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Three is going to block online advertising on your phone



The number of netizens running ad-blockers is growing, and Three’s latest move is sure to see that figure sky-rocket.

Three has confirmed plans to launch ad-blocking in the UK at network level.

The mobile service provider will begin blocking ads thanks to a partnership with Israeli tech firm Shine.

It’s not clear what time-frame we’re looking at, but Three plans to kick off proceedings in the UK and Italy, after which a “rapid rollout” will begin in other countries.

“Irrelevant and excessive mobile ads annoy customers and affect their overall network experience,” says Tom Malleschitz, Three’s chief marketing officer.


The company says it wants to give customers “more control, choice and greater transparency” over ads on their mobile devices.

However, it’s a move that will seriously affect publishers and advertisers, for whom digital ads act as a significant revenue stream.

Three has 9 million customers in the UK, which means affected businesses could experience substantial losses as a result of the move.

According to Three however, customers are forced to pay over the odds in terms of data charges because of ad-loading.

Malleshcitz says Three’s introduction of ad-blocking “will give customers choice and significantly improve their ad experience.”

We don’t believe customers should have to pay for data usage driven by mobile ads,” he continues. “The industry has to work together to give customers mobile ads they want and benefit from.”

The decision has sparked controversy, with the Guardian quoting the Internet Advertising Bureaeu as follows:

“The IAB believes that an ad-funded internet is essential in providing revenue to publishers so they can continue to make their content, services and applications widely available at little, or no cost. We believe ad-blocking undermines this approach and could mean consumers have to pay for content they currently get for free.”

It’s also worth noting that Three rivals EE and O2 have been public about the possibility of launching a similar ad-blocking scheme.

We’ve contacted Three about the time-frame on rollouts, and whether or not the ad-blocking is an opt-in system. We’ll update this story with any response.

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What do you make of this decision? Let us know in the comments.


February 19, 2016, 11:45 am

While I'm sure many people will welcome this, as a journalist this is disappointing news and it feels like Three is overstepping significantly.

It's already very hard to make online publishing pay. We rely on income from advertising, among other sources, and revenue from mobile is particularly hard. The more people switch to using mobiles for browsing, the less money we make.

While we're far from perfect, I believe we do better than most in avoiding some of the more obtrusive advertising formats available. We don't use 'push down' video ads on mobile, for example, which chew up a lot of data and are annoying on a mobile.

I'd like to give Three the benefit of the doubt here and hope it only blocks genuine abusive advertising practices, such as redirections to app stores, but there's previous little detail as to what exactly it plans.


February 19, 2016, 1:00 pm

I'm sure it is disappointing, but that's because you like many other digital publishers have a business model where you've divorced the value of what you offer away from the cost that the consumer pays, i.e. you try to make it free and rely on somebody else to cover the costs.

There's always going to be a fragility to a business model when your consumers do not directly provide your revenue. And therein lies another danger - you start to see your advertisers as your customers rather than your readers.


February 19, 2016, 1:09 pm

I certainly don't consider our advertisers as our customers. That's how the sales teams operates, but that's nothing to do with how we operate editorially.

On a more general point, alternative revenue streams – such as paywalls – are hardly proven and most people seem unwilling to pay for content online.

As for passing on the costs, customers pay networks like Three to access the internet on their phones. If Three wants to pass some of that subscription fee to publishers who create the content people consume on their networks, we'd welcome that. But, of course, we know that isn't going to happen and we wouldn't dream of asking for that.

All I want is for Three to show the same respect in return. This is a Net Neutrality issue in the same way Netflix streaming speeds in the US are.


February 19, 2016, 1:34 pm

"most people seem unwilling to pay for content online."

There's your problem. People don't value your product, so advertising fills the gap because it is easier to sell the value of your content and consumers to them rather than to the consumers themselves.

Personally I don't like what Three's done. I don't like setting a precedent over that level of control, so we're aligned on that. But that doesn't change the fact that the business model of many online publishers is fundamentally weak, as they're unable to realise the value of their content by those that consume it.


February 20, 2016, 5:35 am

I have no issues with ads, but I hate pop-up, jarring ads and ads that hijack the page for no reason. Take a cue out of page layouts for paper magazine ads and I am all for it. Ads that are attractive, ads that inform, and ads that are not jarring and preferable non-movable images are all okay to me. After all we are really interested in your products, I will click the ad and go to the page themselves where they can wow me with all the razzmatazz as they want. It is awfully distracting to see large moving ads placed around the pages when I am trying to read something. I believe that the ad industry can be much much much more creative when it comes to ad designs rather than take the easy way out.


February 20, 2016, 9:25 pm

Three are publicity seeking with this.

They probably have the poorest 4G service across the London area where I live.
Yesterday it took me two hours to wrest my PAC code from them.

They need to extend their Super Morality to customer rights and service if they want to be considered of any merit.
In my (bitter) experience.


February 21, 2016, 1:37 pm

Much as I deplore the worst excesses of online advertising, I not sure I'd be happy to appoint Three to the role of censor. Today online ads, tomorrow what?

I am able to use adblockers as I see fit and retain control of what I see. And I would be quite happy with advertising on the print magazine model. That works without any cookies or tracking - they make their ads relevant to the magazine's audience without needing to know more.
I block trackers, and the ads vanish. Once they learn to exist without the trackers I guess I'll be seeing them.

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