During episode 505 of the Security Now! podcast, Steve Gibson recently described to Leo Laporte how he was exploring the “ethics and morality of adblocking” when he came across a piece from 2010 by Ken Fisher, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Ars Technica:
…what Ken’s article said that stopped me cold was, well, the article begins, the first line is “Did you know that blocking ads truly hurts the websites you visit? We recently learned that many of our readers did not know this, so I’m going to explain why.” And the short version is that sites are paid for impressions, not only for click-throughs.
The realization that just letting ads get through to the browser will support the sites he visits leads Steve to praise Adblock Plus for their extensive whitelisting approach and ultimately make a direct appeal to their listeners:
I wanted to make sure that our listeners know that pulling the ads is generating revenue for the sites they visit …we really want websites to continue. And I just don’t think having my browser pull the ads and, as long as they’re innocuous enough, present them to me. I mean, I don’t look at them. I don’t click on them. But I think that’s a completely acceptable tradeoff…
PageFair loves the idea that the tech elite is waking up to the threat posed to websites by blanket adblocking, but we’d like to explore the implied assumption that adblock users don’t generally click on ads.
Steve may think he doesn’t click on ads, but most adblock users click a lot more frequently than they realize.
Data collected from our network and partner sites shows that adblock users statistically click on more ads than non-adblock users. For some sites, the difference can mean that up to twice as many clicks come from adblock users.
Our data comes from showing relatively unobtrusive and relevant ads to users, so we think that much of this effect results from a lack of banner blindness on the part of adblock users. Because they aren’t being bombarded with ads that abuse their attention, they actually see the advertising and are more receptive to the message.
But there’s also a good explanation for the fact that adblock users often don’t realize that they habitually click on ads. We believe that adblock users don’t consider ads that are relevant to them as advertising. That includes sponsored links such as relevant search ads, ads on classified listings sites, relevant content recommendations or relevant product recommendations. Being shown something interesting to you in a reasonable and non-intrusive manner leads to clicks.
Steve and Leo are right that many big tech-savvy sites thrive on impressions and don’t care about clicks, but many smaller sites really need those clicks. They rely on exactly the kind of ads listed above. So those smaller sites really need adblock users — not because they’re willing to accept that their browser will pull in ads, but because they really do click.