The skirmishes are getting more frequent stateside. Forbes and WIRED have recently taken steps to limit ad-blocked reading, as have some streaming services. Gawker did so a while back. But these outlets all acted independently. In India, the media has gone to war with ad-blocking software and they have done so as a united front; ten of the nation’s biggest news sites have acted in concert to block the blockers, effectively limiting access to information to subcontinental browsers. Publishers in the United States could follow suit, but a similar, concerted effort is probably not likely.
This Indian event is on par with the New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times joining hands to revitalize ad revenues. Except this is happening and that wouldn’t — not only because those outlets are fierce rivals, but because slimmer margins have made American publishers risk averse. Big publishers probably look at Forbes and WIRED as experiments, and will refrain from making similar moves until they see what ad-blocker-blockers do to readership. The American media also has to worry about the countless aggregation sites perched in the eaves, ready at the slightest sign of brandname weakness to swoop in and repurpose scoops.
The problem with ad-blockers is that they lower the value of advertising campaigns to advertisers and, once the numbers become clear, to the ad sales departments of publications. The money that finances journalism dries up when there aren’t pitches next to column inches. This is, not surprisingly, a particularly serious issue for publications aimed at specific demographics.
Still, let’s imagine a world in which American publishers team up against ad-blockers. Would they win they day? Likely not. There’s already open-source code that can circumvent Forbes’s pitiable defenses. Until blocking ads is less annoying than viewing them, the battle rages on.