Online ad-blocking attacked

An Internet advertising firm's privacy chief has claimed that tools that allow surfers to avoid adverts could break the Internet's free content model

The end of free Internet content will come when Web browsers start blocking online advertisements by default, a DoubleClick executive has warned.

Bennie Smith, the online advertising network's privacy chief, said the popularity of tools like Adblock -- an extension to the Mozilla Firefox browser -- which makes blocking online ads simple was tied to "a negative vibe against advertising in general".

However, only the online arena is able to easily produce and widely distribute such tools, he added.

He said if a similar tool could be produced for newspapers, it would not be accepted by consumers.

"You'd go to your local corner shop and buy the daily paper, and you'd have these large holes where the ads were.

"You'd somehow feel like your 25 cents had not gotten full value," he said.

Part of the Internet's value proposition lies in the provision of large amounts of free content. "But that content is not without cost. And that cost is my eyeballs seeing an ad on a page. Or within an email, or next to my search results, or however it's going to come," Smith explained.

If any browser manufacturer considered implementing an ad-blocking feature as a default option, Smith said they should consider their own position as a marketer [of their own products] and a publisher of content.

"They would be harming their own customer relationships to create a short-term, short-sighted, limited-effectiveness tool," he said. "One that they would probably end up having to withdraw from the market."

If enough people started blocking ads, Smith warned that publishers would start charging for content.

"In an offline world, what would happen in that case is that the 25c newspaper would cost $5," he said.