An Open Letter To Developers of Ad Blocking Software

Screaming out my pain by Really Terrible Photographer

"Bloggers have to eat", John Battelle, CEO Federated Media Publishing

Dear Developers of Ad Blocking applications

I'll cut straight to the chase. What have we done to you to deserve your wrath? The ad blockers that you design prevent our ads from being displayed.

Less advertising means less revenue for producing the quality content that you and everybody else craves and needs. High quality online content allows readers all over the world to educate and better themselves, without incurring any relative costs.

Think about it: without online advertising where would the Internet be? Every site that depends on display advertising and page views would find it very hard to make ends meet. Producing good content is generally a very expensive procedure.

As it stands, the overwhelming majority of the traditional (by traditional, I mean those who make a living out of writing) online content community works using the following equation.

Monthly Revenue = average advert slots per page x total number of page views x average cost per advert impression

"When advertising works, millions keep their jobs" - Reader's Digest Ad

Decreasing any of the variables on the right hand side will decrease revenue on the left hand side. And preventing adverts from displaying can have a devastating effect on the online media ecosystem, directly affecting web designers, journalists, editors, copywriters, developers, sales people, operations teams etc.

Not only that, should the number of people using ad blockers continue to rise, revenues will continue to drop while operating costs (servers, electricity, bandwidth, staff) keep on rising. This means that a website could be uber-popular and still face closure because it's not generating enough revenue to stay afloat.

Worse still, ad blockers cause what the French call "fuite en avant" which can be loosely metaphorically interpreted as "from the frying pan into the fire" leaving online publishers with two choices to earn more money:

- Pack more adverts on a page, then get burnt by Google Panda and die by a thousand cuts

- Pack more "innovative" Flash-based adverts and cause users' browsers to crash or the Flash plugin to self-destruct, after which the users are unlikely to ever use the website again.

As a publisher your options are limited:

- Scrap adverts and erect a pay-wall. A sure way to die a quick death online (except if you're the FT or WSJ).

- Change your business model and quit publishing altogether.

- Blocking content for those who use ad blockers. Arstechnica did it and was humbled in the process (http://goo.gl/iZ37).

- There's also (apparently) a fourth version known only to those who use ad blockers, which goes along the lines of "if ads do not work for you try to find alternative ways to have an income...". That's an actual comment from a reader (see http://goo.gl/kQOim).

"Help me help you" Tom Cruise In Jerry McGuire

So here's the deal. Come up with a valid suggestion on how to make adverts better and we promise that we will consider it. If we don't, may Cerberus' three heads shred our corpses and disperse the pieces in the realm of Hades. We're not omniscient and we'll take constructive criticisms onboard and work to do better. After all, it's the long term survival of online publishing that could be at stake.

Disclaimer : Net Communities, the publisher of ITProPortal, represents several hundred technology websites commercially including Pocket-Lint, Mashable, Readwriteweb, GigaOM, Technorati and many, many more (you can learn more on our website).