Update on Ad Blocking and Acceptable Ads

A few weeks ago, we shared about the challenge ad blocking presented to our sustainability and what we were doing about it. On May 4th, Read the Docs was added to the Acceptable Ads list meaning that our visitors running ad blockers who choose to allow unintrusive advertising will see our ads again. The impact to our ad views, clicks, and revenue was immediate.

Data on our inclusion in the Acceptable Ads list

Impact of ad blocking and acceptable ads at Read the Docs
32% of Read the Docs visitors run an ad blocker

Estimates around the web vary regarding what percentage of people run ad blockers and it varies heavily by industry. We discussed this figure a bit in our previous post.

It took a month from application to inclusion in the list

We discovered about our inclusion in the EasyList ad blocker list within a couple days and immediately applied to the Acceptable Ads program. No changes were required of us to meet the Acceptable Ads criteria and we also qualified for Acceptable Ads without third-party tracking.

While Eyeo, the company behind AdBlock Plus, derives most of their revenue from the Acceptable Ads initiative by charging large entities, Read the Docs did not pay for inclusion on the list.

Over half of those running an ad blocker allow acceptable ads

Given our more tech-savvy and privacy-focused audience, we didn’t know what to expect. Not every ad blocker allows acceptable ads by default and even then users can choose to turn them off.

People running ad blockers DO click on ads

We can definitively say this is true of our audience. Our click-through rate did not change based on ad blocking or our inclusion in the acceptable ads list at all.

Of the ad views and clicks blocked by ad blockers, inclusion in the Acceptable Ads list meant that 55-60% of our ad-blocking visitors choose to allow our ads. This directly translated into revenue toward our sustainability.

Building our Ethical Ads

The Acceptable Ads list is definitely a step in the right direction for us. We share the goal of unintrusive advertising that respects our audience.

People understand that advertising funds much of the web. As ads got larger, more annoying, and ad networks stored more information on millions of people, however, many people finally decided to install ad blockers. This is the largest boycott in human history and blaming users isn’t the answer.

Based on our experience with ad blocking and the Acceptable Ads list, it is clear that visitors will allow advertising that doesn’t disrupt user experience and doesn’t track people.

We are glad to have made progress toward regaining our sustaining revenue. Read the Docs is continuing on our experiment to fund open source infrastructure in a way that is a win/win for all parties, and we are glad you’re following along with us.