The media today: Google starts its ad-blocking purge in February

The media today: Google starts its ad-blocking purge in February

If you’re a publisher that relies on digital ad revenue—and the vast majority of news sites probably fall into that category—you will have a new problem to worry about as of February: That’s when Google starts blocking certain types of ads by default for users of its Chrome browser.

The fact that Google planned to make this move was first reported earlier this year by the Wall Street Journal, but the exact timing was unknown. On Tuesday, the web giant said in a blog post that it will start blocking sites on February 15th.

The company says this is an attempt to clean up the messy state of online advertising, which is awash in pop-ups, interstitial ads, auto-playing videos, and other detritus. And it says it will only block ads that fail to abide by guidelines set by the Coalition for Better Ads (of which Google is a member).

The blocking comes with a nuclear option: If a site falls below a certain threshold for 30 days, Google will block all advertising on the site until it takes action to fix whatever problems have been reported.

Google’s motive may be to clean up the web, but some are concerned that a company which already controls a huge proportion of the digital ad market is blocking other people’s ads by default in Chrome, which also happens to have the lion’s share of the world’s web-browser market.

Here are a few more links on the topic:

  • The ad duopoly: Google controls over 40 percent of the digital ad market, according to recent estimates. Combined, the web giant and Facebook have about 70 percent of the market.
  • 1-800-Antitrust: When the news first broke about Google’s plans, Cornell law professor James Grimmelmann said that they could raise potential anti-trust concerns.
  • Click here to submit: Google says offending sites that are penalized by its default blocking can ask for a review and if they pass then their ads will be shown again.
  • Is this okay or not? Judging by some of the comments on Google’s support forums, some website owners are having a hard time figuring out what they have done wrong.


Other notable stories:

  • Leaked documents show that Mashable, which agreed to sell itself to Ziff Davis recently for $50 million (about 20 percent of its previous value), was losing money at a prodigious rate. The company lost over $4 million in just three months.
  • A Vox feature tells the story of women who decided to get out of journalism because of the sexual harassment they faced on the job. Former Washington Post reporter Kate Havard left because “I decided I didn’t want to have to fend off gross sources for the rest of my life.”
  • Bloomberg says billionaire Carlos Slim, who helped bail the New York Times out by lending the company $250 million in 2009, plans to sell about half the shares he got in the paper as a result of that deal, taking his stake from 15 percent to about 8 percent.
  • Diana Moskovitz writes for Deadspin about what it was like to work for the NFL Network, the media arm of the National Football League. In addition to the long hours and working on shows like “Behind the Pom-Poms,” the job included having to make calls and gather documents whenever a player got arrested.
  • Facebook’s test of a split news feed, in which mainstream news sites appear in a separate feed, caused traffic to fall by as much as 60 percent at some Slovakian news sites, but fake news providers weren’t affected as badly, according to journalist Filip Struhárik.
  • A report from PricewaterhouseCoopers says that the number of people who subscribe to Netflix is now equal to the number who pay for traditional cable, and the accounting firm expects the former to continue to outpace the latter.


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