Forbes is Blocking Ad-Blockers

Forbes wasn't too happy about ad blocking after iOS9 was announced, and now backing up their words with actions.

Reports are coming in from Twitter, and I can confirm, that Forbes is now preventing all (most?) visitors who use an ad-block tool from viewing any articles. Instead they are shown this notice:

Forbes is Blocking Ad-Blockers Advertising

From what I can tell, the ban on ad blockers is only rolling out today, and it is not affecting all visitors. I have a report from a uBlock user, as well as one from the UK, which say that they got through just fine.

But there are other reports on Twitter which confirm the news. The general tone is a little more articulate and less expletive laden than the responses to Yahoo Mail's ban on ad-blockers last month, but the sentiment is the same:

Forbes is Blocking Ad-Blockers Advertising If you can't see that last tweet, it reminds us that the Forbes website was hacked in September and used to serve up malware to unsuspecting readers. That was the second time this year that Forbes was hacked and used as an unwitting tool to distribute malware, so I'm sure you can understand why we don't want to turn off our ad-blocking extensions.

Some 200 million people used ad blockers last year, up 40% from the year before, resulting in an estimated $22 billion in displaced (but not lost) advertising revenue, according to a study by Adobe and PageFair, an anti ad-blocking technology company.

Naturally that has many web publishers up in arms. Some, including this blog, Teleread, and other sites, have adopted a nag screen which asks visitors to turn off their ad-blocker.

On this blog only about 1% comply with the request, while around a quarter of each day's page views are lost to ad blockers.

The nag screen is not effective, which could be why other web publishers are taking the same reader-hostile approach as Forbes.

Yahoo, for example, is blocking access to Yahoo Mail. The Washington Post has also experimented with a similar ban, and last month City AM, a London-based newspaper, started barring ad-block users from reading its articles unless they disable their ad-blockers. ITV, the UK's top broadcaster, has been barring ad-block users since earlier this year.

And then there's Axel Springer. In October this German media publisher kicked ad-block users off Bild.de, and it has also filed suit against a couple developers of ad-blocking extensions. Axel Springer lost one suit earlier this year, against AdBlock Plus developer Eyeo, and it sued another developer last month.

image by Straws pulled at randomairlines470

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader: He's here to chew bubble gum and fix broken websites, and he is all out of bubble gum. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills at the drop of a hat. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.

56 Comments

  1. Nate Hoffelder16 December, 2015

    Here’s an interesting tidbit I couldn’t fit in the post.

    While I was researching this story, I noticed that 95% of the Forbes stories on ad-blocking were written by contributors, most of whom were not paid for their work.

    So Forbes is getting pissy over the ads they can’t show alongside the content they didn’t pay for? Really?

    Reply
  2. Emily16 December, 2015

    I have no idea how to disable ad block. I installed it on someone’s advice when I was being bombarded with ads, and I haven been happy with it since, but I don’t know how it works. That’s the main problem for me. I would be happy to turn it off for certain sites (not Forbes, since I never rarely read there anywhere), but I don’t know how to do that.

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder16 December, 2015

      It depends on the web browser, and on the blocking extension.

      In AdBlock Pro on Chrome, for example, a left-click on the ABP logo in the toolbar opens a menu where one of the options is “Enabled/Disabled on this site”. That is where you click if you want to disable the block on the site you are currently visiting.

      Reply
  3. Achir16 December, 2015

    Nate,
    forbes actually does pay it’s contributors based on the number of users read the content written by the contributor.
    Achir

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder17 December, 2015

      @ Achir I’ve heard from several contributors who tell me that some of the more active contributors are paid. This privilege doesn’t extend to all contributors, I was told.

      Reply
  4. Scott G. Lewis17 December, 2015

    The problem isn’t showing ads. The problem is out of the 20 blocks Ghostery registered on a visit I just made to Forbes, some of them are from disturbing companies that track you across multiple sites, and ignore Do Not Track browser settings. Even this site uses sovrn – – who’s privacy policy isn’t exactly making me want to disable ad blocking here either. They claim to track you anonymously, but also admit to keeping IP addresses and combining your profile with a phone number they may collect from other sources. Yeah… no.

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder17 December, 2015

      @ Scott

      Yes, this is a problem. And to make matters worse, you can’t disable the trackers without also losing the adverts. The ad networks couldn’t get paid without trackers to confirm the ad was shown.

      And if you think Sovrn is bad, you should wait until you encounter the other ad network I signed up with. Thanks to their partners and partners’ partners, they have nearly three times as many tracking scripts.

      And this is why I don’t mind people blocking adverts.

      Reply
  5. J.D. Ogre17 December, 2015

    If ad pushers would just stick to advertising instead of tracking, profiling, pushing out malware and using abusive ads (popups, popunders, interstitials, animation and sound that aren’t attached to video/audio content, multi-minute unskippable ads on video/audio content, etc.), then perhaps people wouldn’t have to resort to blocking in order to keep their sanity – and some measure of privacy – while online.

    Reply
  6. J.D. Ogre17 December, 2015

    @ Nate

    “The ad networks couldn’t get paid without trackers to confirm the ad was shown.”

    Actually, they could. Very, very easily since few people turn off referer headers. Every single time an image is pulled from the ad network’s server, they get the URL of the page where that image was linked from. It’s been that way pretty much from the dawn of the Web.

    There is absolutely no need to track people across sites, keep profiles on them, etc.

    Reply
  7. Max17 December, 2015

    Think of ad blocking as helping advertisers reach the most valuable prospects (idiots).

    Reply
  8. Carly17 December, 2015

    Honestly the part that shocked me was that Forbes claimed to have an ad-lite experience. I have never visited Forbes and not been smacked with at least 6 ads in the course of a three paragraph article.

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder17 December, 2015

      @ Carly

      I’m only seeing three or four adverts. Maybe they did reduce the number of ads?

      Reply
  9. Bill Rosenblatt17 December, 2015

    As a Forbes contributor myself, I can tell you that some do get paid and some don’t, depending on how frequently you write. So, Achir is incorrect.

    In terms of Nate’s comments: First, I doubt that “most of whom were not paid for their work” is true in general, though it may be true of the people (including myself) who wrote pieces on ad blocking. The majority of the contributors I know do get paid. (For the record, I don’t get paid by Forbes.)

    But regarding “So Forbes is getting pissy over the ads they can’t show alongside the content they didn’t pay for? Really?” I’m sorry, that’s just stupid. Forbes makes opportunities available for people like me to post content for the sole purpose of selling ads against the content. The fact that some of us don’t get paid is a detail. Forbes pays for this content in other ways, such as providing the content management system that we use to write and edit, paying editors who (among other things) assign people to cover stories, and so on.

    Personally I view what Forbes is doing as an experiment in what amounts to yet another war between content providers and technology over revenue displacement – like the one that has taken place over paywalls. As Nate notes, other sites (like this one) are trying other tactics to get people to stop using ad blocking. Time will tell what works and what doesn’t. The WSJ and NYT found out, through such experimentation, that they can get away with various flavors of paywall, while others found out that they can’t.

    Reply
  10. Frank17 December, 2015

    I use privacy badger with Firefox and I had no issue viewing articles on Forbes.

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder17 December, 2015

      @ Frank

      That’s odd, because I have a conflicting report from another Privacy badger user.

      Where are you located? We could be seeing geographic filtering.

      Reply
  11. Bruce17 December, 2015

    I don’t use Ad Block because I don’t want to see ads. I use it for the same reason I use antivirus and firewall — because it is absolutely necessary for safe and secure web browsing (not to mention to prevent browser crashes and premature battery run down.)

    It’s a sad state. I recognize sites need money to do their work. It’s too bad their lack of ad quality control and insecure technologies has made it unsafe for readers to help fund them that way.

    Reply
  12. Frank17 December, 2015

    @Nate my IP address is Washington, DC but I am in Florida. Geographic filtering or a certain percent of users being affected such as with Yahoo! mail could be going on.

    Reply
  13. Bobby Joe17 December, 2015

    How do they know what I do with the layout? A server should only serve, not spy on what I do with what has been displayed. I never say ‘creepy’, but that’s creepy. Maybe if they didn’t pay so much to be in the top results with meh articles, they wouldn’t need to go nazi to earn worthwhile revenues afterward… oh oh. Information is cheap, these days. So with this, a part of Google results is wasted, if you don’t have the right set of extensions. Interesting… I wonder what’s next. Install the official tracking extension to have the right to read watered down bullshit? I think I’m going to bet on that.

    Reply
  14. Becki17 December, 2015

    I have to use ad blockers just so I can use the internet. Ads have gotten so net-hungry that, on my home DSL connection, most pages take forever to load. My work computer is so old it struggles and sometimes crashes from embedded videos. To save my sanity I installed ad blockers on all computers, and now at work I can do what I need without my computer crashing and at home we can use our connection with a reasonable speed. (Still not fast, but I have to settle for reasonable until I can get broadband.) Danger from malware is the other reason I installed ad blockers; privacy is the third. If websites can remove all three of those issues, I’ll uninstall the ad blockers.

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder19 December, 2015

      @ Becki

      I’m beginning to get the impression that those who use ad blockers now are mostly down to people who need them (like yourself) or the intransigent. Either way, fighting with them over the issue isn’t productive. Heck, even the nag screen I’m using is probably a waste of time.

      Reply
  15. Bobby Joe17 December, 2015

    So with this, a part of Google results is wasted, if you don’t have the right set of extensions. Interesting… I wonder what’s next. Install the official tracking extension to have the right to read? I think I’m going to bet on that.

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder17 December, 2015

      @ Bobby Joe

      Well, that’s not too different from how the streaming video platforms and ebook platforms work, so it’a not such a crazy idea.

      Reply
  16. Escaped Monkey17 December, 2015

    Guess who wont be using Forbes anymore. It seems they forgot that ads are a privalage, a route but NOT a right. If they want to assume it as a right or their core form of income then they will alienate themselves to some, possibly much, of their user base. This means their content loses further value and they receive less total revenue, period. In the end this not only hurts them but it comes at no advantage whatsoever. They have to be a necessity if they wish to get away with this, and they are nothing of the sort.

    Reply
  17. Niko18 December, 2015

    I’m disappointed that Forbes decided to jump on the “no ad blocker bandwagon.” It’s one of the few sites I use to keep up on things during my noon hour reading, and I truly enjoy Paul Tassi’s coverage on tech and gaming. Since I work for a government, however, I have no control over the computer system and am stuck with whatever browser they require me to us and, more appropriately for this response, whatever ad-blocking software they have installed. I simply can’t shut it off, and likely neither can any of the other roughly 20,000,000 local, state and federal employees here in the US who are or shortly will be unable to access the Forbes website and read any of its fine journalism. This would include, by the way, any readers who are already subscribers to Forbes magazine. I realize that at most only 10% of governmental employees (2,000,000 people) would likely try to read an article on Forbes, maybe even just 1% (200,000), but cutting off access to 200,000 supportive readers who are captive to their IT department doesn’t sound like great business sense to me. But, what do I know…. I’m just a disappointed reader who will have to look for my in-depth news coverage and thought provoking pieces elsewhere. Someone please tell Tassi I bid him a fond adieu.

    Reply
  18. Shadow18 December, 2015

    well this is a lost battle for Forbes.

    Many have tried to create measures to force users to unblock AdBlock.

    And all have failed.

    The internet is too big. So one site that blocks adblock is easily replaced in popularity by one that doesnt.

    I can understand the point of sites blocking Adblock. But you should also understand the point of the users by using Adblock.

    As long as advertisers dont change their methods adblock will continue.

    Ads take a shit ton of RAM, even when they are not intrusive. So from a utility perspective i keep adblock on because i run more stuff that just internet explorer.

    Also nothing is more idiotic than ads that are completely unrelated to the site you are visiting.

    I am reading news about the world, and an ad pops up about dumb shit.

    Reply
  19. Vince19 December, 2015

    I had no idea Forbes was yet another site that had writers but did not pay them. This makes Forbes.com a blog and not a news site. For that reason, I will not be going there again. Thanks!

    Reply
  20. Boris19 December, 2015

    I’m having no problem whatever with Forbes while using Refine with Safari on iOS 9.2.

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder19 December, 2015

      Yes, for some reason the detectors have trouble recognizing iOS ad blockers. Adblock Notify, the detector I use on this blog, can’t see iOS ad blockers either.

      I wonder why?

      Reply
  21. Boris20 December, 2015

    I have no idea; I don’t use iOS myself, but my dad surprised me by buying an iPad (which he’s apparently used three times in as many months). I only noticed the Forbes kerfuffle when people started complaining at Starts with a Bang at ScienceBlogs, which is a placeholder for that blog’s move to Forbes.

    Since I was setting it up for him in a more sane fashion, an ad blocker went in, and there was no trouble. Neither do I have any with Safari (updated WebKit) + Ghostery on my ancient PowerBook. An old Firefox + ABP delivers a blank screen regardless of rule tinkering and has been trying to load for 10 minutes with ABP off.

    The next step will be TenFourFox and/or the Safari Web Inspector to see what the site is actually trying to do. Why, I don’t know, as I think of Forbes as where good blogs for some reason up and go to die.

    Reply
  22. Frank23 December, 2015

    I disabled my adblocker just to see what this “ad light” meant. The top of the page had a giant moving banner and the right side had a video that auto played. No thanks. Back on block list. Not to mention you’re site is still full of trackers.

    Those guys just don’t get it. We can deal with ads if they’re reasonable. As in, they don’t move, flash, blink, auto start or pop up and take over the page. When they (the media) start being reasonable we’d be happy to meet them half way. But they have to disable all of the trackers too.

    Until then, so long.

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder23 December, 2015

      I think you only get the ad-lite experience if you first go in with the ad-blocker enabled, and then disable it.

      I did not see video adverts, and there is a report over on Digiday which says that the ad-lite excludes the video ads.

      Reply
  23. Frank24 December, 2015

    Maybe. I’ll have to try that.

    Reply
  24. Gary24 December, 2015

    I currently have 122 tabs open in my browser and a few hundred more pages saved that I’ll never find time to read. I have read articles on Forbes in the past because that’s where Google News sent me, but there’s so much free and non-annoying content available, with practically the same content in slightly different words, what do I care if Forbes blocks me?

    Reply
  25. […] and viewing comes in at #3, which has been a concern for many websites lately. Major sites like Forbes and Yahoo’s email service are refusing to display content to those with ad blockers turned on. My site has some Google ads […]

    Reply
  26. magusat9991 January, 2016

    I subscribe to Forbes – and I think that should be sufficient. I will go elsewhere and I think a lot of people are going to follow that trend. Too many unscrupulous “advertisers” – who are really just trackers and companies who want to sell your info. I can Google whatever I am looking for and find it at a million websites. I don’t even need to find stories or news in my own country! Why would anyone spend two seconds to unsecure their browser for one heavy handed site. Let it die in obscurity, suffocate for lack of visitors. Hopefully they will learn and not “scale back” – but abandon the idea altogether. Keep your trojans to yourself…

    Reply
  27. choochoo5 January, 2016

    The way I see it, it is the year 2016. It is about time we moved away from an ad revenue model to something else. I personally love the subscription models, like Netflix and Spotify (although it might not make sense for visiting websites like Forbes). But Forbes’ current solution of forcing people to turn off ad-block just seems like a terrible idea. Hulu does the same thing IIRC, but they provide some exclusive content.

    I guess that is where I draw the line. If there is no other source from where I can get content, I will sit through advertisements. Otherwise, it is goodbye Forbes.

    Reply
  28. Gemmi8 January, 2016

    To tell you the truth, I’m against adblocker because I’m more against the alternative sources of revenue that publishers will have to dive into to make up the money lost from people using the addon. I don’t want to pay a monthly subscription, I don’t want to be inundated with ‘sponsored’ articles, ‘click-bait’ titles and lack lustre content caused by mass layoffs. And theres still people trying to avoid the content walls.

    Reply
  29. […] and blocked users who have installed ad-blocking software. As absurd as it may sound, there are reports of Forbes and GQ preventing users who use the ad-block tools from viewing their […]

    Reply
  30. I just tried to accesse forbes.com using our eBlocker and it just works fine – not ads – no tracker – 22 data collecting URLs blocked.

    To add some background: eBlocker is not a regular ad-blocker but a hardware based privacy solution that helps to not get tracked by 3rd parties – which are ad-severs and tracking-services.
    eBlocker lets all ads pass that do not track, so puplishers can still monetize their pages if they do not harvest and compile cross-website profiles.

    Reply
  31. Amaryllis18 January, 2016

    Just remove Forbes cookies periodically. Problem solved.

    Reply
  32. Nomad of Norad22 January, 2016

    Well, I went to Forbes today to read an article from my twitter feed, and got the above “Looks like you’re using an ad blocker….” message, so I turned off AdBlock Plus on that page, the page reloaded but continued saying the same message, so I disabled Disconnect on that site…. it STILL gave me a fresh copy of that message. I went scouring through every possible place there might be SOME kind of ad blocker function in Firefox to try to turn it off, all the while cursing a blue streak at Forbes for refusing to acknowledge that I’d TURNED OFF THE FREAKING AD BLOCKERS. I finally resorted to copy-pasting the URL, lifted again from in the Tweet it had come from, into Chrome (which I just about NEVER use except on the rare occasions when web-pages fail to load right in Firefox, and such). I don’t know if there’s something borked about how Firefox interacts with Forbes such that Forbes fails to be sent a change in status at my end showing that I’d turned off the blockers… or if there’s some sort of cockeyed false-positive going on, but I was yelling at them the whole dang time. THIS IS GARBAGE! You should NOT be forcing us to make ourselves vulnerable to spying and malware JUST so you can MAKE A FEW GORRAM PENNIES OFF US per page view!

    Reply
  33. shaun25 January, 2016

    used to read alot of articles on there from links etc and didnt even know it was forbes till i was already there, now i know due to their blocked and just close the page right away, no thanks forbes.

    Reply
  34. IsraBlock27 January, 2016

    Search for IsraBlock on Chrome Store, it allows you to browse Forbes.com with adblock without any problems. It also removes anti adblock for many other websites

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder27 January, 2016

      Thanks for the heads up!

      Reply
  35. Miguel29 January, 2016

    Talk about dumb. Does Forbes realize that most all their viewers are going to disappear? What genius over there thought it would be a good idea to block viewers who block ads? I rarely read Forbes and now I NEVER read Forbes.

    Reply
  36. […] a far nicer experience than Forbes, which is engaging in a similar war on ad block users while also promising an "ad-light" experience (but actually delivering […]

    Reply
  37. Wired enter anti-ad-block arms race as Google waves white flag - TeleRead News: E-books, publishing, tech and beyond9 February, 2016

    […] This isn’t the first time that a Condé Nast publication has tried getting all Condé Nasty with ad-block users. A while back, fellow CN publication Ars Technica tried blocking ad-blockers for twelve hours just to make a point, and its editor-in-chief Ken Fisher had a lot to say about ad-blockers and site reformatters like Readability or Safari’s Reader mode. It seems that now, Wired is ready to go to war in its turn, given that 20% of its daily visitors use ad-blocking and it’s starting to feel the financial pinch. To read Wired, readers will either have to whitelist Wired in their ad-blocker, or else pay $1 a week to subscribe to Wired ad-free. Wired promises that it will try to make the ads as annoyance-free as possible. (Of course, Forbes claimed something similar, and then it served up trojans twice last year.) […]

    Reply
  38. Bryan24 February, 2016

    I will never disable my adblock plugin, and I will not pay for the majority of content that is on the web. Any site that disables my viewing of their content until I disable my adblock — will simply lose me as a viewer. Only the most quality sites with the highest quality services will ever get me to pay for content, and any assessment of quality I make will come from my experiences on the site. So, if you block me as an adblocker, there is never any possibility of having me as a subscriber. Produce high quality content and charge for extended viewing and use of that content and you don’t have to badger me with unwanted solicitation. Alternatively, develop an improved business model that takes advantage of quality services offered, informative sponsored content, honest reviews or related affiliate referrals — none of which have to be as annoying as raw unwanted solicitation.

    Reply
  39. Adrian27 February, 2016

    I can’t be bothered with having to purchase hardware just to block ads, I just find it easier to stick to the free software based ones and take my business elsewhere.

    Reply
  40. Andrew S29 February, 2016

    I’m a longtime paying subscriber to Forbes print magazine, but as I work away it’s easier to read online. However Forbes.com have left no way for me to log in and bypass their anti-adblocking system. Thus I can no longer read that which I pay for, without carrying the print version. Utterly baffling.
    After 15 years, I will not be renewing my subscription with them.

    Reply
  41. […] this side of the pond, Forbes recently ate it after blocking adblockers, leaving a trail of scorched earth and internet anger littered across pretty much all earned media […]

    Reply
  42. […] Como já tínhamos dito, as firmas de anúncios online não vão gostar muito que bloqueiem o acesso às redes que distribuem os seus anúncios. Isso não é mau, tendo em conta que algumas destas redes volta e meia distribuem ataques aos nossos browsers. […]

    Reply
  43. […] and viewing comes in at #3, which has been a concern for many websites lately. Major sites like Forbes and Yahoo’s email service are refusing to display content to those with ad blockers turned on. My site has some Google ads […]

    Reply
  44. […] has lead many web publishers to take a hostile approach to ad-blocking by blocking users of such. Forbes, Wired, and Axel Springer have each taken the most extreme option, and the open source community […]

    Reply
  45. […] this side of the pond, Forbes recently ate it after blocking adblockers, leaving a trail of scorched earth and internet anger littered across pretty much all earned media […]

    Reply
  46. […] One of the most extreme examples of this phenomenon is the Forbes website which, back in 2015, would not display anything if the user was using an ad blocker (this appears to have changed since the website received blowback for doing so). Yahoo also tried a […]

    Reply

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