Clicked off

Doom beckons for online ads

They pop up without warning, distract attention and clog computers. Users have many reasons to shun online ads—and find it easy to do so. Though global online-advertising revenues rose by 22% in 2011, websites that depend on selling their viewers’ eyeballs are worried. Around 9% of all online page views come from browsers armed with ad-blocking software, such as Adblock Plus, downloaded nearly 180m times since 2007, and 3.5m times in October alone.

Few sites have tried to fight back. In 2010 Ars Technica, a technology-news outlet, found that 40% of its users were blocking its ads. So it blocked their access for a day, but signed up only 200 users (out of 5m a month) for its ad-free version. Media firms are now opting for paywalls. Press+, a paywall provider set up in 2010, now has over 300 clients.

Till Faida, co-founder of Eyeo, which owns Adblock Plus, agrees that ads are needed to pay for content. Users of his plug-in can choose to allow “acceptable ads”: no animation and no tiresome clicking to dodge them. “You cannot annoy someone into liking you,” says Norm Johnston of Mindshare, a media-buying agency. But for many users the only good ad is an invisible one.

First published in The EconomistAlso available in audio here.

Free image from here.

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