The Ad Blocker Debate

Jean-Louis Gassée, on ad-blocking tools coming with iOS 9 thanks to Safari Content Blockers:

Publishers who rise to condemn new (and still unproven) ad-blocking features on iOS and OS X ought to ask themselves one question: Who needs whom the most?

Apple’s move answers the question. No need to think it’s building ad-blocking technology to monopolize the field to the benefit of its iAd platform whose revenue can’t “move the needle” for a company where revenue and profits mostly come from hardware (see the last 10-Q report page 25). Apple’s “ulterior” motive is making everyday use of its products more pleasant, resulting in more sales: the usual ecosystem play.

With MacStories, we're pretty fortunate to be in the position of running a publication that doesn't depend on heavy user tracking and programmatic ads (we do native advertising with sponsors, affiliate links, and, soon, something else). The few JavaScript code that is left on our pages (Google Analytics) could go away if I find something that works better and is lighter than Google's solution. As publishers, we won't be particularly affected by Content Blockers. I relate to those who run sites based on a different model, but I'm not so shortsighted to blame Safari for the slow nature of a mobile web infested with ads and creepy trackers.

I also believe that a lot of this comes down to how much you respect your readers. This was our single most important goal with MacStories 4.0 last year. It won't change anytime soon. It's important for us that anyone – no matter their browser or Internet speed or data cap – can read our website comfortably and quickly.

As a user, I'm ecstatic about Content Blockers. Some might say it's not morally acceptable to block ads, but when publishers reach the point where a single 80 KB article weighs 6 MB, maybe it is time for a wake up call.