Internet users are increasingly using tools like Ghostery and others to block ads and marketing trackers. Growth in adblocking has traditionally been slow and steady, but since 2013 that growth rate has skyrocketed. In the last three years, internet users who adblock have increased from 40 million users to more than 200 million users today. ][ In addition, a popular adblock plugin known as AdBlock Plus won a resounding court victory in Germany last week against local broadcasters, ensuring its continued operation.
He thinks consumers are right to be concerned because tracking (snooping on and recording your private Internet habits, sharing the data, and marketing to you on that basis) has “spiraled massively out of control”:
We are way, way beyond mere bloat. On some media sites, Ghostery informs me that more than 50 trackers are being blocked on a single page load.
Readers of a site I work at (not MercatorNet) sometimes write to complain about the objectionable ads “we” are running. When I pull up the pages to investigate, I see only fundraisers for charities I support.
The trackers who monitor our personal habits sell the space to those who may hope for results. Of course, the person complaining may not have been doing anything objectionable (if he were, he probably would not tell us about it). Maybe he is a principal following up on complaints from parents about materials that passed the school filter. Then ads he didn’t expect might start following him around…
Crichton goes on to point out that adblocking, while welcome, comes at a cost. Content can’t ever be just plain free. If the cost is not paid by people who are following each of us around on the Internet, we must pay it ourselves. Read his suggestions here.
Meanwhile, as adblocking becomes increasingly sophisticated, many people may choose to see few or no ads at all and just use the search engine to find what they want. Consumption may stay the same, but the social noise around it may diminish or crash. Then what becomes of the legendary advertising agency, whose purpose was to tell us what we should want and make us want it? We shall see.
A look at the economics of the issue:
Denyse O’Leary is a Canadian journalist, author, and blogger.