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If you’ve spent any amount of time on the Web recently, you’ve probably been annoyed by all the irritating ads out there. Sometimes, it becomes impossible to read a web page because of all the pop-up ads, interstitial ads and auto-playing videos. You try to scroll to the bottom of an article, and you’re bombarded with even more ads and offers. And Google is tired of it.
In a letter sent out to more than 700 digital publishers, Google warned that the new release of Chrome will block the most annoying and intrusive ads. It won’t block all ads – but it will block the ones that consumers and web fans have been complaining about. Google is working alongside an organization known as the Coalition For Better Ads to get rid of all the advertising crap on the Internet these days.
But can the web run without advertising?
The only problem here is that the entire web runs on advertising. Yes, some websites have managed to put up pay walls and set up subscription models, but the reality is that most sites are paid for by advertisers. The advertising dumpster fire that some websites have become is really just a desperate attempt to make some money. Publishers may not like it, but they’re willing to let brands run full-page takeover ads if that helps keep the lights on at night.
And that’s no exaggeration. Take Medium, for example. At the beginning of 2017, the content site said it was laying off 50 employers and closing down offices in New York and Washington, DC. According to Medium CEO Ev Williams, it was all part of a bold vision by Medium – reportedly worth north of $600 million – to fix a “broken system.” Medium all but admitted that it couldn’t survive on advertising alone.
So what’s going to happen to the hundreds of publishers that also depend on advertising? Google says that websites have been given plenty of advance notice, and not to worry. But it is concerning that some of the websites warned in advance include some big names, like Forbes, the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, New York Daily News, and Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. Every ad that Google blocks is money that’s coming out of the pockets of those media companies.
Ad filters vs. ad blockers
Google, for its part, says that it is introducing “ad filters,” not “ad blockers.” Ad blockers – which some active Web users already have installed to streamline their browsing experience – would be far worse for advertisers. It would essentially mean that no web browser ever sees an ad, ever.
For people who consume huge amounts of content on the web, an ad-free website is basically paradise. Imagine being able to read an article from beginning to end without being bombarded with offers and come-ons. Imagine being able to leave a website without some annoying, last-ditch sales offer popping up on your screen. And – get this – imagine ads that you can actually click and make go away, as opposed to all those sneaky pop-ads that don’t seem to have any obvious way to kill them.
Can advertisers really “self-regulate”?
In 2018, this debate is only going to intensify. For now, advertisers are saying they’ll “self-regulate” without the need for Google to take such draconian steps. (That sounds a lot like Wall Street investment banks promising to self-regulate anytime Congress threatens to take away some of their banking powers!)
It’s easy to say that the system is “broken.” It’s much harder to come up with a solution. It might just be that the web as we know it is going to look much different (literally) in the years ahead, as content producers and advertisers figure out a compromise solution that keeps everyone happy: consumers want a streamlined browsing experience, media companies want to make as much money as possible, and brands want to reach as many people as possible.