Did We Avoid the Ad Block Apocalypse?

We may have averted disaster for content publishers, but the experience isn't improving.

This morning, I read an interesting article by Patrick Kulp on Mashable. It discusses the so called “ad block apocalypse” that many people were concerned about when Safari on iOS enabled ad blockers. The gist of this concern was that content-focused sites were already having difficulty surviving due to declining ad rates (which desktop ad blockers certainly didn’t help). If ad-blocking took off on mobile, the entire business model could collapse.

As the article notes though, ad blocking rates have leveled off or are on the decline in many parts of the world, and usage, overall still remains relatively small. So…crisis averted?

Well, not entirely. First off, the entire model still remains broken. In fact, it is almost exemplified by the very site that this article is published on, as I reference in the Twitter conversation below.

Mashable has some quality content. Sure, it has more than it’s share of junk, but if you’re business is based on impressions and new posts drive impressions, than the more new posts the better (quality is secondary to volume). Nonetheless, it does have some solid articles.

However, every aspect of the site is about maximizing advertising effectiveness rather than serving the reader - from the enormous banner ads that often come down and cover the page or much of the content, to the auto-playing video ads in the right hand column, to the completely useless “continue reading” button when viewed on mobile. It’s like the site literally begs you to install an ad blocker.

Now, as a content creator and publisher, I refuse to use an ad blocker. In my opinion, if you feel that the cost of entry is too high, don’t enter. Everyone has a right to charge what they feel their work deserves - in Mashable’s case their entrance fee is a level of advertising that makes the site damn near unusable. Occassionally, this is a price I am willing to pay to read something interesting. More frequently, it isn’t, and I simply avoid the site - even when I might otherwise have read an article.

The point is, the situation for publishers is that they seem to believe that they still need to create tons of crap content and bloat their site up to make money. Given what I know about ad rates, that may very well be true. The situation for readers is that the experience sucks - but not enough for most of us to, apparently, be willing to pay for content (via a subscription, for instance).

Just because a situation isn’t getting worse, doesn’t mean it’s getting better.