IAB’s Rothenberg Calls AdBlock-Plus an Unethical, Immoral, Mendacious Coven of Techie Wannabes
NEW YORK, NY — The war of words between the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and Adblock Plus have heated up over the last few days, both parties have publicly lobbed blows at each other over the ethical use of ad blocking technology.
AdBlock-Plus, an app that enables users to block ads on mobile devices, says it was snubbed by the IAB when its registration for the IAB’s Annual Leadership Meeting was canceled. AdBlock-Plus, a German-based, for-profit company then took to the Internet to complain that IAB had “disinvited” them to their convention.
“That, of course, is as much a lie as the others they routinely try to tell the world. We had never invited them in the first place,” said the IAB’s President and Chief Executive Officer, Randall Rothenberg, at the 2016 IAB Annual Leadership Meeting. “They registered for this event online. When we found out, we cancelled their registration and reversed their credit card billing. Why? For the simple reason that they are stealing from publishers, subverting freedom of the press, operating a business model predicated on censorship of content, and ultimately forcing consumers to pay more money for less and less diverse information.”
According to Rothenberg, ad-block developers are nothing more than profiteers whose business models are premised on impeding the movement of communication between and among content producers and consumers.
“They offer to lift their toll gates for those wealthy enough to pay them off, or who submit to their demands. They constrict freedom of speech to fit the shackles of their revenue schemes,” said Rothenberg “This is what happens when your only motivation, your only metric—is money. For that is what AdBlock-Plus is: an old-fashioned extortion racket, gussied up in the flowery but false language of contemporary consumerism.
Adblock-Plus is not the only app developer looking to cash in on the ad blocking movement, according to the IAB, for-profit ad-blockers have become the darlings of venture capital industry and angel investors, including firms with investments in advertising technology and ad-supported publishing companies. Shine, an Israeli-based startup, has started selling ad-blocking software to mobile phone networks and is backed by Horizons Ventures, the venture capital arm of Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-Shing. Brave, another startup launched by former Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich, has launched a Web browser that strips advertisements from publishers’ pages and then replaces them with their own for-profit ads.
“This is the true face of ad blocking,” said Rothenberg. “They may attempt to dignify their practices with such politically correct phrases as “reasonable advertising,” “responsible advertising,” and “acceptable ads”; and they can claim as loudly as they want that they seek “constructive rapport” with other stakeholders. But in fact, they are engaged in the techniques of The Big Lie, declaring themselves the friends of those whose livelihoods they would destroy, and allies to those whose freedoms they would subvert.
Has Ad Blocking Backfired?
The use of ad blocking software grew by 48% in the last 12 months to more than 45 million monthly active users, or approximately 16% of the U.S. online population, according to the latest report from PageFair and Adobe. In Europe, ad blocking grew by 35% during the same period to 77 million monthly active users. The report, The Cost of Ad Blocking, details the global state of ad blocking and what its rapid growth means for the future of the Internet publishing and advertising industries, estimates that more than $21 billion in advertising revenues will be lost in 2015 due to ad blocking, and its forecasts to jump to more than $41 billion worldwide by 2016.
According to the IAB, fewer than 10% of consumers want to pay for content, and more than 75% of consumers would prefer ad-supported sites where the content is free over ad-free sites where they would pay fees for content.
Online publishers are fighting back. Many are installing scripts that enable them to see when consumers coming to their sites have ad-blockers installed and offering consumers a choice to turn off their ad-blockers or pay a subscription fee, otherwise publishers are constraining consumers’ access to content. The move helps to remind consumers and reinforce the value of what publishers deliver, and their efforts seems to be working. Publishers are starting to see a higher percentage of consumers making mutually beneficial choices to maintain their access to free content.
“The best news of all is that the ad-block profiteers have done this industry a favor. They have forced us to look inward at our own relentless self-involvement and outward, to the men, women, and children who are our actual customers,” said Rothenberg.
Editor’s Update—June 23, 2016—While the online publishing and ad industry see ad-blocking as a problem, consumers see it as a solution. New data from eMarketer and PageFair show that consumers use of ad-blocking software is accelerating. Nearly 70 million Americans will use ad-blocking software in 2016, representing about 26% of all U.S. Internet users, according to eMarketer. In 2017, eMarketer is forecasting that more than 86 million Americans, or 32% of all U.S. Internet users, will block online ads. Approximately 22% of the world’s 1.9bn smartphone users, roughly 419 million people worldwide, currently block advertising on their mobile devices, according to PageFair’s 2016 Moble Adblocking Report. Both mobile web and in-app ads can now be blocked, which calls in question mobile advertising’s long-term effectiveness.
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