. I don’t see ad blockers as immoral.

I see them as a signal that media companies don’t know how to run their own business to deliver meaningful value to readers and advertisers.

-Brian

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