What do you do when some other company is doing something you don’t like? You complain to the government about it! (Hey, it worked for Amazon.) And that’s what a newspaper trade organization is doing about ad-blockers. The Newspaper Association of America, an organization representing approximately 2,000 North American newspapers, has filed a complaint with the FTC about the practice of of ad blocking.

Just as that study I covered the other day suggested doing about the “buy now” button, the NAA’s complaint alleges some aspects of ad blocking represent unfair and deceptive trade practices. In particular, it’s concerned about paid whitelisting, in which some ad blocking companies charge a fee to allow “acceptable ads” through. Another worry is that ad-blockers allow users to circumvent buying paid subscriptions on sites that charge for browsing ad-free.

“Newspapers recognize that ad blocking technology is responding to a consumer demand, and publishers are working diligently to improve the ad experience for consumers,” said NAA president and CEO David Chavern in a prepared statement. “We need, however, to call the government’s attention to some ad blocking firms that have implemented ad blocking business models that are deceptive to consumers.”

Personally, I’m not sure what’s so deceptive about it. I simply don’t use ad blockers that charge to let ads through. And when I use an ad blocker, I know what I want—to browse free of annoying advertisements—and am sufficiently intelligent to tell when that’s what I’m getting. If I’m not getting it, I’ll pick another one. This strikes me more as an attempt to do anything the newspaper publishers can to strike back against the ad blocking that is costing them money.

If the newspapers want people to stop blocking ads, they’d better work more “diligently” on fixing web advertising’s problems. If it’s not already too late. I can’t imagine many ad blocker users would be too inclined to stop using them.


  1. I never used to mind ads on a page; indeed, if they were targeted and relevant, they could be useful. Unfortunately ads morphed into delivery systems for malware and were often so bloated they would slow down internet connections. What these companies need to do is screen the ads, but I suspect they won’t do that preferring the shotgun approach that everyone hates. So I use ad blockers but don’t hesitate to pay for content that’s useful and interesting.

  2. @ecw0647 – Absolutely right. If companies would promise to carefully screen their ads, I might consider whitelisting them. In the past, I’ve had pages that presented some kind of badly-formed Flash or something which my CPU to run one of its cores at 100% use. Bad enough that that spikes the operating temp 20º C or so, but if I had a single core or dual core CPU I imagine my computer would be nearly unresponsive. Put ads like that on a few sites/open tabs and the computer will grind to a halt. Ergo, I run an ad blocker now.
    I can’t know in advance which sites are going to screw me up like that so it’s a necessary preventive measure. Perhaps somebody can come up with a “safe advertisting” token for HTML or something…but until then, it’s dangerous to accept a lot of ads.

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