Audio ad-blocking is not an enhancement

jennifer lane

Jennifer Lane

So my number one source of info on cool new trends is home from college for the holidays. The other night at dinner she casually mentions that she never listens to ads on Pandora anymore. She does most of her streaming on her laptop, because, you know, college kids are attached to their laptops a lot of the time. As long as you use Chrome, she tells me, you can use the ad-blocker which blocks all the audio ads.

radio-enhancer bigIt turns out she’s right. In fact, in the Chrome Web Store, there are several browser extensions that enable the listener to tune out the ads. Available for free. At least one has been around for more than a year. Of course, ad blocking is unethical, but it’s pretty hard to explain that and make it stick when the extension is sitting right there. It all seems pretty legit. I’m sure Pandora is delighted. One of the pitfalls of being the streaming music platform of choice is that the service becomes a target for developers who have the know how to “improve upon it.”

The good news is, audio ad blocking doesn’t seem to affect mobile streaming, and with 70% of Pandora’s listening on mobile devices, that’s a good thing. Advertisers pay by impression, so they aren’t getting hosed by this. But every time someone listens to Pandora and doesn’t listen to ads Pandora loses money, because they pay royalties by the listener. So it’s a bad thing.

I’m completely on board with the notion that ad blocking is unethical. (And believe me, I explained that to my daughter.) But this is not an isolated issue, and it’s not just Pandora’s problem. I had a conversation with a client yesterday who told me that “no one sees ads on the web anymore, everyone uses an ad blocker.” ( Which I know isn’t true, because I do not use an ad blocker myself.) But ad blocking is there, it’s real, and it’s a growing problem. Content platforms need to be aware of it, and develop solutions – better ways to incorporate ads into content, better ways to communicate the importance of ad revenues to their audience, maybe even better ways to deliver ads to their audience.

Jennifer Lane


  1. Ad-blocking is a pretty serious issue. Reports I have read on the percentages of those using ad-blocking software seem to vary greatly. Anywhere from 5% to 40% with the average being 10% to 20%. Those targeting a younger or more technical audience seem to be seeing a higher than average percentage of users using AdBlock. There also appears to an AdBlock Plus app for Android that claims to be able to block most mobile ads including ads for Pandora.

    With the resources Pandora has, I am surprised they have not come up with a way to delivering unblockable ads or disabling the player for those with enabled AdBlock. Spotify’s web player seems to be able to bypass adblocking software or at least make blocking it more difficult.

  2. You’re skirting the real issue is that while ads are necessary for a provider, they are unwelcome to the listener. NOBODY wants to listen to ads. Period. That’s the problem, not ad-blocking.

    • There are options to get rid of those ads however. Pandora for example has Pandora One. But after all this time they only have ~3 million subscribers despite having over 70 million active users. So while people want ad free, many are not willing to pay even $3 per month for it. That’s a problem.

  3. “Of course, ad blocking is unethical”

    Where do you people come up with this stuff? Let me give you a little old school parallel that should help to straighten out the mental disorder that you have going on upstairs. Back in the old days, when some company wanted to advertize, they paid to put up a billboard. Those of us who despise advertizing have trained ourselves to never look at them as they pass by while driving down the highway. Those companies still paid for the advertizing even though I’m not seeing it. Its also a bit like channel surfing during the commercials. You need a tutorial on “ethics”.

  4. Making statements like ‘ad blocking is unethical’ is, of course, designed to attract the reader to this page .. and (I suspect) feed them a pile of unwanted ads 🙂
    Ethical = someone offers a ‘package’ or service ‘for free’ i.e. without requiring any commitment or the acceptance of any ‘coditions’ by the user, and you (the user) then chooses to accept some part of the package (but not all of it).

    Un-ethical = you are offered some package ‘on condition’ you take it all (or nothing). Your agreement is activly obtained prior to the provision of the ‘package’ and you then violate the terms of that agreement by rejecting some part.
    Also unethical = a package is offered ‘for free’ but without any warnings that it contains ‘spam’ (unwanted advertising) or (becomming more and more common) it tries to download intrusive softweare that tries to replace your browser or redirects your existing browser to an alternative ‘search’ engine

    I would have no problem with a web site that, when I first visit it, diecrts me to a page that says ‘to view the content of this site you must also accept adverts and cookies’ (very occasionally I do find one such, and of course always click ‘No’ and exit the site). On the other hand, when I visit a site that DOES NOT ask me, my ad-blocker (uBlock) prevents any unwanted content being sown. = whihc (I suggest) is perfectly ethical behavoiur on my part and perfectly unethical behavour on the part of the web site owner (who failed to warn me that they would attemnt to feed me unwamted adverts)

  5. Ad blocking is unethical? Really? Hey, this just in! Not buying the product you saw on TV is unethical because the company went to all the trouble of making an ad and strategically placing it where it’ll annoy you most.

    I assume you’re up on a high horse, but my ad blocker caught it so I can’t really tell.

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