The Cost of Ad Blockers

By Deane Barker on March 10, 2013

Half of Destructoid’s readers block our ads. Now what?: This is an important post to read, from a gaming site that found out almost 50% of its visitors were blocking ads.

BlockMetrics was easy enough to set up and monitor. At first, it was about 10%, then 20-something. When I dared to blink it just increased faster. Over a few days it never got better, averaging at an ominous 42-46% block rate. I thought their tech might have been flawed, so I performed my own tests and contacted another company who returned a similar result.

This means that we’re working twice as hard as other sites to sustain our company, as if keeping a group of game writers fed isn’t difficult enough. We see gaming sites shut down or selling out so often these days. Feeling my pain yet?

The site runs on ad revenue, and this post details all the twists and turns the site owner went through to try and figure his way around the fact that half his visitors were free-riders – consuming content without doing anything to raise revenue.

I realize that many people run ad blockers without a second thought, but think through what that does to advertising-supported sites.  With media, there’s an unspoken social contract – you trade a tiny sliver of your attention span to consume the content.  Yet people still consume content while finding a way around their side of the tacit bargain that everyone knows is required for most free content sites to survive.

And don’t talk about intrusive ads either.  I know these exist, but in this case, the were sensitive to this:

Destructoid does not allow ads that play automatic audio, and also doesn’t allow ads that automatically expand without your interaction. If you ever see any of those, please report them. Also, if you stay logged in on our existing free accounts, you’ll never see a full-page interstitial advertisement (the skip to continue kind). We’ve also moved most of our new videos to YouTube, which allows ad skipping in most circumstances.

I realize I’m probably talking to a brick wall in most cases here, but in this example you have one of the few independent gaming sites left that is withering and dying specifically because of a lack of ad revenue.  When this site finally dies (as, sadly, I expect it will), a bunch of people will probably complain, “Why are all the gaming sites owned by conglomerates?  Why isn’t there any good, independent voice in gaming?”

Yes, yes, I know – ad blockers make you feel clever and powerful.  I get it.  They also make content suck more.



  1. And if you never clicked on the ads to begin with, how much revenue are they really getting?

    You’d be amazed at how much advertising is per-impression. All the ads on Gadgetopia are impression-based. You don’t need to click on them.

  2. You say that there is an “unspoken social contract”, as if everybody in this game is playing fair, and we should just do our “civic duty” and watch all those ads, you’ll excuse me if I find this point of view is really naive. What I know about ads is that my eyeballs (and also my internet navigation) are the product that is being sold, and if you do not mind, I’d prefer to avoid all this, and actually I can, just by using a few browser extensions. Let’s be clear, I forced nobody to open a FREE news web site, I forced nobody to use ads to gain revenue, so please think twice when you look for someone to give the blame to or attack because they are not fulfilling what you think is their “social contract”.

  3. I forced nobody to use ads to gain revenue

    You’re absolutely right. No one forced these people to generate content for you to consume, and no one can force them to continue doing so in the fact of declining economics.

    Therefore, never once complain when you can’t find content that lives up to your level of perceived entitlement.

  4. I feel entitled only for the stuff that I pay for. I will be sad if some of the websites I follow could not write content anymore, I will also be sadder knowing that they got in the business without a solid way to sustain themselves. You on the other side seem to think that the evil is only on the part of the adblockers.

    (Btw, reading the comments of the destructoid article, the website does not seem so innocent in the way they display those ads and they also have something like 15-20 trackers by other sites.)

  5. I will also be sadder knowing that they got in the business without a solid way to sustain themselves.

    I eagerly await the introduction of the new business model that gives you all the content you want for free. Please let me know when this information is released. Thank you.

  6. With respect to all sides, ABP is an integral part of my online security along with NoScript and FlashBlock. Many of the virus attack vectors do not reside on the site themselves but live on the machine serving up the ads. So by allowing ads to “run” you are in fact opening yourself up to infection.

    So I guess the next question should be why? Because if you perform a simple web search using the following “surfing the web safely” you’ll see many well know sites Cnet, PCWorld, etc, etc strongly encouraging everyone and anyone who uses a browser to use some form of adblocking SW to prevent issues. To put this bluntly, many websites and adservers profited big time by abusing the general web surfing public and their property. What you are seeing now is the backlash along with some collateral damage.

    To end, we haven’t even touched upon all the illegal cookie tracking, ignoring of Do Not Track settings and all the privacy violations sites continue to employ. So yes it is sad to see this site struggle, but instead of blaming the current users, we really should blame all the sites and adservers who caused this whole mess and continue to do so.

  7. Tuff luck. Online ads have been a nuissance since the net first left CERN. I haven’t seen a single one since late 2006 and guess what: I don’t miss them a bit. If you want to run your website on money you get from righ companies that use you to manipulate people, fine but don’t expect me to play along.

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