Ad Blocking: Publisher’s Downfall or
First in a two-part series is a look at
the rise of ad blocking and how it is affecting publishers across the board.
By Alex Schwartzwald
the scramble to adopt digital as part of their offerings, publishers got
distracted. As online users have become more technically sophisticated and
media savvy, the industry fell into an arms race that escalated into creating
the most disruptive and interruptive advertising formats. Pop-ups, pre-roll videos,
and pop-unders have become the go-to standard in the industry to get users
In response to
these intrusive and often irritating forms of online advertising, millions of
users have decided to fight back by ad blocking. This action of removing or
altering advertising content on a webpage is becoming extremely prevalent these
days. According to a study conducted by PageFair and Adobe, the number of people
using ad-blocking software grew by 41 percent year over year (Q2 2014- Q2
Whether or not your
association publishing team is aware of it, a war has been waging between
publishers, digital media, and ad-blocking companies. Publishers are now
feeling the aftermath of their actions. According to the same study, the
estimated loss of global revenue due to blocked advertising during 2015 was a
whopping $21.8 billion.
able to fully understand this epidemic, it’s essential to understand the most
basic aspects of ad blocking.
1. What are ad blockers and how do they
work? As the name
suggests, ad blockers are technologies that block advertisements on a webpage. We’ve
all visited a website and dealt with the frustration of advertisements popping
up all over the screen; luckily, these ad blockers take away the misery of
clicking out of several advertisements before you can continue onto the
website. The ad-blocking extensions/plugins, browsers, VPNs, or DNS solutions
act like a firewall between the web browser and all known ad servers. Most ads
are blocked by open-source web browser extensions installed by end users. The
database of blocked ad servers is curated by a large, active open-source
2. What are the best or most popular ad
blockers? The most
popular ad-block extensions on the market today are Adblock Plus and AdBlock.
Once installed, these extensions block ads on websites and are effective
against almost all ad formats. According
to Ben Williams, communications and operations director at Eyeo, parent company
of Adblock Plus, their extension has been installed on people’s browsers more
than 400 million times, and they sit somewhere between 50 to 60 million active
3. What are some common misconceptions
about ad blockers? Ad
blockers believe that all ads are bad and that ads should disappear completely. The reality: Ad blockers are trying to
help broker a deal that encourages a positive, informative web experience for
everyone. Ad blockers are keenly aware that ads play a critical role in keeping
content free online; however, the ads need to be high quality, relevant, and
conducted a survey of its users and found that roughly 70 percent of them are
actually ok with ads as long as they comply with a set of criteria.
The survey also showed that less than 10 percent of their users opt out of the acceptable ads
The Rise of Ad Blocking
simply fed up with the quality and manner in which advertisements are being
presented. Pop-ups, pre-roll videos, and pop-unders fall under the type of
annoying, disruptive ads that have driven users to install ad blockers. Also,
advertisements have not adjusted to fit the medium they are being presented on.
In a recent Business Insider article, Wiliams
states, "Ad blocking is a symptom of bad ads. Newspaper ads, magazine ads, and
TV there is a level of acceptance to a degree. But these transferred one by one
over to the digital space, and that didn’t work out so well.
Click-through-rates and the money people were getting back from impressions
fell under a while, and the response was to just make more ads.”
always find a way around ads and have now reached the tipping point where they
want more control over the digital ads they are exposed to. Publishers and
media companies have backed themselves into a corner at a time when users have
decided to fight back, and some publishers have realized that ad blocking is a
serious threat to their survival.
A Continuously Growing Threat
threat to publishers was released at Apple’s September 9th event. Adblock Plus
created an ad-free mobile web browser for iOS in early September. This iOS app
was released just a few weeks before Safari on iOS 9, which comes with its own
ad blocker or what Apple is calling a content blocker already installed on
iPhones and iPads.
Plus and other ad blockers, these content blockers will block advertisements,
trackers, and other third-party scripts. The situation for publishers is going
from bad to worse to awful These changes are not only affecting publishers, but
also larger businesses such as Google. A recent analysis by Goldman Sachs
estimated that of the $11.8 billion collected on mobile search ads in 2014, a
reported 75 percent of its mobile revenue is coming from iOS devices.
in Digiday explains how dire the
situation has become for publishers and media companies. It states, "All media
must adapt to Apple. Apple is such an omnipotent force that its innovations dictate
product roadmaps and revenue forecasts with equal parity. Safari is the most
widely used browser for mobile globally, with 42 percent share. What’s more,
mobile is now the most important platform for publishers to cater to.”
So how can
publishers adapt and survive with all of these radical changes occurring all at
once? This seems like a tidal wave of bad news that no one in the industry can
outrun. To find out how publishers are fighting back, and not just rolling
over, keep an eye out for part two
of this series in next week’s Sidebar.
Schwartzwald is marketing and communications coordinator at Knowledge Marketing.