Ad blocking, traversing through the denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance stages of Internet grief, has come. Software can strip out tiresome search, banner, pop-up and video ads — and, hence, the lion’s share of digital media revenue.
There have been various ways of seeing this as someone else’s problem: a European problem, where much of the software has been developed; an ad industry problem for not making ads more engaging; and even a software problem in which blocking software itself needed to be blocked. But with Apple’s move to supply ad blockers with iPhones and
Safari, it now has become everybody’s problem or, most specifically Google’s problem, or, simply, an idea whose time has come. Technology disrupts technology.
The fundamental premise of consumer advertising, and of the traditional media business, is of course that ads are unavoidable. As fundamental a premise is that if people can avoid advertising, they do. And further: As soon as they do figure out how to circumvent advertising, they don’t go back to it.
Before the Internet was a threat to television advertising, the DVR already was. Or, as soon as home video gave everybody a taste of TV without ads, then there was only going forward to a world without them. Now, in a once-unimaginable development, you can watch as much television as you want without seeing any advertising ever. There is a new television audience that would not know what to do with the discordant interruptions of ads (except pay more to get rid of them). And this non-ad audience, an audience that can afford to pay for not seeing ads, is the one, precisely because they can pay, most sought after by advertisers.
In a peculiar parallel universe, there has recently been enormous digital merriment about the steep fall in traditional television stocks, and the description by a well-known analyst of the television industry as “structurally impaired.”
In part this impairment is the result of viewers theoretically leaving traditional television, thereby cutting the value of television advertising, in a flight to digital, which is expected in total dollars to surpass television ad spending by 2016.
But, curiously, the television industry, seeing the threat to its advertising bread and butter, began a long conversion from being wholly ad supported to now deriving 50% of its revenues from subscription and licensing fees.