On the conflict between Safari content blockers and Apple News in iOS 9

Dave Mark has a good roundup of comments from publishers and advertisers about the… curious timing of Apple introducing ad-blocking support for Safari in iOS 9 alongside Apple News with ads.

An analogy to iTunes is sometimes used in this discussion. Like the music industry before the iTunes Music Store, online publishing is in trouble. But when Apple introduced its music store, it created a great experience for buying music at a fair price—it didn’t simultaneously give customers a way to steal music elsewhere.

This doesn’t feel right, and I’m uncomfortable with it. I get that ads on the web generally suck. I get that far too many sites use far too many invasive and maybe-some-should-be-illegal trackers. I get that performance is suffering across the board, and I’m glad we’re finally starting the long conversation to fix it all.

But as it stands, Safari content blockers and Apple News supporting ads in iOS 9 makes a bold, though morally tenuous statement to readers and publishers:

“Hey readers, the current web advertising landscape is terrible. Here, have an easy way to strip ads from websites and steal their content.”

“Hey publishers, readers are stripping ads from your site. Here, have a (admittedly well-designed, installed-on-every-device) publishing platform that users will love and, hey look!, it supports ads that cannot be blocked. Oh, and you can sell your own ads and keep the money. But if you sell ads through us, give us 30 percent of revenue.”