We are in times of immense flux online. Users of content platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Instagram (or any other site that leverages subscriptions as an alternative to seeing ads) are experiencing a barrage of messaging screens asking them how they want to access and support content.
Currently trending is YouTube’s latest anti-ad-blocking efforts. Users are being warned that they will be blocked out of YouTube if they do not turn off their ad blockers, leaving them the choice of either watching videos with ads or paying 12.95 EUR ($13.99 USD) a month for YouTube Premium.
The ironic twist, at least from YouTube’s standpoint, is that they’ve put ad blocking and ad filtering in the spotlight, bringing these services to the attention of new users, previously unaware or uninterested before these anti-ad blocking changes. Recent data shows that terms like "Youtube ad blocker" and "block youtube ads" are increasingly being searched, and many recent blogs are also ranking for some of these YouTube and ad-blocking terms.
YouTube’s popularity is such that its decisions have served as a veritable starting gun for a larger, more inclusive campaign for discussing the online value exchange. Now, it seems like everyone is talking about ad blocking, monthly subscriptions, and how the internet “is changing”.
However, finding sustainable ways to fund content is nothing new — publishers have always looked for ways to effectively monetize their work, and deservedly so. That’s why at eyeo, we create solutions that support publisher funding and respect the user experience. The relationship between users and publishers is vital and at the core of the online ecosystem.
The difference now is YouTube’s recent experimentation with soft walls (messaging walls you can click out of) and hard walls (ones you can’t click out of) has reached a massive scale of people. As of 2023, YouTube has more than 2.70 billion monthly active users, meaning literally half of the world is watching.
For us, this current situation reveals two things. (1) The web is in need of better, sustainable guidelines for how content can and should be consumed and (2) user needs should not be ignored. That means finding ways to offer user-centric options for content consumption that also enable others in the ecosystem, like publishers and advertisers, to see to their own needs.
Content cannot be free. People write it, create it and make it available, all of which is essential. But making access to content difficult or costly also negatively impacts our society where certain groups are unable to access said content.
How is the industry reacting?
At the moment, YouTube’s efforts have resulted in various reactions from the online community. Some ad blockers are taking the aggressive (and possibly illegal) route of jumping over YouTube’s messaging pop-up. This is in sharp contrast to eyeo’s products, which simply find new ways to block the same old ads.
Of course, this aggressive reaction was inevitable. Many people feel compelled to resort to ‘all-out-blocking methods’ when faced with anti-ad-blocking efforts, which create an antagonistic feeling between stakeholders.
But all-out, total ad blocking has the potential to push more and more content behind paywalls, as publishers could see that as their only solution. We know that blocking all ads is not sustainable. It’s a hard-nosed approach with no winners and moves us all in the wrong direction of circumventing one thing with another.
That’s what we mean about opening the conversation. We need solutions that facilitate healthy relationships, and sustainable ways for users to have access to content under agreeable conditions, while publishers are also able to earn their daily bread.
At eyeo, we focus on ad filtering, not all-out ad blocking, and have built our business model around the concept of Acceptable Ads — a standard for advertising online that is tested and vetted by the independent Acceptable Ads Committee. Acceptable Ads, which shows lighter, nonintrusive forms of advertising, is overwhelmingly supported by users, with over 94%of Adblock Plus and AdBlock users seeing Acceptable Ads during their browser experience1. That means 307 million ad-filtering users, who are provenly not against all advertisements.
We believe approaches that strive to find a middle ground are what will enable all members of the online community to have a generative relationship.
Communication and user-centricity open the door to move forward. And we hope to have more productive conversations with publishers, advertisers and users alike as we evolve our approaches along with the rapidly evolving landscape of the online world.