Are ad blockers a good thing?

Ads can be annoying, and increasingly, we are running ad blockers on our smartphones, tablets and PCs. However, who benefits? Who loses?

 

We have all experienced it at one time or another: either you a browsing a website or using an application (app) and get inundated with pop-up ads, or before you can successfully access a particular website or app, you have to sit through at least one ad. Whilst most of us have learned to endure those ads, they can be downright annoying at best, but also detract from digital experience we would like to have.

It therefore should come as no surprise that ‘there’s an app for that’. Software developers have created apps that can remove or alter ads from a web page, website, or a mobile app. Also, increasingly,  telecommunications carriers, such as Digicel, and device manufacturers, such as Apple, have introduced (or will be introducing) ad blocking in their stable of features. However, there has been considerable criticism of ad blocking, which could to some degree, negatively affect the user experience, which we all hope would continue to improve. It may thus be prudent to examine whether ad blocking is indeed a good thing?

Key benefits of ad blocking

First, although it was highlighted above, consumers can enjoy a better user experience when ads are blocked. What does this mean? In addition to not being inundated with pop-up ads, pages can become less cluttered, and there are few distractions/interruptions while browsing or using an app.

Second, many of the ads contain malware, such as those that state that your device has been infected and request that you download the advertised cleaner.  Invariably, and since those ads tend pop up quite frequently, they appear to rely upon either the ignorance or absent mindedness of the user to click on an ad. With an ad blocker activated, the user does not have to be as vigilant

Finally, and although it is not emphasised, ads can consume considerable amount of your device’s bandwidth. It not only eats into the data cap for the plan you have purchased, it also slows loading times for web pages, and increases the energy consumption of devices. In summary, it can increase your costs over time. In blocking ads, all of these difficulties are eliminated : users save bandwidth, pages load faster, and battery life improves.

What are some of the benefits when ads are allowed?

On the flipside, in a world where ads are allowed, content creators benefit. As you may have observed, the majority of websites and free apps include some form of advertising. Frequently, running ads is an important source of revenue for those platforms, which help their content to remain free, and makes the business viable for their owners.

Whilst this argument might still seem somewhat trite, when compared with all of the benefits of blocking ads, the things is that we, users, love, and even expect freeness – a lot of free content. However, content creation – be it apps, blogs, video, podcasts, etc. – are not cheap to produce. The creators most have the time, along with access to the requisite equipment and expertise in order to produce quality content that we would wish to access. However, to all of this, there is a cost. If we, as users, are not prepared to pay directly, the running ads has been the default option to try to recover those costs indirectly .

Finally, it must also be emphasised that depending on the ad blocking system that is used, some desired websites and content, such as YouTube, can get blocked. Additionally, some platforms, such as Forbes, actively withhold their content when an ad blockers is active. Hence, increasingly,  users may find that they cannot have their cake and eat it too!

In summary, although we can enjoy considerable benefits when we activate ad blockers , it may eventually mean that all of the content we expect should be free, will either no longer be available, or we will have to pay for it directly. However, we begin to feel the consequences of blocking ads, we may be more inclined to adopt a lighter hand approach to blocking ads, in order to try to foster a win-win situation for both us, as consumers, and for content creators.

 

Image credit:  Wikipedia

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