With rampant piracy and a swell of free, legal content hurting nearly all content industries, many view ad-based distribution as one of the few possible business models that can still work. Furthermore, it is one employed by countless Web sites, including Ars Technica. However, ad blocking essentially short circuits that model. Since the ads are never loaded, the site pays for the content, bandwidth and server costs to deliver the material to the reader but never has a chance to recoup the costs. In short, every person who blocks ads on a site is a mathematical loss for the site, albeit a small one. Since many Web sites, especially larger ones, are paid on a per impression basis, simply saying “I wouldn’t click on them anyway” is no consolation. Refusing to look at the ads or be subject to the impression deprives the site of revenue.
Patrick O’Keefe, both my co-host of the Copyright 2.0 Show and the operator of many advertising-supported forums, agrees with this, “I say this as both a publisher and an active website user and reader: If you love a site, you should view their ads or, if they offer it, subscribe to their ad-free version. You should not block their ads because, if you do, you are contributing to the end of that site.” As a result, many, though not necessarily O’Keefe, view this as a strange form of piracy. A situation where the viewer is trying to obtain content for “free”, without taking on their share of the burden. The only difference is where traditional piracy involves obtaining a normally paid creation for free, ad blocking takes a work that was available at the “cost” of viewing ads but removes that expense. As with any other type of piracy, this shifts the cost of the work to the paying customers, in this case those who view the page normally, and forces creators to squeeze more revenue from them in order to stay alive.