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Ad Blocking Debate: Balancing Revenue with User Experience

Content blockers eliminate distractions for online users but carry a hefty price for marketers and advertisers.

By University Alliance on February 16, 2016
Balancing Online Ads and User Experience

Ad blocking software has become a popular tool for web users who want to avoid content that can leave their Internet connection stuck in first gear, gobble up their data and snoop on their online movements.

For website publishers, marketers and advertisers, however, ad blocking software brings another consequence: lost revenue.

Talk about ad blocking has been on the rise. With its recent launch of iOS 9, Apple is allowing app developers to create content-blocking capabilities for Safari, the default browser on Apple mobile devices. In December 2015, Mozilla unveiled a content-blocking app, Focus by Firefox, that allows iPhone and iPad users to block ads and third-party website plug-ins that gather data about their online activity.

A 2015 report by PageFair and Adobe found the number of people worldwide using ad blocking software jumped by 41% from 2013 to 2014. In the United States, the use of ad blocking rose 48% year-over-year to 45 million monthly users.

The growing popularity of ad blockers is hitting advertisers, marketers and publishers where it hurts. Globally, companies lost an estimated $21.8 billion in revenue during 2015 as a result of blocked ads, according to the PageFair/Adobe report. Those losses are projected to top $41 billion in 2016, with the United States accounting for nearly half of that total.

Continuing adoption of ad blocking software “has the potential to challenge the viability of the web as a platform for the distribution of free ad-supported content,” the report’s authors noted.

Several initiatives seek to address the impact of ad blocking:

  • The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) Tech Lab recently launched the L.E.A.N. Ads program – Light, Encrypted, Ad-choice supported, Non-invasive ads – to guide the development of advertising standards that offer alternatives for marketers, content providers and consumers.
  • Mozilla has proposed a set of content-blocking guidelines aimed at ensuring the Internet remains open and trusted, while placing control in the hands of users. Guidelines focus on software that blocks content due to performance, security and privacy, promotes transparency and gives content providers alternate avenues to participate without being blocked entirely.
  • The makers of the ad-blocking extension Adblock Plus have called for an independent review board to establish criteria for which ads should be allowed and which should be blocked.
Category: 2016 Headlines