I never realized before, but I’ve come to learn that ad blockers cause a lot of hand-wringing. Juniper Research earlier this month put out a report warning that digital publishers stand to lose over $27 billion by 2020, and there’s a lot of chatter about what Google is planning to do in response to people installing these ad-blocking extensions on their browsers. All of this angst is music to the ears of Mark Bauman.
Bauman is founder and CEO of ReviveAds, an ad block circumvention tool provider in San Diego. For a cut of the digital publisher’s advertising revenue, ReviveAds will install a script on the publisher’s site that blocks the blockers. In an interview earlier this week, I told Bauman that it all seems kind of pointless, because it seems to me that anyone who’s inclined to block ads is going to be disinclined to pay any attention to an ad if it’s there, so why bother making the ads reappear? He said those people are still potential customers.
“They still want to see the ads,” Bauman claimed. “Even though they’ve taken the action of installing an ad blocker, it doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t want to see ads at all. It’s just that at that time, it was a thing they added into their repertoire when surfing the Web.”
Bauman said even sites with strong user communities, with a lot of vocal users chiming in on blogs, forums and chat boards have had “no user complaints, or users even asking what’s going on” when the ads start reappearing. That seems counterintuitive to me, so I asked Bauman what he attributes the lack of pushback to.
“I think it’s just a plug-in mentality,” he said. “I have about eight plug-ins on my computer that I forget I have until it pops up. You just install these things that you forget are even there.”
I would contend that there’s some responsibility on the parts of websites and advertisers to make their ads less intrusive and annoying, so people will be less inclined to block them. Bauman said he agreed.
“One of our practices is we don’t do annoying ads—no sound, no overlays, no animation,” he said. “The worst is an animated gif. That might be part of the reason why we don’t get so much pushback from users. We stay away from those, because you can make almost as much money using just gifs and static images.”
ReviveAds’ revenue model is based on taking a cut of that money.
“Basically, we just keep our standard advertising percentage,” Bauman said. “We have different deals with different publications—10 percent to 20 percent of the revenue, depending on the size of the site.”
To earn its money, ReviveAds simply gives the customer website a script it places on its site.
“That script does all the detection, the circumvention, the placement of the ads — it places the ads exactly where they need to be,” Bauman explained. “It calls our ad server in a way that’s basically obfuscated from the ad blockers, and we’re able then to deliver the ads as they originally were.”
If you’re thinking all of this is a little underhanded, and that you should have the right to block ads if you want to, Bauman has a reminder for you.
“The market is built on a free model, so if you take away ads on a free model, that does a disservice to the users, because they’re not going to have free content anymore, or they’re going to be tricked into buying content that they probably don’t want,” he said. “You can’t stop a user’s choice. For the most part, you can go around it, and you can work with it. That’s what we have to do, unless the model is changed, which users aren’t going to be happy with.”
A contributing writer on IT management and career topics with IT Business Edge since 2009, Don Tennant began his technology journalism career in 1990 in Hong Kong, where he served as editor of the Hong Kong edition of Computerworld. After returning to the U.S. in 2000, he became Editor in Chief of the U.S. edition of Computerworld, and later assumed the editorial directorship of Computerworld and InfoWorld. Don was presented with the 2007 Timothy White Award for Editorial Integrity by American Business Media, and he is a recipient of the Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Award for editorial excellence in news coverage. Follow him on Twitter @dontennant.