Blog

October 28, 2015

How Can Publishers Tackle The Ad Blocking Challenge?

Ad blocking is expected to cost digital publishers $22 billion in 2015 alone. The number of active users across the globe has reached 198 million, and in the UK alone ad blocking adoption increased by 82% in the last 12 months, reaching 12 million users in June. It is shaping up to be one of the most substantial and expensive issues to face the digital advertising industry.*

So what is driving consumers to install ad blockers, and how can publishers overcome the challenge successfully?

What’s driving the growth of ad blockers?

According to a recent IAB study, consumers block ads because they find them to be interruptive, annoying, irrelevant, and often the cause of slow web browsing. There is also a widespread misperception that innovations in tracking and ad targeting are fuelled by personal data, leading consumers to view personalised ads as intrusive. On the mobile front these issues are compounded by the amount of data that ads require and consume, and the negative impact this has on users mobile phone bills. In light of these objections, it’s understandable why global ad blocking grew by 41% in the last year.*

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How does ad blocking work?

Ad blocking acts like a blacklist, preventing certain domains or subdomains from loading ads, and disabling scripts associated with advertising. The technology analyses website source codes, looking for specific elements – such as iframes, bad scripts, and specific-sized images – to maintain the original layout once ads are removed. Depending on user preferences it also hides ads from the browser DOM (Document Object Model) by setting the display rule to ‘none’. Fundamentally, ad blockers make ads invisible.

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How does this affect the publishing industry?

The increase in ad blocking usage signals troubling times for publishers reliant on advertising revenue to fund content creation. Without advertising, publishers must seek alternative monetisation methods just to stay in business. Many consumers, however, are unaware of this predicament – less than half of UK Internet users claim to understand the effect ad blocking has on publishers, which highlights the need for better consumer education surrounding this issue.

What can publishers do?

Publishers should consider supporting ad formats that do not devalue the user experience, such as native ads. To have a serious impact upon ad blocking however, this is something that the industry needs to adopt as a whole. The IAB recently launched its LEAN ad blocking principals to help guide the industry in this direction and promote a better user experience.

Alternative approaches include asking the user to turn off the ad blocker, requesting a donation, or implementing a subscription process to allow the consumer an ad-free experience, while maintaining a source of revenue for the publisher. For publishers in search of more stringent methods, ad blocker detection now makes it possible to ascertain if consumers are using a blocker, allowing the publisher to prevent content access.

How can advertisers help?

Advertisers can help to improve the user experience by enhancing relevancy, to ensure consumers receive an engaging, interactive, and non-intrusive experience. Not only could a stronger focus on ad quality reduce ad blocker adoption, but also encourage conversions and drive revenues higher.

What does OpenX do?

At OpenX, we work with publishers to determine the optimal number of ads on a page and often recommend a reduction in the number of ads on a page for a more comfortable consumer experience. This leads users to become more engaged with the site, increasing perceived inventory quality, and encouraging buyers to value that inventory higher because of a more engaged consumer audience.

We believe that finding the balance between frequency and relevancy of ads on any given website or mobile app screen enhances the consumer experience and ultimately keeps content free.

Conclusion

With each day bringing news of emerging ad blocking technology and efforts to fight the blockers, it is clear that ad blocking is affecting all occupants of the digital landscape; brands, media agencies, and consumers alike. To overcome the issue, publishers must rise up, meet the challenge, and start thinking consumer-first.

* The Pagefair 2015 Ad Blocking Report

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