September 27, 2015
Apple recently announced the newest version of its iOS. But this announcement was a unique one: iPad and iPhone users with iOS 9 may now download apps that block the ads shown on the web. These apps are already prevalent for desktop and laptop users. The apps work to filter out advertisements on news sites, blogs and general web pages. Some are so effective that users see few advertisements at all.
One of the apps, called Peace, became an instant bestseller on the Apple Store. The creator of Peace, Marco Arment, then pulled the app from the store after only two days. Arment, who also co-founded Tumblr, did not want to see his app succeed at what he considers to be a high cost.
Apple’s announcement is a big benefit for its users. Most customers view advertisements as disruptive at best. People do not just want to skip advertisements on the Internet. They are happy to pay for ad-free entertainment on television as well.
But while Apple is catering to its customers’ desires, it threatens not only the advertising industry but the publishing industry. There is a universally regarded truth that the abundance of advertisements online are annoying. However, content providers depend on them for revenue.
In order to keep content free for fans, media sources, bloggers and entertainment sources rely on ad revenue. While some industry executives suggest that they are preparing for the day that ad blockers take over, others admit that this could be a serious issue.
Apple’s announcement was not an outspoken attack on online advertisements. It masked the update under the guise of providing a better user experience. Yet, the attack on ads could end up destroying the content experience as it is now known.
Ad blockers have plenty of benefits. The apps prevent harmful and disruptive ads from causing damage to users’ software. The New York Times suggested that ad blockers to force publishers to create a more fluid and less invasive advertising experience for users. Both of these are positive things.
Unfortunately, ad blockers hurt content providers. Advertisements are the reason that blogging has become a popular form of content creation. When bloggers are monetarily rewarded through advertising, they can spend more time creating better and more relevant content for users and subscribers. It also helps them keep their wider content free for everyone to enjoy.
The press industry also relies on advertisements. Juggernauts like CNN and Fox News won’t damaged by these applications. But both national papers and local news will suffer.
For the newspaper industry, the web is one of its last avenues to keep the presses running. Without the ad revenue, many news sources at the local, regional and national level would be without any revenue at all.
Although online ads are one of today’s greatest nuisances, ads are a fundamental part of how people use the Internet. Apple’s attempts at finding a better user experience for its customers will result in a radically different experience.
Instead of seeing an ad free experience, users could find themselves struggling to navigate a subscription only experience. Of course, there are ways around this, too. Though Apple would struggle with the legality of circumventing paywalls in the name of user experience.
The moral of the story, as some would have it, is think before you block. It is important to protect yourself and your computer from damaging and frustrating ads. However, it is important to protect the content that you love, too. If you appreciate the work of a certain website, let them know and turn off your ad blocker.
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