Is it ethical to use an ad blocker?

There has been a lot of talk about ad blockers in recent days - so is it ethical to use one?

Posted on 29 September 2015 -
Tibus BY Tibus

The recent launch of Apple’s iOS9 brought with it a new wave of ad blockers and, consequently, introduced a lot more people to the concept of an ad blocker.

If that passed you by, an ad blocker is essentially an application or piece of software that prevents advertising from appearing on websites you visit.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? While we’ve all got fond memories of favourite adverts from down the years, we also know that the five seconds before the YouTube ‘Skip Ad’ button appears are the longest five seconds of the day. And when was the last time you recorded a TV show and didn’t fast-forward through the ad break?

Be careful what you wish for

Irritating as advertising can be, when it comes to online ad blockers, it is very much a case of be careful what you wish for, because this is the latest in a long line of debates relating to the balancing act between the internet, consumption, money and ethics. 

And it is an ethical issue. Publishers, ranging from news organisations to small independent blog sites, rely on advertising to fund their online content. 

By using a website that incorporates advertising, we’re essentially entering into an unwritten contract that we can enjoy the content for free in exchange for also viewing the adverts that have paid for that content to be created. When we block those ads, the entire offering breaks down.

This has prompted one clever so-and-so to create an ‘ethical ad blocker’. Instead of blocking ads, it prevents you from accessing sites that use advertising so you can avoid consuming content for which you haven’t ‘paid’.

For a vast number of websites, take away the ad revenue and what will you be left with? For the independent bloggers and websites with a smaller following, it will probably cease to be worthwhile to create content. Websites with a larger audience will probably disappear behind paywalls, so readers will have to pay for content that was once ad-funded. In either of those cases, is the outcome favourable to seeing a few adverts each day? 

Publishers are not blameless

Publishers and the advertising networks they work with have brought the emergence of ad blockers on themselves to some extent. That is explored in more detail by our managing director Andrew Maybin in his latest blog post for UTV. Click here to read that.