Safari’s “Reader” Mode May be Best Case Scenario for Online Advertising

Safari’s “Reader” Mode May be Best Case Scenario for Online Advertising

June 28, 2010 1:29 pm 1 comment

It it seems like so many sites are just getting so bad with road-blocks and screen hogging ads. It’s getting like it was in the late 90s and early 2000s, with pop-ups. You’d go to a page and you’d get 3 or 4 pop-ups. And now pop-up blockers are built into all browsers, basically. So that’s not even a viable form of advertising any more. So I expect ad-blockers will become a standard part of browsers – I just don’t know how companies are going to expect to profit from advertising in the future.

– Me, in my interview with Richard Metzger.

Shortly after that interview was conducted, Apple announced it was integrating the browser plugin Readability into Safari.

Reader mode
Screenshot from the big sloppy blowjob Ad-Age gave Apple for Reader

Apple is simultaneously shipping ad-blocking technology in its browser and entering the advertising market. Some, such as Ars Technica’s Ken Fisher cried foul:

So the company that has made an advertising platform a major part of its iOS strategy is also hawking an ad-blocking technology for its Web browser, where it has no stake in ads. App Store: use our unblockable ads, developers! They help you get paid for your hard work! Web: hey, block some ads, readers! They’re annoying!

(Fisher and Ars Technica have previously protested ad-blocking)

Chris Arkenberg noted “Apple’s iAd/ad-block duality underscores their anti-Flash agenda. If they can’t own & control the platform, they will try to crush it.”

Certainly this is relevant, especially if Apple doesn’t offer the ability to block its own iAds in apps. And readers of this site know I’m no fan of Apple’s strong-arm control tactics. But it’s worth noting that Reader/Readability is a different sort of ad-blocker.

It loads the full page, ads and all, and then gives the reader the option of blocking ads while they read the content. This means, for impression driven advertising, that sites still get their pageviews – and advertisers still get some exposure, if for only a few seconds.

Fisher notes this, but worries about articles split up into multiple pages. Sites might not be able to get pageviews for each and every single one of those pages. Cry me a fucking river! The content industry (of which I’m now very much a part, now being a writer for ReadWriteWeb) is on the verge of having the rug pulled out from under it by ad-blockers, and you’re worried that you might not be able to tack on a few extra pageviews for longer content? (Some sites already let you hit “single page” or view a printer friendly version if you don’t want to click through multiple pages.) We’re going to be goddamn lucky if readers stick to Readability and don’t go all out with Ad-Block Plus – or both.

The good news for both advertisers and content providers is that only 40% of Facebook readers say they dislike ads. And I’d guess Facebook users are fairly representative sample of the Internet. That means that unless browsers start shipping with an Ad-Block Plus-like ad blocker, we can expect that at least 60% of Internet users won’t bother to install an ad-blocker more aggressive than Readability.

But Facebook’s ads are pretty unobtrusive, unlike Salon’s monstrous screen hogging ads that try to drive you off the Internet and back onto paper. Considering 40% of Facebook users are annoyed by Facebook’s relatively tiny ads, the number of readers annoyed by “road block” ads and those “Congratulations, you’ve just been selected to receive a free iFuck-in-Ass” ads are probably more in the 98-99% range (the other 1-2% are too stupid to realize those road-blocks and fake contests are ads). Those really obtrusive ads could ruin it for everyone – they’re what finally drove me to install Ad-Block Plus, something I resisted for years.

Advertisers and publishers need to forget about being able to monetize every single pageview and focus on offering unobtrusive and highly targeted advertising – and ostracize anyone who tries to push obnoxious advertising on the web before browser makers start including real ad-blocks by default.

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