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Advertising Businesses IOS The Internet The Media

Axel Springer Goes After iOS 9 Ad Blockers In New Legal Battlle (techcrunch.com) 223

An anonymous reader writes: Germany's Axel Springer, owner of newspapers like Bild and Die Welt, is pursuing legal action against the developers of Blockr, an ad blocker for iOS 9. Techcrunch reports: "In October, Axel Springer forced visitors to Bild to turn off their ad blockers or pay a monthly fee to continue using the site. Earlier this month, the publisher reported the success of this measure, saying that the proportion of readers using ad blockers dropped from 23% to the single digits when faced with the choice to turn off the software or pay. 'The results are beyond our expectations,' said Springer chief exec Mathias Döpfner at the time. 'Over two-thirds of the users concerned switched off their adblocker.' He also noted that the Bild.de website received an additional 3 million visits from users who could now see the ads in the first two weeks of the experiment going live."
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Axel Springer Goes After iOS 9 Ad Blockers In New Legal Battlle

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  • by OrangeTide ( 124937 ) on Tuesday November 24, 2015 @01:33AM (#50991745) Homepage Journal

    Litigate instead!

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      It will be interesting to see what a user is allowed to run on their own computer in their home when connecting to a site on the internet :)
      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 24, 2015 @03:26AM (#50992065)

        Precious little, in a while. There's more and more support to the idea that any device to be connected to the internet will have to be"audited" for "potentially harmful" software and "certified" by "authorities". I know it sounds unacceptable right now but give it time and everybody will simply shrug and say "it's for our own safety and besides, what can we do?"

        • by Kjella ( 173770 )

          Precious little, in a while. There's more and more support to the idea that any device to be connected to the internet will have to be"audited" for "potentially harmful" software and "certified" by "authorities". I know it sounds unacceptable right now but give it time and everybody will simply shrug and say "it's for our own safety and besides, what can we do?"

          I heard pretty much the exact same thing when the "I love you" virus was making the rounds, just saying...

        • If it means APK will finally not be able to distribute his crapware, it might just be worth it.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        I imagine that the argument will be copyright infringement by the app developer. Taking the Bild web site, making some changes to it and then presenting it to the user in exchange for the $0.99 price of the app. Essentially they see it as taking a copy of their free newspaper, cutting the ads out with scissors and selling it on for a profit.

        Of course, it's a stupid argument. The web doesn't work that way. They could replace their web site with a PDF and maybe have the beginnings of a point, but HTML is not

        • Of course, it's a stupid argument. The web doesn't work that way.

          Even if you had a third-party server doing the ad removal it shouldn't work that way, because you are permitted to transfer modified copies of copyrighted works so long as you transfer all copies, modified or not, when you transfer the original.

          • ... because you are permitted to ...

            It's not even clear which country's law applies. General statements like that are most certainly wrong.

          • by KGIII ( 973947 )

            You are not necessarily permitted to do so. I can not, for example, take a book and modify it a little bit and then transfer copies of it even if I include the original. It's rather subjective and it's hard to say but I suspect that this will not fall into the "fair use" case much like it wouldn't likely succeed as a fair-use case if they stripped out ads and packaged it anew with ads of their own or similar things.

            This is the German courts, however. No telling how they'll go. It does have the required bits

            • You can't buy a book, write in the front cover "From the library of KGIII", then later on sell it on to a used book shop?

              This is what you just said as far as I can understand it, so I am not sure how that would be illegal.

              • by KGIII ( 973947 )

                Now that's taking it to an extreme level and you missed the finer points... Intentionally? Willfully? Did you intentionally skip the part about fair use and retaining certain rights?

                Also, note that it is more like buying a book, writing "From the library of KGIII" and then making multiple copies and selling those. The two are NOT the same.

                Sheesh... I know you're smarter than this. ;-) I *do* hold you to a higher standard than most but, c'mon now!

      • by murdocj ( 543661 )

        It's not about what you are "permitted to run". The question is whether users can access content in a way that deprives the content creator of any source of revenue. It's not some horrible crime that a company isn't going to give away their content completely for free, anymore than it's a crime that most people would like compensation for doing work.

        • No, that's not really the question; it's just posed that way to incite an emotional response.

          I do agree that companies are under no obligation to provide websites for free. However, if a company does provide a website, I don't feel there is any reasonable assumption that someone visiting a site will request any particular resource or follow any particular link on that website. So crying foul if someone visits a site but doesn't request some ad resource is a little disingenuous.

          If a site really wants eithe

    • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )

      You mean evolve to a paid subscription model or such?
      Because that would be completely novel for a newspaper!
      Also; they're still using that business model.

      Any ideas as to the direction in which they should evolve?

    • The problem is that the well is irreversibly poisoned.
      You can pay for access to the site, and you still get bombarded with ads. From the point of view of the those running the site, they already got your money. Then if they get a bit of extra profit from the advertisers, all the better.

      Same if you pay to have any data stored in the atmospheric water vapor formations and kept "private". It will still be sold to 3rd parties, except that it will command higher prices.

      "Hey, this guy is paying to keep your nose

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        There is an alternative model: paywalls. History has shown that most people won't pay for this shitty, near worthless content though. Only specialist papers like the Financial Times managed to do okay with paywalls.

        That's the basic problem that all generic news outlets face. The same news is widely available for free elsewhere. The only attractions are things like some included soft porn*, some opinion pieces that match the reader's existing view and give them comfort, and the format. None of those are part

    • by Merk42 ( 1906718 )
      He did evolve the business model. He offered the option to remove ads for a monthly fee.
    • by KGIII ( 973947 )

      While true there's the caveat as you're utilizing property, namely a computer, that doesn't belong to you. I'm of the mind that they're free to say that I can't access their site unless I disable my adblocking software. It's their property and they should be able to set the terms and conditions for accessing that property. I am, of course, free to abide by those choices or simply press the back button.

      Much like they've no right to force you to run code, you've no right to access their property without their

      • I'm of the mind that they're free to say that I can't access their site unless I disable my adblocking software. It's their property and they should be able to set the terms and conditions for accessing that property. I am, of course, free to abide by those choices or simply press the back button.

        That is, of course, one option. However, I'm of the mind that by setting up a server on the public Internet which responds to arbitrary unauthenticated HTTP requests, they've effectively given permission to access their site to everyone on the Internet, regardless of any claims to the contrary in their terms of service.

        If they want to enforce terms and conditions, they are welcome to require users to register and log in before presenting any content.

        • by KGIII ( 973947 )

          I'm inclined to agree that that *should* be the case but this is, still, private property with the various rights associated with it as well as copyright. This is, of course, open to debate as to changing it but, until those are altered, they may have legal standing. I'm not sure where I'd fall in the opinion range as to changing property rights but I can see changing copyright laws. Even if the store is open, they can still insist you neither take stuff that doesn't belong to you AND insist you wear a shir

          • I'm inclined to agree that that *should* be the case but this is, still, private property with the various rights associated with it ...

            I don't see this as a property-rights issue. You're sending them a message with a request for one or more URLs; they're sending messages back with the content. At no point do you have possession of or control over any of their property. Their property is doing exactly what they deliberately programmed it to do: send their content to any arbitrary unauthenticated user on the Internet who requests it. If they did require authentication and you claimed to be someone else in order to gain access then a case cou

  • Target audience (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mattwarden ( 699984 ) on Tuesday November 24, 2015 @01:41AM (#50991777) Homepage

    Congrats. You now have a group of people seeing your ads that wanted to not see them so bad they bought an app. I'm sure this business model will work out for you in the long run.

    • Re:Target audience (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Mashiki ( 184564 ) <mashiki@NOspAm.gmail.com> on Tuesday November 24, 2015 @03:06AM (#50992023) Homepage

      It didn't work out for the Globe and Mail or the Toronto Star here in Canada, so you'd be right it didn't work. Then again, news papers are bleeding print subs and online viewership everywhere. Mainly because the media is either shilling for their buddies w/o disclosing it, or people can find exactly the same news on 3 or 4 other sites, that don't have a paywall of some kind.

      • It's both. The average "newspaper" (more accurate would be "rough, ink-bleeding TP") contains paid ads thinly disguised as articles, shilling for their favorite party and to make that mix go down a little more smoothly they sprinkle in some copy/pasted press agency messages.

        Care to inform me what anyone needs that kind of "newspaper" for? Especially online where you can't even use it as TP.

        • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

          Lining bird cages of course. But some papers actually do have a good opinion/columnist/consumer affairs section, and for some newspapers that's their only redeeming part.

      • There are plenty of people who will pay for the news. I'm one of them. Of course I only buy Kindle subscriptions, not dead trees. The problem with the news business right now is that everybody is writing up the same high-level summaries of the same stories. How many different accounts do we need of one event? In the meantime, not too many organizations are digging deep. That's harder to do as a daily than a weekly, but still needs to happen. The web killed the market for reworking wire stories, but t
    • Congrats. You now have a group of people seeing your ads that wanted to not see them so bad they bought an app. I'm sure this business model will work out for you in the long run.

      Doesn't matter to him. He knows it's all BS, but companies are willing to pay him hard cash for eyes on their ads. Doesn't matter if those eyes actually purchase anything.

    • Wrong. You are assuming too much. They've marketed that number at you.

      saying that the proportion of readers using ad blockers dropped from 23% to the single digits when faced with the choice to turn off the software or pay.

      They didn't say those people turned off their ad blockers and they didn't say those people paid for a subscription.

      What they said was that 'when you can't view our site with an ad blocker, people with ad blockers stopped viewing our site' ... meaning they probably just lost all of those readers completely. They simply no longer bother viewing the site at all.

      And the fact that they lost all those readers is why they are now suing.

      They c

    • They have a group of people who appreciate their site so much that they bought an app to improve the experience. It stands to reason that the same people - at least some of them - might be prepared to pay for a subscription.

      I'm sure this business model will work out for you in the long run.

      I don't see why not. It's not like the "customers" they lose are bringing in any revenue.

      • The comment was addressed not to Axel Springer, but to the advertisers, who now have more ad "impressions", but probably no more sales than before. They're advertising to people who were willing to pay money to avoid seeing their ads. Those users were doing the advertisers a favor by removing themselves from the viewer pool. Rather than simply not being seen, those ad impressions will now create negative associations for their brands.

        Unfortunately there's a delay in the feedback, allowing sites to profit fr

  • by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Tuesday November 24, 2015 @01:47AM (#50991797)

    Speaking of ads, SlashDot, what's with these brain-dead, demographic-curdling "paid posts" you're running? The one I see on your home page now, and I swear I am not shitting thee, reads:

    >> Poor, misunderstood cloud computing. As it turns out, most Americans have no idea what it actually is. (Hint: it has nothing to do with the sky.)

    • Where are you seeing that?

      I don't see anything like that on my system. Viewing in Chrome on a linux box running uBlock.

      • Here's a screenshot https://anonimag.es/i/f5eda892... [anonimag.es]

        • by Maxo-Texas ( 864189 ) on Tuesday November 24, 2015 @02:34AM (#50991943)

          ha ha! I see your game... a clever new way to get people with adblockers to look at adds!

          Well! You'll not fool me! I'm not a cat!

          I'll be releasing "xxxJohnBoyxxx (565205) blocker next week!

        • Oh yuck. I must be blocking it somewhere but I'm not sure where. I had ghostery as well and that is blocking a chunk but even with ublock, ghostery and flashblock disabled I'm still not seeing them.

          • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

            slashdot probably doesnt know either.
            they dont know what ads get displayed where.

            which is why people use adblockers. for example, every now and then the mobile version of slashdot has ads that auto-open hoax update pages to install crap. I think it's because slashdot doesnt check what their page looks from different countries.

        • This is what I am seeing - https://anonimag.es/image/nlt [anonimag.es]

          I've left it so you can see the plugins

      • by ncc74656 ( 45571 ) *

        Where are you seeing that?

        I don't see anything like that on my system

        I don't think they show up in the RSS feed either. I pretty much never go to /.'s homepage anymore. ttrss [tt-rss.org] grabs the summary for me, and if it's interesting, I'll click through. It and Full-Text RSS [fivefilters.org] have also been useful for some sites with broken layout that won't show up properly in desktop browsers anymore (National Review, I'm looking at you).

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      Poor, misunderstood cloud computing. As it turns out, most Americans have no idea what it actually is. (Hint: it has nothing to do with the sky.)

      Huh? I thought cloud computing was basically "Hot Vapor", i.e. promising people the sky and then not delivering?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    LEFT the site, he means... the extra traffic was from the publicity in the media, on slashdot, reddit, digg, etc ('wtf is this site? never heard of it before', 'does it really block adblock?' -- no it first discriminates against those with scripting disabled.. scripts are what they use to target adblockers, browse with css and scripting off it sorta works).. and that extra traffic has long since faded... so lets stir up another rats nest and controversy and target mobile users because any publicity is bette

  • by complete loony ( 663508 ) <Jeremy.Lakeman@g3.14mail.com minus pi> on Tuesday November 24, 2015 @02:22AM (#50991917)

    the proportion of readers using ad blockers dropped from 23% to the single digits when faced with the choice to turn off the software or pay ... Over two-thirds of the users concerned switched off their adblocker.

    Did they? Or did they simply not come back?

    Of course with the developer tools built into browsers these days, it only takes a few clicks to delete the nag layer and get to the underlying content. I wonder how they count me in their statistics?

    • Not so simple (Score:4, Informative)

      by l2718 ( 514756 ) on Tuesday November 24, 2015 @03:27AM (#50992067)

      Of course with the developer tools built into browsers these days, it only takes a few clicks to delete the nag layer and get to the underlying content. I wonder how they count me in their statistics?

      It used to be easy to read the content off the html – no developer tools needed! Today, many websites are constructed to not serve the underlying content until the you've been served the ad.

      By the way, I don't think there's anything wrong with what Springer is doing. Readers can pay cash, or pay by viewing ads. They can also choose not to read.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        There is another problem with this method. If his website is hard to access or hostile, people won't link to it. He could be losing a lot of traffic because of that.

  • Thanks for the tip. I will just route it to /dev/null instead of the screen. Or better still his personal email.
  • by symes ( 835608 )

    Earlier this month, the publisher reported the success of this measure, saying that the proportion of readers using ad blockers dropped from 23% to the single digits when faced with the choice to turn off the software or pay. 'The results are beyond our expectations,'

    So 23% of these sensible people left and went to a different mediocre news source? Hard to know without the denominator available. But that's the nature of modern mediocre journalism.

  • Nah, I'd go with option 3 - find a different site.

    Maybe the next generation of ad blockers will download the ad content, let the site think the ad was shown, and then just not display it.

    Plain text ads like google uses would be fine.

    Popovers? Animated ads? Anything that covers or obscures other content? No thanks.

  • Not showing ads (Score:3, Interesting)

    by phorm ( 591458 ) on Tuesday November 24, 2015 @04:47AM (#50992297) Journal

    Various adblockers already have the option to load but not display ads. It's a waste of bandwidth, but likely defaults this measure and at least reduces the annoyances/infections.

  • Just they wait until I release my Adblocker blocker blocker app. Then you'll be able to see the site again. At least until they deploy an Adblocker blocker blocker blocker which I guess will be inevitable.. However I have an idea about how to deal with that...

  • required reading (Score:5, Informative)

    by Tom ( 822 ) on Tuesday November 24, 2015 @05:25AM (#50992397) Homepage Journal

    What you need to know about BILD:

    It's the most popular (by far) newspaper "for the lower classes" in Germany. It is massively influential on public opinion, and thus required reading for politicians and such. Several german chancellors are known to have checked the BILD headlines first thing in the morning to know what the people will wake up to.

    It is also rumours to be funded by the CIA, at least during its early, post-war years, and to this day is fanatically pro-american, conservative and anti-communist.

    With that in mind, you understand who the readership is and why they are more likely than, say, the /. crowd, to turn off their adblockers.

  • by TheDarkMaster ( 1292526 ) on Tuesday November 24, 2015 @06:17AM (#50992525)
    Nowadays blocking advertising is required to prevent malware infections.
    • by worf_mo ( 193770 )

      Mod this up.

      Here in Italy you can be signed up to costly "services" by simply and inadvertently clicking on an ad on your phone. No sign-up process - just click on an in-app ad and you receive an SMS "You have subscribed to [shady sex chat service]. Each message you receive has a cost of [x Euro]". No - the ad did not advertise any such service. And no, the app itself had nothing to do with it except for serving up ads - this crap comes from the ad networks. Then the messages start to roll in and your frien

    • Recently, they had to give me a new hard drive on my work computer, and I had a virgin install of Firefox (no adblocker). I was on the web while waiting on work, and the anti-virus warned of a possible virus from one of the sites (might have been /. but not sure). The adblocker is back on.

  • If people are taking active measures to hide your ads (going as far as paying for an adblocker!), then maybe you should review how your website handle this.
    Litigating in this case can only do harm; best case scenario they win, and (app store) adblockers get removed. Who's gonna say "hey, I wanted an adblocker, but this company sued them out of existence, so I'll keep using their services"? In the end, will they sue people for not going to their site anymore after pissing them off?
  • Intermixing ads with content is bloody infuriating, especially when it's animated in some form. Newspapers for centuries sold ads which were contained separate from the content; a buyer interested in the specials at the local market would flip through, it was seriously win win. A mild neutral link to deals on offer from advertisers achieves the same goal, and if the advertiser is relevant to my interests, I'd actually click on it. I've bought tons of stuff from promotions, e.g. 60" TV promoted locally, and

    • And for centuries, newspapers have had ads strewn about everywhere. Read down the column and at the end of the story is an ad for braziers. Or find a coupon for washing machines between a stories about an earthquake and a church bake-sale.
  • I hate those guys.

  • Publishing costs money. These outlets have a bottom line to consider, and they're offering a choice between subscriptions and ads.

    The only real issue I see is the risk of malicious or compromised ads. An issue that only exists because the responsibility for the content of the ads is unclear, so everyone involved says it isn't them. Fortunately, if the issue is pressed, it will be resolved. This is how it gets pressed.

  • Then:
    Users: hey can you please stop spamming us with ads so much?
    Advertisers: screw you, here's your ad

    Now:
    Advertisers: hey please don't use stuff to block our ads, thanks
    Users: screw you

  • " 'Over two-thirds of the users concerned switched off their adblocker.'"

    Yes, and we copy-pasted all the blocked sites in our router's blacklist instead.

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