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Readers are right in using adblockers, so are publishers in refusing them access

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Some Indian publishers are now asking users to turn off their ad blockers to read their stories on their websites. Currently, this is active on the websites of the Times of India,  Economic Times, Live Hindustan and Hindustan Times.

Times of India wants users to completely delete ad block extensions from Chrome browsers and does not allow readers to view content even after they have whitelisted a page.

The Indian Express, The Hindu, Dainik Bhaskar, Amar Ujala and other news publications would also be joining in asking users to disable ad blockers, as indicated by this Factordaily post.

However, websites such as Livemint (part of HT Media) and Navbharat Times (part of TOI Group) have not started prompting users to disable ad blockers.

India has more than 122 million users ad blockers according to a study by conducted by PageFair. To put that in context, this is almost half the number of Internet users in India (306 million users as of December 2015). India stands second among the 17 countries identified by the study. India was second to China, which had 159 million monthly active users with a built-in ad blocking browser on mobile.

In March, a number of French media publications decided to run a week long trial which would stop users who use ad blockers from accessing content. The publications involved include Le Monde, Le Figaro, RTE, Le Parisien, L’Equipe and music platform Deezer.

In Sweden, 90% of its publishers plan to take on ad blockers during the month of August. The IAB Sweden, which is spearheading the effort, is also trying to improve advertising by standardizing formats. Other international publications such as the New York Times, Washington Post, The Telegraph and Trinity Mirror and City AM have take similar approaches.


Why the readers are right

Following the move by Times of India and Hindustan Times the move was predictably met with backlash from readers. Many have even found workarounds for the block.

Reader’s ire for the move is understandable as the ads on these sites are intrusive and hamper the reading experience. Here’s Hindustan Times website with an ad blocker on:

HT without ads

And here’s the website with the ad blocker off:

HT with ads

Users are also concerned that their mobile data bills would shoot up mainly due to video ads which autoplay in a website. About 25% of Indians in a study said that they somewhat aware that their mobile bills are increasing due to ads and upset by the brands consuming data through video adverts.

Not to mention the privacy issues with the number of trackers news websites use. Motherboard reported in May that news sites track users across the web with more third-party tracking code than any other type of site. A study from Princeton showed that websites which publish content and are dependent on advertising revenue use trackers the most.

Why the publishers are right

We’ve pointed out that publishers are right too. Digital advertising is commoditised to a level where it attaches little value to the quality of the content or the publishers brand. In order to sustain, publishers end up trying to sell as much advertising as possible and increase the number of impressions served or clicks on links. Publisher brands are increasingly becoming less important, and not many advertisers are looking at a positive rub-off that brand affinity might bring.

To this end, some online news sites such as Catch News resort to splitting stories into multiple parts to improve stickiness and claim more ad impressions (a sample story here shows they sliced a 1,000 word story into eight parts).

While readers have the right to use ad blockers (their browser, their prerogative), publishers will be forced to block users who use ad blockers (their website, their prerogative).


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  • While publishers are right in denying access to users with ad blockers installed, that’s not the right solution. The ad blockers came into existence due to a sever user problem – Crappy Ads and JavaScript. I don’t want a page to still be loading while I’ve already finished reading a story. I don’t want videos to auto play and eat into my data, battery and patience. For a 1 mb story, i don’t want to download 15 mb of ads.

    I believe publishers know this but are not ready to fix the problem. They need to go back to ad networks and ask them for cleaner ads, with no fishy business with tracking cookies and all in the background.

    We know there are not free lunches and publishers make money through ads. Most of the pragmatic web users will be glad to white list any site that provider cleaner reading experience with non intrusive ads. I’ve done it for many site including medianama and actively do it for sites that understands this.

    I would rather find other sources of news than support such publishers and their shitty ad networks.

  • Amon

    I came across this blocking on ‘India Today’ website yesterday, and I promptly left the site. Will also gladly stop using all such other sites whenever I come across them. There will always be alternate sources for unbiased coverage.

    & I will support these sites only if they use ads that are not on whole goddamn site and don’t track me. Btw, this is not gonna happen any time soon as we know, so I will keep using adblock.

    (& there will always be workarounds for those who still want to use them. I can already bypass this block, and all i had to do is look at code for a minute. I’m sure these solutions will be Incorporated in anti adblock filters soon enough and shared with general public making this block totally pointless.p.s I’m not using this myself as I prefer to just stop using these greedy publishers)

  • Maktub DestinyExists

    Navbhrattimes is blocking people reading website with adblocker , First cross check your self. Don`t mislead people.Check screenshot.

  • sketharaman

    I must’ve read, what, over a 100 articles on this subject and the last line of your article is one of the most sensible summaries of the ad-blocker situation. Kudos for nailing it. I know it doesn’t provide a solution for the problem but not all problems need a solution.

  • Rex

    Forget privacy, ad networks pose a security risk. There are tons of cases of malware being distributed on popular websites via third party ad networks. I’ve been blocking ads for the last 20 years on the net, right from when I first noticed that my already slow dialup connection was hampered by ads getting loaded. Publishers are 100% responsible for this situation, thanks to their pissing off a critical mass of users who have had enough of intrusive, bandwidth hogging ads destroying the reading experience. And if you’re going to block adblockers, thank you and goodbye – there are millions of other places online where I can get news.