no-ads-trackingHere is a list of pieces I’ve written on what has come to be known as the “adblock wars.” That term applies most to #22 (written August of ’15) those that follow. But the whole series works as a coherent whole that might make a good book if a publisher is interested.

  1. Why online advertising sucks, and is a bubble (31 October 2008)
  2. After the advertising bubble bursts (23 March 2009)
  3. The Data Bubble (31 July 2010)
  4. The Data Bubble II (30 October 2010)
  5. A sense of bewronging (2 April 2011)
  6. For personal data, use value beats sale value (13 February 2012)
  7. Stop making cows. Quit being calves. (21 February 2012)
  8. An olive branch to advertising (12 September 2012, on the ProjectVRM blog)
  9. What could/should advertising look like in 2020, and what do we need to do now for this future? (Wharton’s Future of Advertising project, 13 November 2012)
  10. Bringing manners to marketing (12 January 2013 in Customer Commons)
  11. Thoughts on Privacy (31 August 2013)
  12. What the ad biz needs is to evict direct marketing (6 October 2013)
  13. We are not fish and advertising is not food (23 January 2014 in Customer Commons)
  14. Earth to Mozilla: Come back home (12 April 2014)
  15. Why to avoid advertising as a business model (25 June 2014, re-running Open Letter to Meg Whitman, which ran on 15 October 2000 in my old blog)
  16. Time for digital emancipation (27 July 2014)
  17. Privacy is personal (2 July 2014 in Linux Journal)
  18. On marketing’s terminal addiction to data fracking and bad guesswork (10 January 2015)
  19. Thoughts on tracking based advertising (18 February 2015)
  20. Because freedom matters (26 March 2015)
  21. On taking personalized ads personally (27 March 2015)
  22. Captivity rules (29 March 2015)
  23. Separating advertising’s wheat and chaff (12 August 2015)
  24. Apple’s content blocking is chemo for the cancer of adtech (26 August 2015)
  25. Will content blocking push Apple into advertising’s wheat business? (29 August 2015)
  26. If marketing listened to markets, they’d hear what ad blocking is telling them (8 September 2015)
  27. Debugging adtext assumptions (18 September 2015)
  28. How adtech, not ad blocking, breaks the social contract (23 September 2015)
  29. A way to peace in the adblock war (21 September 2015, on the ProjectVRM blog)
  30. Beyond ad blocking — the biggest boycott in human history (28 Septemper 2015)
  31. Dealing with Boundary Issues (1 October 2015 in Linux Journal)
  32. Helping publishers and advertisers move past the ad blockade (11 October on the ProjectVRM blog)
  33. How #adblocking matures from #NoAds to #SafeAds (22 October 2015)
  34. How Will the Big Data Craze Play Out (1 November 2015 in Linux Journal)
  35. Ad Blockers and the Next Chapter of the Internet (5 November in Harvard Business Review)
  36. At last, Cluetrain’s time has come (5 December 2015)
  37. The End of Internet Advertising as We’ve Known It (11 December 2015 in MIT Technology Review)
  38. More thoughts on privacy (13 December 2015)
  39. Why ad blocking is good (17 December 2015 talk at the U. of Michigan)
  40. What we can do with ad blocking’s leverage (1 January 2016 in Linux Journal)
  41. Rethinking John Wanamaker (18 January 2016)

There are others, but those will do for now.


  1. Kim Garretson’s avatar

    Doc, thank you, thank you for being the leading voice in all the implications for all audiences around this topic. I was wondering if you think “Permission Marketing’, which Seth Godin coined 15 years ago, comes into play here. In my work with innovation, I think we are reaching the point where we can simply ask consumers to set their criteria not just for editorial content, but for ad content, they are interested in receiving.

  2. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Thanks, Kim.

    Seth’s Permission Marketing came out around the same time as The Cluetrain Manifesto, and was, like Cluetrain, hugely popular and way ahead of its time. (Here’s Wikipedia on the subject.)

    And yes, it totally comes into play — far more than almost everybody (other than me and very few others) think. Because the balance of power between individuals and organizations is going to level out. We are going to be the controlling attractors for content and services, and the suppliers of both who win will do so because we have permitted them to win. Not because they dominate or control us.

    But it’s not going to happen all at once, or evenly. As we see, we’re fifteen years into this transition already. And covering the whole thing as a “war,” tempting as it is (and I’m only using the term in my headlines as bait, frankly), misses the bigger point: we — individual human beings — are winning a big one, because we have tools for saying no to something we don’t like or want.

    Still, it’s just one step.

  3. Kim Garretson’s avatar

    Yes, Cluetrain is still one of my favs, and I return to it now and again. I quoted you today from your Aug 29 post in a post at Innovation Excellence about advertisers and publishers inferring that viewers are in a shopping mode all the time when they are not. It’s here:

    Thanks again

  4. Christopher Carfi’s avatar

    Doc, just linked to this collection from a post that went up today here:

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