German online publishers’ anti-adblock campaign backfires

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Some of the biggest German online publishers, including Spiegel.de, Golem and the websites of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and the Zeit weekly, went public with a plea for their users to reconsider ad blocking software this week. Users who are visiting participating sites with an adblock-plugin are being greeted with a special banner that asks them to disable the plugin, or add an exception for the site in question.

Now it looks as if the campaign is having some unintended consequences: Adblock Plus, the maker of a popular browser plugin meant to suppress ads, thanked participating publishers on Twitter Tuesday for the unexpected publicity:

The makers of Adblock Plus also took to their blog Monday to respond to the publishers’ campaign, claiming that the company was “part of the solution, not the problem.” In a German-language blog entry, it went on to say:

“We are fully aware that good journalism is being financed through advertising (…) The problem are annoying ads that ignore the interests of users.”

The Adblock Plus makers started their own initiative for acceptable online advertising in 2011, which crowdsources the review of non-intrusive ad-formats, with the goal of making its software display some of these ads.

Adblock Plus claims to have close to 10 million active users in Germany alone. Spiegel.de said on Monday that around 25 percent of its users utilize adblock software, and that it would’t be able to sustain its operations and pay its staff of 140 editors if this trend continued.

It’s uncertain however whether the campaign will really reach the targeted audience. Adblock Plus said on Monday that it has already begun to block the banners that ask people to turn of their ad-blocking software.

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