September 17, 2015

Content Blockers

Everyone seems to be talking about content blockers now that Marco Arment’s app, Peace has reached the top spot in paid apps with the release of iOS 9. The fact that it shot up so quickly is evidence of something in the market seeing as how two other content blockers have joined the ranks in the top ten as well.

Others, like Matt Buchanan of the Awl, are not so happy about the onslaught of content blockers.

the irony of charging for an ad blocker is too much for me I might die overnight see you later

— matt (@mattbuchanan) September 17, 2015

In all honesty, he has every right to be upset. The Awl is not one of the horrendous offenders of ads on the web. Other sites like the Verge, who take up an entire mobile screen with an ad and take mutitudes longer to load are the real problem. However, the vendetta Matt has built is absolutely ridiculous. He pretends like one man, Marco Arment, is the end all be all of content blockers. If only Marco hadn’t released Peace everything would be swell in the world of web publishing because, obviously, no one else would use the tools provided by Apple to make a content blocker.

Mr. Buchanan has to be educated enough to realize the nature of the web and how quickly the status quo can change. Both the music industry and the print industry were forced to change due to the internet. Now change is coming to web publishing whether the publishers like it or not. Adapting, not fighting against it, is the only way to find a way forward.

Many content blocker supporters point to the likes of John Gruber at Daring Fireball and Marco’s own site as ways to do web publishing correctly. This is pretty absurd as well. They might have found a business model that works for them, but it is increasingly hard to have a staff that can cover multiple events completely throughout a day/week/month. Someone like John Gruber can go a whole day without publishing anything and be okay. A staffed website just couldn’t get away with that in today’s climate.

All this being said, content blockers are now a part of the mobile web. It isn’t like Marco’s app allows ads to pass through on his own site but at the same time, most users won’t even think to whitelist the sites they want to support. It isn’t Marco’s job to make sure these sites continue to maintain revenue. Ad blocking isn’t a new thing either, it is just being made available on another platform, and not even by Marco but by Apple.

Today’s business model for most web publishers will have to change. The obtrusiveness of ads and trackers has gotten out of hand and the solutions we have are a direct result of that. Some sites will lose revenue and go out of business but there will be others that figure out how to sustain themselves, and we will probably have a completely new discussion around whatever issue that may be in the future.




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