By Adam Fraser
Google’s business model is built on advertising revenue. Lots of it. Almost $80bn in 2016. It dominates, along with Facebook, to the point it is accused regularly of being in a digital duopoly in the online advertising sector.
Stats vary, but $14bn of the $19bn spent on digital advertising in Q1 2017 in the USA went to Google and Facebook, and the two companies alone account for 80+% of the growth in the digital media sector.
So weaned as it is on advertising revenue, a headline reader may be somewhat confused as to why Google would introduce its own ad blocker into its very popular web browser Chrome.
In the ad blocking game, the cat and mouse, cops and robbers battle between publishers trying to show you ads on every inch of digital real estate, and the ad blockers trying to stop them, is an arms race in which it can sometimes be hard to decipher the good guys from the bad. One thing is for sure – consumers are “voting with their feet” and ad blocking is growing at an incredible rate.
Google’s motives could be argued to be pure – insert your own description of “enhancing the customer experience”, “removing annoying and intrusive ads” or “encouraging good quality ads which users want to see”. But there is a small elephant in the room – Google will let its own ads through. Some describe the “Coalition for better ads” which Google has joined (along with Facebook) as a “cartel orchestrated by Google”
Protecting the consumer from bad media experiences or holding other publishers and advertising brands to ransom? Meet the standards that we Google deem acceptable – if not, take your chances on our ad blocker filtering them out. In George Orwell ‘Animal Farm’ terms, all ads are equal, some are just more equal than others.
As the owner of both the most popular access point to the web (Chrome browser) and the largest recipient of digital ad dollars on the web, Google (along with Facebook) wields an enormous amount of power. The jury is out on this move, but a world in which two companies control pretty much everything we see on the web seems to be looming large.