I use an ad blocker in general, and add exceptions if ads are not onerous and I want to subscribe to help fund sources. The impact on AB is not large but helps keep AB on a non-profit level instead of using personal funds. Contributors are volunteers. But I would like to hear from readers on notions on their own experience…AB is glad to share links to content almost anywhere.
In the short run – before sites have a chance to change their investment – ad blocking should just increase traffic. Sites haven’t had a chance, or the need, to adjust their quality, so users employing ad blockers can access the same quality content without the nuisance of ads. Users of ad blockers, some of whom had been unwilling to visit the sites without an ad blocker, would now find the site more attractive and might now visit. In the short run, we would therefore expect sites with a greater share of potential users employing ad blockers to experience increased traffic. In the longer run, by contrast, sites deprived of revenue would decrease their investment along the lines outlined above. While we find a worsening in traffic for sites with more ad blocking users over the three-year period, we find no such worsening during 2013. Rather, sites with higher shares of eventual ad blocking users experience increases in traffic during 2013, a pattern that reverses in the longer-run period of 2013-2016. This provides some assurance that the site degradation that we document is caused by ad blocking.
The content-threatening problems created by ad blocking have a number of possible remedies. Sites can move from ad support to paywalls, although this transition has been difficult for all but the most popular information sources (Chiou and Tucker 2013). Sites can also prevent users with ad blockers engaged from visiting their sites. This strategy is challenging for sites to undertake unilaterally when other sites offer similar content, and losing any visitors – including those who block ads – lowers a site’s visibility and search engine rank. While they oppose ad blockers, advertisers themselves recognise that excesses in web advertising – long load times, privacy-invading cookies, and even malware – have driven users to protect themselves with ad blockers. Advertising associations are now exploring advertising best practices in order not to sour users on all advertising.3 Finally, regulators might consider whether coordination among sites in preventing access by users with ad blockers engaged necessarily runs afoul of antitrust rule.