Google, as of Thursday, is starting to block ads it deems overly intrusive on its proprietary Chrome browser.
The filtering system, which is centered on the Better Ads Standards, is the result of public consumer research conducted by the Coalition for Better Ads, an industry group that aims to better users’ experience with digital advertising. Google claims that with the help of a diverse set of organizations, it also surveyed more than 40,000 internet users in Europe and North America, who gave feedback on which ads are the most unwelcome and pushy.
It determined from the data that people were most averse to ads that take up the whole screen — called “prestitial” — and temporarily restrict access to the intended content, as well as the flashing animated ones. Users were also not keen on ads that have a countdown before they can be hidden. So, after extrapolating such information, Google and the Coalition for Better Ads determined that it was best to block ads of this kind, presumably making navigating the web a less frustrating adventure.
But, citing anonymous sources, The Wall Street Journal reports that multiple people and groups involved are skeptical of Google’s intentions because it allegedly dominated much of the process. They are reportedly worried that the responses gathered and other research conducted will apply neither to typical Google ads, nor to specific ones that run on its popular subsidiary YouTube.
They also alleged that it would take more away from online advertisers, a market that is already dominated by Google (and Facebook).
Dr. Johnny Ryan, the former chief innovation officer of The Irish Times and a go-to expert for programmatic ads, says that marketers won’t get charged if their content is blocked because the server never requested it.
“The advertisers aren’t really suffering. The only party who suffers there is the publisher. That’s the tragedy of ad-blocking,” Ryan, who is an executive at PageFair, “the global authority on adblocking,” told The Daily Caller News Foundation in an interview. “And there’s no reason for an advertiser to leave a publisher just because of ad-blocking.”
Ryan says publishers should be more concerned because “when ad-blocking gets bad enough for a publisher … it starts to eat into the really, really valuable direct sales.”
“And that’s when publishers have to fire people,” Ryan said.
Ryan says ad-blocking companies are combatting PageFair’s efforts since it was one of the first to be working in this area, and tries to ensure a fair balance between users and content creators.
“Google subscribed to the standard of the coalition, as has PageFair. This is an industry standard and we are actually more severe than that,” Ryan continued. “But the ad-blocking companies have a different standard. And some of them say all ads are not okay; some of them say certain types of ads are okay, but if you’re a reasonably sized company you must pay us as well to get the ads through, so there is a commercial aspect.”
In other words, the two extremes he’s observed for the ad-obstructing industry are no ads at all on one end, and just some on the other with a fee. He compares it to creating a “drawbridge” between the publisher and the publisher’s visitor.
Overall, Ryan believes that after certain more balanced ad-blocking initiatives are rolled out across different browsers, like Google’s, and the more people embrace them, the more people will come to appreciate the web, especially in its somewhat more polished state.
“When this all shakes out,” says Ryan, “we are going to have a slightly more restrained, slightly more respectful web, where people can still make money through advertising.”
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