Home > News > There’s a fine line between the business model of Adblock Plus and extortion

There’s a fine line between the business model of Adblock Plus and extortion

Denying publishers ad revenue is bad enough, but Adblock choosing which ads get through is downright wrong.


The business model for the publishing business is simple enough: create content, sell ads against it, offer premium content with a subscription. In cases where ad and subscription revenue isn’t enough to offset costs and create a profit, add “native advertising” or advertorials to the mix.

At the core of the business is one thing: ads. Granted some styles of ads can be intrusive, by tracking where users click after they leave the site, and annoying, by making noise, but at the end of the day they are a necessity for commercial publishing.

But few people like ads, hence ad blockers like Adblock Plus.

While Adblock Plus isn’t the only ad blocker on the market it does come with a feature that other ad blockers do not have. For a fee advertisers can have their ads put on to a white list and be not blocked — which is fundamentally unfair.

Why is it that Adblock gets to be the arbiter of who gets to generate revenue from advertising and who doesn’t? Further, what entitles Adblock Inc to a cut of the revenue from the ad economy that exists between publishers and advertisers?

One person who’s more than mad at Adblock for its business-killing antics is Mike Zaneis, a vice president of the Interactive Advertising Bureau. In a recent interview with CNET he called the business model of blocking ads nothing short of a “ransom note” and deadly for the publishing business as a whole.

“It’s a huge economic problem for the industry, one the industry is just coming to grips with and to see as the fundamental threat that it is,” he said. “These people are no better than Internet pirates facilitating the theft of content.”

Some websites choose to block ad blockers. Destructoid is an example of one, as is the Washington Post. But a war of blocking the ad blockers isn’t the solution. Adblock’s parent company needs to be brought before authorities — though its German-based the American Federal Trade Commission would have the most clout — to explain its business model. Adblock Plus’ whitelist of acceptable ads reeks of extortion (or as one blogger has already pointed out, a Mafia-like racket), and makes the world an unfair place for those with ad supported businesses.

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