What Google Stands to Gain from its Chrome Ad Blocker

It’s like letting the fox decide who gets into the hen house . . . you are the hens BTW.

Last week, Google announced its plans to include a built-in ad blocker in their Chrome browser.

“The ad-blocking feature, which could be switched on by default within Chrome, would filter out certain online ad types deemed to provide bad experiences for users as they move around the web,” writes Jack Marshall in the Wall Street Journal.

The company, which according to Marshall generated upwards of $60 billion in digital ad revenue last year, is now poised to block a significant portion of those ads.

Or are they?

According to Marshall, the move isn’t really about the ads themselves, but about control. This feature could shift control of ad blocking from consumers –26% of whom now use ad blocking tech – back to Google.

“By switching on its own ad-filter, Google is hoping to quell further growth of blocking tools offered by third-party companies,” Marshall notes, “some of which charge fees in exchange for letting ads pass through their filters.”

Marshall explains that the growth of ad blocking is troubling for Google, and for the publishers and services that are banking on a digital ad revenue model.

“…the continued growth of ad-blocking is a worrying trend for Google, which generated over $60 billion in revenue from online advertising in 2016. It’s also a concern for other online publishers and services that rely on advertising revenue to support their businesses, many of which work with Google to help sell advertising space on their properties,” he explains.

Clearly that control would be a good thing for Google. Could a better online experience with fewer ads be a good thing for consumers too?

“This is a worthwhile goal,” writes Matthew Ingram in Fortune. “The web is filled with low-quality ad garbage that clutters up the page, makes websites slow to load, and weighs down the browser with popups and interstitials and other hijacking attempts. Even some ad industry executives applaud ad blocking because it forces publishers and ad networks to confront this problem.”

However, Ingram believes this is not that cure that’s needed.

“The problem is that Google is hugely conflicted when it comes to fixing this,” he explains. “The browser through which it plans to offer ad blocking has more than 50% of the market, and Google itself owns and operates two of the largest ad networks in the world, DoubleClick and AdSense. Presumably none of those ads would be blocked by this service.”

For their part, Google is involved in self-policing initiatives to clean up the broken digital ad industry, by helping to create the Coalition for Better Ads with partners from advertising, media and platforms including Facebook. Sort of like the foxes working together to fix the fox problem.

As Ingram notes, “it’s a response that is being meted out by one of the world’s largest advertising companies, through a browser that it controls, based on standards that are being set by a group it helped create, along with several of the world’s other major advertising companies.”

Meanwhile ad blocking tech is improving, with the ability to filter out even sponsored content, which up to this point has been able to get through the blockade.

What’s the answer? Can the industry police itself to make digital advertising a sustainable model? Given the current state of affairs and the amount of fraud and abuse involved, I don’t see that happening anytime soon.