Ad Blocking is Good for News

According to Joel Johnson at Fast Company, ad blocking is on Apple’s mind as it launches Apple news with iOS 9. He thinks Apple are seeking to integrate ad blocking into the new operating system, but are keen not to shout about it. At an off the main stage talk at their recent developer conference Apple engineer, Brian Weinstein talked about ‘Safari Extensibility: Content Blocking and Shared Links’.

“Content blockers identify subsets of content,” explained Weinstein, “or resources on a page to not show or even load.” The implication, despite the name, is to block things that aren’t content—specifically, ads. “I’m sure you can all imagine content you might want to block while browsing the web.” The first example given during the presentation? A “list of clickbait links on the left” of a hypothetical website, labeled, in the demo, as “Sponsored Links.” Apple, like Facebook, has entered into a standoff with the publishing industry and the open, if for-profit, web. And it’s being done under the aegis of design: choose a better reading experience on our curated platform, they offer, or let us clean up that pesky advertising on the open web.

Frédéric Filloux is thinking along the same lines as he writes in Monday Note about the slowness of poorly designed news sites, building evidence ‘of poor implementation of ads… and a strong case for ad blockers’.

…when a third party vendor shows up with the tool-everyone-else-uses, the pitch stresses simplicity: ‘Just insert a couple of lines of code’, or ‘A super-light javascript’. Most often, corporate sales and marketing drones kick in: ‘We need this tool’, or ‘Media-buying agencies demand it’. The pressure can even come from the newsroom struggling to improve its SEO scores, asking for new gadgets “To better pilot editorial production”, or “To rank higher in Google News”. Quite often, these are contraptions are used to conceal professional shortcomings that range from an inability to devise good ads formats that won’t be rejected by users (and better, clicked on), to a failure to provide good journalism that will naturally finds its way to users without needing titillating stimuli.