What Should We Do About Linking To Sites That Block People Using Ad Blockers?
from the weigh-in dept
Earlier this week, the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) — the same organization whose boss Randall Rothenberg recently suggested that if you use an ad blocker you hate free speech and are, possibly, a racist — put out some guidelines for publishers looking to “combat” ad blockers. The basic crux of it: the IAB suggests that sites block people who use ad blockers from reading their content. They even created a puke-inducing acronym “DEAL” and some code for “detecting” ad blockers. Detecting being the D:
- Detect ad blocking, in order to initiate a conversation
- Explain the value exchange that advertising enables
- Ask for changed behavior in order to maintain an equitable exchange
- Lift restrictions or Limit access in response to consumer choice
Of course, it should be no surprise that this is happening at the same time a ton of online publishers seem to be following this plan exactly. It really kicked off late last year when Forbes and GQ started telling users that they couldn’t read their content unless they whitelisted them on their ad blockers. In the last few weeks, Wired joined in with the same basic plan. And just this week, the NY Times announced plans to do something similar.
Publications had tried this in the past. You may recall, actually, that back in 2010, Ars Technica (owned by Conde Nast, which also owns Wired and GQ) implemented a very similar plan, blocking anyone using ad blockers — but the outcry was so vocal and loud that it dropped the plan later that very same day. At the time, we pointed out how it seemed like a really bad idea to blame your own community, and that still holds true today. Blocking people using ad blockers seems pretty stupid for a variety of reasons.
So here’s my big question: should we at Techdirt still link to these sites if we see worthwhile stories on them (and if we realize they’re blocking people using ad blockers)? As we’ve said plenty of times in the past, we not only don’t get upset if you’re using an ad blocker, we allow you to turn off ads if you don’t like them on our site — though we do politely request (not require or demand) that you support us in other ways, such as through our Insider Shop, our Deal Store or our ongoing crowdfunding campaign. But should we link to sites — even if the content is good — if they might annoy our community?
To be honest, this is part of the reason why I think this war on ad blockers is idiotic. Even if I was using an ad blocker, if I linked to an article on Wired or Forbes, I’d be sending them a lot more traffic, and even if some of those users were using ad blockers, many would not be. Thus, they’re actually losing out on significant ad impressions by making it more difficult for me to read their stuff and link others to it. And, obviously, that’s one reason to not link to such sites (not that they’d understand this — they’d likely chalk up the decline in inbound traffic to some other factor, potentially blaming readers even more).
My general thought — as of right now — is that whenever possible, I will try to avoid linking to such sites, and will look around for alternative sources that are actually more welcoming. However, in some cases, I may still link to such sites, if the particular content really is unique and worthwhile to discuss here. But I did want to share my thinking with everyone here, and get your take on this as well. What do you think we should do when coming across potential stories to write about from those sites?