Was the Great Ad Blocker Freakout of 2015 Justified?

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Six months ago, after years of power surfers happily using ad blockers with no real problems, Apple decided to ruin things for everyone by supporting ad blocking in its products. Since everything Apple does is, by definition, the most pivotal event ever in the tech world—if you happen to work in the online journalism biz, anyway—this caused instant panic in the online journalism biz. Suddenly you could hardly click your mouse without running into a site nagging you about your ad blocker, or even flatly refusing to allow you in unless you turned the blocker off.

It’s time to take stock. Was this panic justified? The use of ad-blocking apps has certainly grown over the past few years, but has it specifically skyrocketed since Apple’s announcement? I’m unable to find any reliable data on this score, and my gut tells me that the panic over this was probably unjustified, as panic usually is.

Needless to say, though, my gut is not infallible. I’d prefer actual evidence. With the benefit of several months for tempers to calm, I think it’s time for someone to examine this and tell us what’s really happened. Who out there has the data to do this?

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This feels like the most important fundraising drive since I've been CEO of Mother Jones, with staggeringly high stakes and so much uncertainty. In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," I try to unpack the reality we all face and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support Mother Jones’ nonprofit journalism: We need to raise $400,000 to help cover the vital reporting projects we have planned, and right now is no time to pull back.

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