Ads as far as the eye can see

     No matter where you go, you will most likely see an ad. Be it billboards, commercials, or even the more subtle product placements plaguing most modern media (Queen Daenerys gets a pass, everyone knows you need some caffeine to conquer Kings Landing). Though the exact number is up for debate, it is estimated that the average American comes across 347 daily ads. This number can go up or down depending on the area you live in, and how much you interact with the internet. But are they all bad? Are we destined to be stranded in a sea of advertising? 

     Well, a company called FreeWater thought about this and decided to start bottling up that sea, almost literally. Using a truly unique pricing strategy, they offer their customers completely free bottles of water. How? They cover the aluminum and paper bottles with ads. Ranging from record labels, movie posters, and QR codes that lead to ordering food, the bottles are completely plastered with ads that cover the price. 

     Instead of bottling up the sea, several companies have taken an equally unique approach to their advertising. Companies such as Ballyhoo Media saw how many Americans go to the beach every day, and saw that as an opportunity. As beachgoers were watching the waves, reading their books, and enjoying the weather, they were not expecting to see a sailing advertisement.

A brief review

     Since the dawn of time (December 8, 2009), an immovable object and an unstoppable force have been testing each other’s limits. Each determined to be the last one standing, YouTube and Adblock have both refused to throw in the towel. For those who are unfamiliar with the situation, allow me to do a quick recap. 

     YouTube – what began as a simple video-sharing site in February 2005 has ballooned into a cultural titan and an indispensable part of Google’s empire since its acquisition in November 2006. However, with its meteoric rise came the evolution of its revenue strategy, heavily leaning on advertisements for income. This dependence quickly turned into an intricate dance with ad-blocking technology. Ad blockers, though beloved by PC users for creating a cleaner, uninterrupted viewing experience, threw a wrench into YouTube’s financial gears. This led to a fascinating, albeit frustrating, cat-and-mouse game. YouTube’s attempts to outwit these ad blockers have been varied – employing technical tweaks, policy updates, introducing YouTube Premium in June 2018 as a paid, ad-free option, and even blocking users with adblockers from streaming content.

     This ongoing tussle is more than just being concerned over whether or not you wait 30 seconds to see your video; it underscores the broader challenge of balancing monetization with user satisfaction. It highlights the complex dynamics between content platforms, content creators, advertisers, and users, illustrating the delicate act of sustaining a business model while trying to keep the user experience enjoyable.

A careful balance

     But what about the people who rely upon those ads to make their living? The Markipliers, the Matpats, and countless others? In the evolving digital ecosystem, content creators are increasingly caught in a challenging predicament, balancing between monetization and preserving viewer satisfaction. Particularly on platforms like YouTube, where the compensation for views often falls short of a livable wage, creators are compelled to seek alternative revenue streams. This economic constraint pushes them towards a heavier reliance on advertisements and sponsorships. However, this approach carries the risk of ad saturation, potentially degrading the viewer’s experience. The task at hand for creators is to find a harmonious balance that sustains their creative endeavors without overwhelming their audience with commercials and sponsors. Achieving this balance is a dynamic challenge; it requires a deep understanding of audience tolerance, engagement strategies, and the exploration of less intrusive monetization methods that resonate with their brand ethos. As the digital landscape and viewer preferences evolve, so too must the strategies employed by creators to sustain their work and maintain a positive, engaging viewer experience.

     On one hand, ad blockers offer users a way to navigate the web more smoothly, eliminating intrusive advertisements that can detract from content consumption and slow down loading times. This enhanced browsing experience is not just about convenience; it also addresses concerns over privacy and security, given that some ads can serve as vectors for malware and tracking.

     However, the widespread adoption of ad blockers has significant financial implications for those who rely on ad revenue. Content creators, publishers, and websites depend on advertising as a crucial source of funding, enabling them to produce and distribute content. When ads are blocked, these parties lose out on potential revenue, which can hinder their ability to create content, maintain quality, and even financially stay afloat. But – do all of those who use advertisements rely on that revenue to the same extent? That would be hard to believe when Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg makes a reported $185,769,230.77 every day (about $2,150 a second if you were wondering). This creates an ethical dilemma: the use of ad blockers for personal benefit directly impacts the financial viability of the content its creators who truly rely on the ads, while other ads bring in less than half a second’s worth of the site CEO’s salary.  

     Navigating this dilemma requires a careful consideration of the trade-offs involved. While users need to protect their digital experience and privacy, there’s also a need to support the creators and platforms that rely on the traffic the ads generate. The challenge lies in finding a balance that respects the needs and preferences of both users and content creators, possibly through more user-friendly advertising models, subscription options, or direct support mechanisms like donations.

Final thoughts

     So, in true Socratic fashion, I leave this question to you the reader: what is the right choice? Do you abandon your adblocker so that creators can make their living, or do you keep it installed to ensure both your online privacy and an uninterrupted viewing experience? Or is there a middle ground, a path that ensures both parties can achieve equilibrium? Please email the author at zach@825technologies.com with your thoughts, and we will go over our favorite replies in the upcoming podcast.

Sources

 Rawat, Rishi. “Fact-Checking — How Many Ads Do We See in a Day?” Frictionless Commerce, 22 Mar. 2023, frictionless-commerce.com/blog/how-many-ads-do-we-see-in-a-day/.

 “FAQ | FreeWater.” Www.freewater.io, www.freewater.io/faq

 Culture, Kate Fowler Internet, and Trends Reporter. “Video of Floating Billboard at Miami Beach Sparks Debate: “Genuinely Sad.”” Newsweek, 13 Aug. 2021, www.newsweek.com/floating-billboard-advert-florida-beach-tiktok-video-1619166. Accessed 30 Jan. 2024.

 Roth, Emma. “YouTube Is Getting Serious about Blocking Ad Blockers.” The Verge, 31 Oct. 2023, www.theverge.com/2023/10/31/23940583/youtube-ad-blocker-crackdown-broadening.

 “How Websites and Apps Collect and Use Your Information.” Consumer Advice, 13 May 2021, consumer.ftc.gov/articles/how-websites-and-apps-collect-and-use-your-information#:~:text=When%20you%20use%20an%20app.

 “V.I.P. Salaries – Alphabetical.” WageIndicator Foundation, paywizard.org/salary/vip-check/mark-zuckerberg. Accessed 30 Jan. 2024.