Ad blocking isn’t a recent problem. For years, people have been installing various extensions, but these people were long considered a relatively smaller, sort of “exclusive” group. Now, the problem is, this group has grown its proportions and has become mainstream.
Browsing an ad-free web is not such a bad idea: there are no intrusive pop-ups, no autoplaying video that makes the page load slowly, and no distracting banners taking up a part or most of the webpage. Moreover, reports and statistics reveal that the number of people who install extensions on their browsers that delete ads from most sites is rapidly growing.
What is Ad Blocking?
In a nutshell, ad blocking is removing advertising content on a website.
Advertising can take up a variety of forms, including images, animations, audio and video, text, banners, etc. Ad blockers are a kind of filters which, based on defined lists, track and remove ads. For the user, there’s no evidence of the existence of ads.
With the growing number of people using ad blocking software, current estimates of global revenue loss due to blocked ads reach more than $21.8 billion, while the predictions go as far as $41.4 billion for 2016.
The ways in which ad blockers work are different – some ad blockers are programs, others are features of comprehensive services, or add-ons for a specific browser or operating system. Ad blockers operate in the way that they target files with particular size and URL characteristics.
Users have a whole spectrum of options to choose for blocking different types of ads. Certain programs delete cookies and other markers to limit ads. Some users might even choose to block Adobe Flash to prevent video ads, which recently are quite common on some websites.
Since ads can be large files (GIFs, flash videos), for users, the most obvious benefits are quicker page loading and cleaner, ad-free webpage appearance, as well as improved privacy with the tracking exclusion of ad delivery platforms.
The publisher’s’ issue
When ads aren’t delivered, the publisher’s side almost always suffers the biggest damage. However, publishers may not even be aware that their ads are blocked until they notice the ad revenues and compare ad impressions to page views. In the case with fist party ads, the publisher loses profit with every blocked ad impression.
Some would argue that ads today aren’t as annoying as they were in the past. But today, on the other hand, we see ads that take up the entire page for several seconds, and although arguably they seem more relevant and non-spammy, they still might be considered a distraction.
The biggest problem publishers are facing is that ad blocking software doesn’t discriminate between annoying and high-quality, relevant ads – it blocks everything. Moreover, ad blockers also block the internal publisher analytics, leaving them with no insights on the things readers engage with and find interesting.
The consumer side
As mentioned, consumers have a whole spectrum of possibilities when it comes to choosing ways to eliminate distraction. More recently, they’ve been also offered alternatives, such as “freemium” and subscription services. Publishers, however, complain about the low user response to this.
It’s not easy to predict how this state of affairs will further unfold, but considering the increasing number of people installing ad blocking software, all of the key players in the industry must come up with a solution or at least a compromise for everyone.
Currently, experts are foreseeing two possible (and probable) outcomes – either ads must be more smartly composed to trick ad blockers, or consumers will have to realize that nothing comes for free, and this is especially true for content; they should come to terms with the fact that if they don’t want to see ads, they’ll have to pay for it.
A recent article on AdAge offers an interesting perspective; namely, consumer’s opinion regarding advertising is rarely heard in an appropriate manner, and this should be the next prime focus of other key players in the industry – to think of a way to hear consumer’s attitude and work from that point on.
Building a new type of relationship with consumers that will take into account important aspects of an ad strategy will prove invaluable over time – reaching out to consumers and making them realize that they’re a crucial part of the entire process will be a starting point in the development of a new ad model they can easily follow.
Moreover, establishing an effective communication with them will provide the much needed answers to some questions, such as, what constitutes an acceptable frequency of ads, to the form of a new data collection policy, to name a few.
Ad blocking is rapidly growing and is already taking a bite of the multi-billion dollar display advertising market. Considering what’s at stake, both publishers and advertisers already experience the pressure to find a solution to keep the current business model. However, it’s very probable that they’ll seek methods to trick ad blockers.
Finally, despite raging concerns, ad blocking won’t kill advertising, because advertising is what drives the Internet. Instead, it will modify the more traditional marketing strategies and approaches and make all the key players think and act in a new, more creative direction.