Frustrated man at the computer
Apr 14, 2016 — TrackFive

The Great Impression: Rise of the Ad Blocker (Part I)

This is the first of a 3-part blog series regarding the ad tech industry and the fight that has ensued between two sides: consumer, and publisher/advertiser. We are all affected by the number of ads we see on the web, so whether you are a consumer, publisher, or advertiser, please feel free to join the discussion, share your online ad experiences, and offer insight as to how you think the ad-blocking war can end with a win for both sides.

We’ve all been there: you’re trying to view web content, usually an article, and after what seems to be a lifetime, the page finally loads. You think you’ve lucked out because there’s not a pop-up insight. You smile slyly, thinking you have defeated the ads until you attempt to scroll past the catchy headline that caught your attention in the first place and BOOM. It’s an ads-travaganza! What looked to be your average static banner ad at the top of the page has morphed into a full-page, irrelevant, floating video ad that you must watch to gain access to your content.

After that ad finally goes away, you continue to scroll to the beginning of your content, only to be caught by a mouse-over land mine ad. You have no idea how you got into this ad-minesweeper encounter, but you are now in an ad battle, fervently trying to click that ‘x’ button as quickly as possible so you can get back to your content.

You finally get to read your content, and besides an auto-play video, one of those old school, flashing, “reduce your mortgage” pop-ups, and a couple of expanding ads smack dab in the middle of the content you’re reading, you come out of your digital content battle, unscathed for the most part. But you’re tired and you don’t know if you can fight anymore. So you decide to implement something so sinister, publishers’ and advertisers’ heads will roll. It’s your secret weapon: an ad blocker.

With the rise of annoying, intrusive, malware-filled ads laying the groundwork for ad-blocking software, consumers and publishers alike, find themselves victims of a digital ad war. Wake up, people! This is NOT a drill! We are in an ad tech arms race, and it seems more and more, that if nothing is done to correct the problem, there will be no victors of this war, but rather the decline of an entire industry as we know it.

Why the rise of digital ad blocking?
An ad blocking report from comScore and Sourcepoint tells us that ad-blocking software is now being used by 10% of United States desktop internet users. According to PageFair and Adobe’s 2015 Ad Blocking Report, global ad blockage has grown by 41% between Q2 2014 and Q2 2015. As of June 2015, there were approximately 198 million internet users actively using ad block plugins when online on a desktop.

With desktop ad-block usage more than doubling (124 percent increase) between January 2013 and January 2014, and increasing another 49.5 percent increase between January 2014 and January 2015, this leaves the question of why?

Why has our digital landscape become a war zone where a growing number of internet users are employing ad-blocking software and publishers are now blocking users using blockers? Not only is that a mouthful, but it almost seems silly considering the actual problem is not really advertisements themselves, but rather the users’ experience on a publisher’s site trying to access the content.

Publisher woes
But to publishers, there’s nothing silly about it. Especially because in 2014, internet advertising revenues experienced a 16% increase over 2013 to reach a record-breaking $49.5 billion. Also, for publishers, ad blocking is an expensive business. The report from PageFair and Adobe estimated that in 2014, ad blockage resulted in $5.8 billion in blocked revenue in the United State alone. Globally, that figure is a staggering $21 billion, or 14 percent of global ad spend.

This lost ad revenue is especially daunting for publishers that can’t afford to produce free content without ad revenue, and this jeopardizes the relationship between these publishers and their readers. In this ad-blocking war, publishers feel they are fighting for not only their careers but for the future of the entire industry.

Rob Haralson, executive director of and partner at Franklin Square Group, recently wrote a post for The Huffington Post about ad-blocking programs in which he says that “ad blocking programs discriminate against good content publishers and legitimate advertisers.”

And he isn’t wrong.

While that is certainly true, the fact remains that ads should never overpower the user experience on the site. Yes, consumers need to understand that advertisers pay for their “free” access to this content, but does that mean consumers should have to come to terms with a frustrating experience every time they want to simply read an article?

What are your thoughts? Should consumers just get used to a life online filled with annoying advertisements? Does the act of publishers “blocking the blockers” fix the problem? What are the reasons users are using ad blockers? Check back soon so you don’t miss part 2, which will focus on why consumers are over intrusive ads!

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  1. Cody Erb says

    As an active consumer of online content and former intern amongst a digital sales environment, I’ve formed some ideas on how advertisers can effectively convey their brand/message, while not sacrificing the flow of content.
    For example, if the content generates enough of a reaction, this comment area of the page would be a great section for advertisers. Require users to watch a 15 second ad before posting a comment, or simply sponser the comment section after a company.
    This will not effect the content flow and if the article is controversial enough, sponsers will certainly get more bang for their buck. Not to mention, everybody loves to read what people are saying about an article even if they don’t want to comment.
    This is just one example, but it would certainly create a better viewing experience for the consumer and create a more notable ad space for sponsers.

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