Ad Blockers are Unethical

And it Doesn’t Matter

A screenshot from “The Ethical Ad Blocker” which prohibits you from visiting sites with ads you wish to block.

People want to block ads. To some this is considered an ethical quandary because ads pay for the sites you wish to visit. That’s why YouTube is free, as well as countless other content-driven digital platforms. You pay with your eyeballs.

And it is, I believe, completely unethical to block ads. The service provided by online content creators must be paid for, and you don’t get to decide to remove yourself from the process that pays for the thing you wish to enjoy for free.

Except, you do get to decide. The 10 million users of Adblock Plus have already made their decision. And while it is unethical, it just doesn’t matter.

Flickr… I just… really?

When it was unethical to record your favorite shows, DVR was born to create a managed recording process that maintained advertising.

When it was unethical to download free music, music subscriptions services were born that relegated the cost of file purchases to a paltry monthly fee.

Even YouTube, the cornerstone of an online ad-based content platform, has launched a subscription-based, ad-free service, YouTube Red.

And while it may be unethical to block ads, there is no stopping it, so content creators have to answer with a better solution.


What Next?

In the short-term, improve your ads as much as possible. Ditch Flash banners immediately, which are the target of more basic ad-blocking solutions, and opt for simple, engaging ads that make a good point and then back away.

But in the long-term, we all have to learn to stop hijacking the conversation with out-of-context ads, and instead start joining it.

  • Utilize social networks. All of them. Engage users, bring them interesting content, and do it while asking for nothing in return. (Morrison Writes will cover this in more detail in future articles.)
  • Position yourself as a thought leader. Write Medium articles (like this one!), help people out on Twitter, create an email marketing campaign that seeks to instruct and educate instead of just sell.
  • Build something of value, then give it away. Mailchimp excels at this.
  • Get smarter about the ads you purchase. Track their efficacy — it doesn’t matter who clicks it matters who converts — and turn off what doesn’t work. Morrison excels at this. ;)

Overall, just try and help people. Be of use to them. Bring them interesting things that are relevant to their needs and your industry. And unless they are on your website or talking to you on the phone, don’t try to sell them anything.