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Adblocking The Guardian Advertising Week

The Guardian eyes content blocking, while Eyeo pleads legitimacy with independent verification


By Ronan Shields, Digital Editor

April 18, 2016 | 3 min read

The Guardian is considering blocking access to its content among ad blocker users, even though some would claim this activity involves illegal monitoring, while Eyeo-owned AbBlock Plus attempts to show the ad industry it is legitimate, it emerged at one of the opening Ad Week Europe panel sessions today (18 April).

On the opening day of the week-long event, the IAB hosted a panel session entitled ‘Ad Blocking: A New Deal or a Modern Day Protection Racket?’ where representatives from the indsutry’s buy and sell-side, were joined by privacy and ad blocker advocates to debate the issue.

Tim Gentry, The Guardian’s global revenue director, told attendees the title had recently become “far more persistent” in its charge to counter the effect of ad blockers, and this strategy could eventually include blocking access to content if it detects a user has one installed on their browser.

“With a small section we’ve tried to be far more persistent, asking them to either whitelist us, pay to become a member, tell us you’re a subscriber, and with a small sub-sect of people we’ll start to block access to content,” he said.

“What we’ve seen is that up to two-thirds of ad blocker users are willing to whitelist us, because they want quality content,” added Gentry.

Guy Philipson, CEO, IAB, UK, also recounted how “six-or-seven” publishers were exploring the option of following a similar approach adopted by French and Swedish publishers to act in unison to request that users either whitelist them or switch off their ad blockers altogether, or else be refused access to content.

However, such monitoring of what software users have on their browsers actually contravenes European privacy laws, according to fellow panellist Alexander Hangg, privacy consultant, ThinkPrivacy, who cited multiple articles of European legislation when defending his argument.

Although this opinion was met with some disquiet (and disagreement) among attendees, as well as fellow panellists.

Meanwhile, fellow panellist Ben Williams, global operations director, AdBlock Plus, also used the discussion to hammer home the legitimacy of his outfit’s role in the advertising ecosystem, noting that its controversial whitelisting policy of acceptable ads wasn’t pay-to-play.

Answering allegations that its acceptable ads policy was no more than a protection racket, he noted that at the end of the year, Eyeo (the private company behind AdBlock Plus) will hand over control of its acceptable ads policy to “an independent committee”, meaning this policy (which deems what ads are, and are not acceptable to be served to its users) won’t be under its exclusive control.

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