”Advertising Age reports that ad blocking and fraud is of major concern in the advertising community. If ad blocking escalates exponentially over the next 1-2 years, how will digital advertising be helpful in reaching consumers? Check out this article to hear more about this problem”—Bob Wills, CEO/Media Director
Ad Blocking Is a Growing Problem. What’s the Fix?
Publishers Including CBS Interactive, Forbes, DailyMail Weigh Their Options
Browsing the web without ads is actually kind of nice. No popups stealing your screen. No autoplaying video ads making the page load as slowly as if it were being dialed up through America Online circa 1999.
And millions of people seem to agree. They’ve installed extensions to their web browsers that delete the ads from most, if not all, of of the sites they visit. One popular ad blocker, AdBlock Plus, claims that it’s been installed on people’s browsers more than 400 million times and that it counts “close to 50 to 60 million active users,” said Ben Williams, communications and operations director at Eyeo, the company that makes AdBlock Plus.
Ad blocking isn’t a new issue. People have been installing these extensions for years. But those people were considered a fringe group. But that group is getting closer to the mainstream as kids who grew up browsing the web on their parents’ computers are getting their own laptops that they can customize all the way.
“It didn’t really exist in any significant usage… I never heard about it until this year. I thought it was some very fringe-type thing, and it’s becoming less fringe usage and more early-adopter usage,” said DailyMail CEO Jon Steinberg.
Twenty-eight percent of people in the U.S. who use the internet browse the web with ad blocking enabled, according to a survey of 1,621 people conducted last year by Adobe and PageFair, a company that sells publishers technology to fight ad blockers.
And advertisers’ target audience du jour — millennials — appear to be more likely to use ad blockers than any other age group. Of the survey respondents who were between the ages of 18 and 29 years old, 41% said they use ad blockers. As further evidence ad blocking isn’t abating, Mr. Williams said AdBlock Plus has averaged 2.3 million downloads a week since 2013.
Ad blocking hasn’t become a massive problem for publishers on the level of fraudulent traffic or advertisers’ ad viewability demands that require more urgent attention because of the growing notion that marketers will pull their money over those two issues. But it’s getting there.
“That’s exactly how I think about it, which is if we start seeing it creep up and break out, we will devote the mental energy and fiscal time to evaluating these vendors… It’s not a big enough problem yet — we’ve got bigger problems right now,” said Mr. Steinberg, who noted that he was planning to meet with a company this week that helps publishers fight ad blockers.
CBS Interactive’s chief revenue officer David Morris, who also serves as chairman of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, agreed that there are bigger issues facing publishers, though ad blocking isn’t far behind. “Viewability is number one. I would say preventing fraudulent traffic on your sites is number two, and that’s from an industry standpoint, not a CBS standpoint. And then after that in terms of issues, I would say ad blocking is going to come up pretty fast,” said Mr. Morris, noting that CBS Interactive has been examining the ad-blocking issue for two years and worked with companies including PageFair to address it.
For CBS Interactive’s portfolio of 20 sites, “we see ad blocking range from as low 5% to as high as 40%,” Mr. Morris said. A few months ago Forbes looked into what share of the people visiting its desktop site use ad blockers when they do. “We are seeing roughly 20% of desktop visitors visiting with some form of ad blocking on,” said Forbes CTO Mike Dugan. And DailyMail recently ran a test to gauge its video ad blocking rates and found that 11% to 12% of its viewers had ad blockers turned on when viewing a video on its site, said Mr. Steinberg.
While ad blocking hasn’t sent the ad-supported online publishing world into DEFCON 1 status, alarms blared earlier this month when Apple revealed plans to let ad block extensions work on the mobile version of its Safari browser that’s packaged as the default web browser for iPhones and iPads. Apple didn’t respond to requests for comment. But even before the announcement of Apple’s new content blocking software, mobile ad-blocking was growing extensively overseas.
“A pretty noticeable thing that went fairly unreported on is that last August a web browser called UC browser, which is very popular in India and China, built in ad blocking into its mobile browser,” Sean Blanchfield, PageFair CEO, said. “It has half a billion users and basically overnight all these users became ad blockers.”
In addition to the 500 million users generated through UC Browser, a different browser, Maxthon, partnered with Ad Block Plus to create an ad-free mobile browsing platform. To date Maxthon has 120 million users, which brings mobile ad-blocking up to 620 million users, a growing population that now champions desktop ad-blocking. And with the launch of iOS9 on June 30, that number will continue to increase.