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Yahoo Mail is Barring Ad-Block Users From Seeing Their Emails

Digiday reports, and several reports on Twitter and the Ad Block Plus forums confirm, that Yahoo has started blocking ad-block users from viewing their inboxes. Instead, a user is shown this:


When sites like the Washington Post actively prevent ad-block users from seeing content, they’re betting that users will disable the ad-blocking extension.

But in the case of Yahoo Mail, that is a sucker’s bet. For one thing, Google has shown us that the majority of users will leave a site when stymied by an interstitial advert; how do you suppose they’ll respond to an ultimatum?

It would be a different matter if Yahoo Mail were some unique service, but it’s not the only web email service, nor is it the only free email service, as users are well aware:

Yahoo is only the latest web company to take a hostile position on the topic of ad blocking. In addition to the Washington Post, Axel Springer is experimenting with blocking ad-block users from seeing bild.deDigiday also reported that City AM, a London-based newspaper, started a trial this week barring ad-block users from reading its articles unless they disable their block. And ITV, the UK’s top broadcaster, has been barring ad-block users since earlier this year.

According to Tom Yeomans, CEO of  ad tech company Yavli, Yahoo could be betting that users will value the investment they made in their email addresses more than a good user experience.

“They’re likely testing this particular approach, banning ad blocker users, on their email service because they know their users will be forced to disable their ad blocker if they want to check their emails within their web browser,” Yeomans told Digiday. “Their users’ email account content are unique to them, so it’s different from news content where they can visit a competing website to get a same or similar experience.”

I wish Yahoo luck with that idea; it strikes me as a great way to get users to leave Yahoo Mail and not come back. And even those who have an identity built around a Yahoo Mail address can still transfer their email activities to another service and keep using the old email address remotely.

So unless pissed off users counts as a win, Yahoo has gained nothing today.

image by JD Hancock

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CJJ November 19, 2015 um 7:15 pm

I can report that they are not doing that for ATT/yahoo mail users. Yet?

Thomas November 19, 2015 um 9:28 pm

I haven’t seen anything like this yet, so either they’re only hitting some users, or my adblocker isn’t recognized.

Max November 20, 2015 um 2:41 am

Don’t see it here either. Maybe just a small scale experiment.

Nate Hoffelder November 20, 2015 um 5:14 am

Do you have a paid account?

A reader suggested by email that the paying customers weren’t affected.

Feda November 20, 2015 um 7:04 am

I can’t blame them. That is how they finance their operations. People’s false sense of entitlement has grown out of hand.

Nate Hoffelder November 20, 2015 um 8:10 am

I’m not sure you should use a pejorative word like entitlement in this situation.

The "sense of entitlement" you see stems from the fact that virtually all email services are free. That is what created the expectation that one should not have to pay for the service, and thus it’s not a false expectation.

Feda November 20, 2015 um 9:25 am

Those free services are supported by advertising. Expecting to get a service for free without the provider having means to finance that service is just irrational. Add-blocking strips away those means from the service provider. They are left with few options there. They can either start charging for the service, block users who use add-blockers or shut down the service entirely.
Many free e-mail services offer a paid add-free option. I don’t know if yahoo does since I don’t use yahoo mail, but I’ve been paying a yearly fee (a very modest one) for add-free email from NetZero for at least 10 years now.

Clyde November 20, 2015 um 11:10 am

Most email providers have autoforward rules. I would turn off ad blocker long enough to setup yahoo emails to someplace else. Then never go back.

J. Kirsch November 20, 2015 um 11:38 am

Sympathy for the web services like Yahoo email who are trying this tactic is limited in my view. Many of these "free" services around the web created such a disastrous user experience by letting ads wreak havoc and take over that it they have been the ones unwittingly fueling the rise of ad-blocking tools in the first place. In one recent situation I could not even functionally use one of my favorite websites without an adblocker due to the aggressiveness of the ads.

Irrationality is a two-way street. Providers have assumed that creating a terrible user-experience would have no consequences. Now that’s what I would call irrationality.

Instead of burying their heads in the sand, services like Yahoo email need to think of innovative ways for their ads to do a better job at adding value: Case in point, take a page from Amazon’s playbook. Amazon’s embedded ads in Goodreads often suggest products which successfully target users. I don’t find them annoying because I know they are tailored to the types of things I like, and I appreciate that. I would willingly suspend my ad-blocker if a website popped up a message asking me to do so while not being obnoxious about using them. There are tactics short of trying to strong-arm your users. Those should be attempted first.

Jason van Gumster November 20, 2015 um 11:52 am

Free email services are a pretty convenient luxury that we’ve grown to have in a digital society. However, if there’s one service that I’d be paranoid about maintaining a modicum of control over, it’d be email… especially when privacy is a concern.

SteveHut November 20, 2015 um 12:48 pm

Yahoo has also been rejecting non-white listed/confirmed reputation email from people with their own email servers as a ham-fisted atempt to reduce their spam load. I have not been able to email any Yahoo account holders now for nearly a month. (and their webmasters seemingly don’t care).

Frank November 20, 2015 um 1:55 pm

From Yahoo:
"At Yahoo, we are continually developing and testing new product experiences. This is a test we’re running for a small number of Yahoo Mail users in the US."

Purple Lady November 20, 2015 um 3:01 pm

I use K-9 Mail on my android devices, so I almost never use a web browser to get my email. I use an adblocker on all my android devices and was able to get to my email using Opera browser with the desktop user agent so I’m not in their trial.

neuse river sailor November 20, 2015 um 4:18 pm

I used yahoo mail on the road because that was what my service provider offered, but the ads were so distasteful that I dreaded checking email. Thankfully I can use squirrel mail for my new address and with any luck will never have a reason to go to yahoo again.

CJJ November 20, 2015 um 5:05 pm

Every now and then my comment blocker fails and I find myself in a gossamer of commentary.

Will Entrekin November 21, 2015 um 1:51 pm

Ironically, I got a pop-up from this site, on visiting today, that asked me to disable my AdBlocker or whitelist the-digital-reader.

Nate Hoffelder November 21, 2015 um 2:16 pm

28% of today’s visitors are using an ad blocker.

Al the Great and Powerful November 23, 2015 um 11:48 am

And I will continue to do so, Nate, even here.
No bandwidth for advertising! Let them get REAL jobs.

gingeroni November 23, 2015 um 6:12 pm

Sorry Nate. I turned off the ad blocker for your site and now it’s slowed to a crawl. I usually open interesting stories in a background tab while I read the summaries. Without ads, by the time I’m done with the front page, the tabs would be loaded and ready to read. With ads, it takes minutes for everything to load. It’s just too annoying.

Nate Hoffelder November 23, 2015 um 6:25 pm

@ gingeroni

I understand completely. This is another example of why I have a neutral policy on ad blocking.

gingeroni November 23, 2015 um 6:20 pm

I just refreshed the page and it took 30 seconds to load with ads and 10 seconds without.

The Ad Block Arms Race – The POD August 18, 2016 um 12:42 am

[…] (this appears to have changed since the website received blowback for doing so). Yahoo also tried a similar tactic, with similarly negative […]

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