Online ads have the unique distinction of being incredibly annoying yet vital to the support of millions of content creators and publishers. Video ads can be especially obnoxious since video content can't be skimmed or skipped over the way text can. In some cases, viewers have to sit through more than a minute of ads before watching short-form content. 

Those ads are an important way for content creators (think bloggers, publishers, and YouTubers), to earn money. Banner ads, search ads, and video ads support sites and are increasingly subject to ad-blocking software. While that makes the viewing experience better for a reader or viewer, many of those sites would have to charge fees for acces to their content if it wasn't for the ads.

Google says it has a solution, which involves having Chrome automatically block three types of what it calls "disruptive" video ads. Those include ads on content that is shorter than eight minutes and meet one of three criteria. They can't be skipped after five seconds and run longer than 31 seconds, they interrupt in the middle of the video, or they display banner ads that cover more than 20 percent of the video.

Those types of ads were identified by the Coalition for Better Ads, which, aside from its altruistic-sounding name, is a group that includes Google, Facebook, and Microsoft. Yesterday, that group release what it calls a "Better Ads Standard," and Google has said it will block ads that violate that standard. So, the coalition is basically the major ad platforms telling advertisers and advertising platforms how to play the game. 

That's not a small thing. Chrome is the most widely used browser in the world. According to Google, starting in August it will block all video ads on short-form content that violate the standards. Of course, there's more to it than just blocking obnoxious ads.

In fact, one likely reason for establishing standards is to head off efforts to block all ads. By creating a set of guidelines of what constitutes a "non-distruptive" ad, it makes it easier to argue that they shouldn't be blocked. Browsers like Safari and Brave already have ad-blocking and anti-tracking technology built into them, which presents a real problem for advertising platforms like Google, Facebook, and Microsoft. 

Obviously, those advertising platforms have a significant interest in showing you ads. That means they have a vested interest in reducing ad-blocking technology. It's no coincidence that the standards adopted are exactly the requirements used for ads on YouTube. As a result, Chrome won't be blocking any of the ads you see on that platform, but might block them elsewhere.

In this case, that essentially means forcing everyone to adopt the standards used by YouTube, which has long allowed users to skip over ads after five seconds. That's an awfully convenient way to force your competition to either play by your rules or get blocked. It's also a convenient way to make sure the ads on your own platform are exempt from future ad-blocking. 

Published on: Feb 7, 2020
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