View from inside
I'm an ad-blocker, who owes a living to the ad industry. So I'm a massive hypocrite and many of you will despise me immediately.
First thing to understand, the advertising industry is largely about burying one's head in the sand about the effectiveness of the ads that are run. So, everyone knows that TV ads are muted/ignored/skipped etc but it's very difficult to measure by how much and what impact that has. So, mountains of money is 'wasted' on advertising on TV, and has been for years.No-one really questions it. It's a big industry relying on it to keep going. On the flipside, it is very hard to argue with advertisers who find their phones ringing off the hook the days after their TV ads are broadcast. You and I may happily ignore ads, but a lot of people don't. Remember, the vast population of this once great country are not Reg readers, they watch Simon Cowell drivel and read the Sun. This is an elitist statement, but it is true.
Back on topic: online ads have always been measurable. You deliver an ad, the view is counted, the click is counted, you visit the advertisers website sometime later, that is all joined up and hey presto - online ads work. So when a technology comes along that blocks those ads - it can be counted and measured. It's fundamentally not the same as people flipping the page in the newspaper. There is a spreadsheet telling you 30% of your ads weren't seen. Even the herd mentality ad industry can't ignore that. So whilst to the punter ad-blocking is no different to traditional TV ad-skipping, to the ad world it isn't.
But is it ethical? Stupid question. An ad-funded site is able to pay journalists to write stories largely thanks to the revenue generated by the advertising on that site. That site could quite easily block access to those running ad-blockers and put up a 'Donate to us and we'll give you access without ads' message. As long as that user is then given an ad-free experience then everyone's happy, right? It is a straightforward transaction.
Sounds good in theory but even the biggest publishers struggle to maintain enough paywall income to sustain their operation. The Internet is too big and the same info (euphemistically known as 'content') is normally available from somewhere else for nothing. The economics of scarcity do not apply. As a result, and this is inevitable, gradually more and more publishers will go out of business as ad-blockers faced with a 'Pay Now' message simply bugger off somewhere else. Publishers can't run at a loss and are not (often) charities. The Guardian is one of the biggest global news sites, yet is still cutting it's workforce year on year, and it IS a charity, near enough!
We can all smugly sit here (me included) blocking ads and making superior comments about pop-ups and flashing ads taking over the screen, ads for things 'I'll never buy anyway' being constantly shown etc etc.But unless there is some sort of truce, we will in some way have contributed to the downfall of the 'free' and 'open' web.