'Peace' Out - Arment and the Ad-Blocking War

Posted on Sunday, September 20, 2015 by Dee Fowler
Blogger with iPhone, laptop, and coffee

Peace required that all ads be treated the same — all-or-nothing enforcement for decisions that aren’t black and white. This approach is too blunt, and Ghostery and I have both decided that it doesn’t serve our goals or beliefs well enough. If we’re going to effect positive change overall, a more nuanced, complex approach is required than what I can bring in a simple iOS app. - Marco Arment

Rare Earth's recent staff meetings have centered on how best to deliver quality content; not how to sneak unwanted ads past the content blockers. On that, developer Arment and we agree. Yes, we use trackers like Google Analytics and CrazyEgg.  Those tools help us understand what our customers' audiences want, and how to evaluate why certain strategies are successful.

Ad blockers come with an important asterisk: while they do benefit a ton of people in major ways, they also hurt some, including many who don’t deserve the hit. ... Ad-blocking is a kind of war... " Marco Arment

Those who've followed the content versus ad-blocker debate know that the combatants are Google and Apple. Some describe small publishers as collateral damage. We think the casualty lists should include the audience.

Users have played whack-a-mole with unwanted ads since the advent of pop-ups. What was once a nuisance has evolved into a challenge to privacy and financial security. Ads disrupt narrative flow, hide content, and interfere with page loading. Advertisers have installed data-mining trackers to hone their marketing strategy.

Google and Apple aren't the only titans in this battle. Patrick Kulp writes: 

Facebook said this week that it would soon begin using the data it collects on your use of the "like" and "share" buttons and other social widgets embedded in millions of websites and apps to better personalize the ads it shows you, starting next month. ... the company first announced the undertaking more than a year ago and has been busily stockpiling information on your web-surfing habits for years in anticipation.

Smartphone users find the practice has opted them into potentially ruinous rates of data consumption. A 2015 Pew Research study reveals that "Nearly one-quarter (23%) of smartphone owners have canceled or suspended their cell phone service because the cost was too expensive." Low - and high income households alike complain about the cost of service, but "... 29% of those who pay more than $200 per month ... describe their plan as a financial burden, compared with 16% of users whose plan costs less than $100 per month."

While the cost of data surely isn't the only contributing factor, data usage is one of the costliest features of service. Of those who are smartphone-dependent (phone is the only method of internet access) Pew goes on to say that "63% of these smartphone-dependent users have gotten job information on their phone in the last year, and 39% have used their phone to submit a job application." The high cost of service hits lower-income job seekers especially hard: 51% frequently reach the maximum data allowed on their plans; 48% have had service canceled/interrupted. 

What is the conscientious marketer to do in this new landscape?

So it's important to understand that the motivation for designing such technologies, can either to the user's benefit or detriment. We've forgotten our friends' phone numbers and birthdays; we've forgotten our account numbers and passwords. These technologies can either be used to facilitate actions that are part of our everyday life on the web - or to cost us time and money. 

It's up to each of us to selectively choose the tools that will enable us to quickly and securely access the content we want to receive - and opt out of the rest.


To learn more about how Rare Earth's Digital Marketing services can help your brand thrive:

Contact Us or get your Free Digital Marketing Analysis

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