Publishers are responding to a Wall Street Journal report that Google is reportedly launching an ad blocker for Chrome with official cheer but private skepticism and fear.
Officially — and on the record — publishers are genuflecting at the altar of user experience, welcoming moves by Google or other companies to improve online advertising. But go on background, conversations turn to the inevitable imbalance of power when it comes to the duopoly of Facebook and Google. And for some, the move smacks of hypocrisy. Here’s Google, vacuuming up the largest share of digital advertising, positioning itself as the arbiter of what ads constitute a poor user experience. Don’t expect a half page of ads at the top of a search results page to get dinged, no matter the third-party Google officially christens as the standard bearer.
Google is yet to make an official announcement, but the Journal reported that Google’s criteria for what ads should be blocked, stems from the industry committee-led Coalition for Better Ads, of which Google is a founding member. That means pop-ups and autoplaying video ads with sound, and “prestitial” ads with countdown timers, formats which the Coalition has previously deemed unacceptable, could be blocked. Most wouldn’t object to these particular ads, but these type of things tend to snowball. And these days, few publishers are in the mood to give any platform carte blanche.
One scenario Google is considering is to block all advertising that appear on sites with offending ads, instead of just the offending ads themselves. That in and of itself is enough to set off alarm bells for publishers.
While many publishers share Google’s interests in keeping the web safe for digital advertising, publishers aren’t without fear of Google’s dominance. The Coalition is described as a big tent, with Google being a founding member, but some members privately say they consider the Coalition to essentially be a front for Google. As evidence of the search giant’s power, many publishers contacted for this story said they were under strict NDA with Google not to breathe a word about the ad blocking plans. That alone speaks volumes to the power dynamic at play here.
Why It’s Hot
1.) If nothing else, a Google ad blocker could put the onus on publishers to clean up the web (although the fact that it’d be Google making them do it makes it easier to sell it to advertisers). Higher quality publishers will prevail on the chrome browser.
On the flip side:
2.) While this could be a good thing in general, allowing Google to have more say in thinking they’re leading a brand safety charge concerns me. After the YouTube issues they’ve had, this is just another step to them gaining more control in their empire/monopoly. Will they act the same toward their owned and operated categories?
3.) If Google goes ahead with these plans, it can undermine publishers’ own progress in reducing ad blocking. “We may now have to have two ad blocking strategies, one for Chrome and another for everything else,” said John Barnes, chief digital officer at Incisive Media.