Adblockers and Paywalls: Publishers fight back in war they already lost
I am an unashamed freeloader. Years ago I stopped buying newspapers and now get all my information from the internet (note the new lower-case i, even the internet has been demoted). I don’t bother worrying about newspapers or magazines that sit behind a firewall, I just go somewhere else. This all works well; there is so much free information out there—in particular up-to-the-minute news—that paying to read seems so old fashioned. I realise my views are rather unconventional, some would say anarchic, but I resent paying for something that is available free elsewhere, just around the mouse click.
Now we are facing a backsplash from outraged publishers. I hesitate to call it a backlash, it’s just a tiny splash at the moment. Some newspaper sites are apparently telling visitors to uninstall ad-blocking software before they can access their sites. A campaign in France includes newspapers such as Le Monde, Le Parisien and L’Équipe. I even came across one web site, to which I had been lured by a link, telling me I should disable Adblocker immediately or pay the publishers $1 a month for the privilege of reading their site. I declined and moved on to some other bit of free information. It probably wasn't important anyway.
Nonetheless, I can understand their position. Advertising is plummeting, sales are falling. But they make a big mistake if they think they can replace that revenue with paying guests from the internet. I have news for them. The war is lost.
I am also well aware of all the arguments about the labourer worthy of his hire and the cry that if we don’t pay we don’t get quality news and information. In many cases where we do pay we get dubious quality and misinformation. But I’m not going to be setting my neck on the block here. I’ll grab what I can while its free and, if necessary, go elsewhere. And when the supply dries up I'll listen to gossip and make up my own mind.
For too long publishers have held us to ransom, charging for their publications and forcing us to read their advertising. Now, suddenly, the world finds that it can be informed (sometimes in a far more entertaining and no less reliable fashion) by free media. The genie is now out of the bottle and there will always be someone to provide free information. Don’t give up just yet.