As the Internet grows and evolves, so does the content on it. This evolution of content is brought about not just due to changing the perspective of content creators alone, the consumers as well as the devices they consume it on plays just as big a role. As smartphones eclipse desktops in a number of searches, it is apparent that for a vast majority of people, smartphones are the first and often the only gateway to the Internet, and mobile data is their primary connectivity option. And while the creators and publishers on the Internet have made the jump from writing more bite-sized content to optimizing web pages for viewing on the smaller screen; the Internet Ad Industry is yet to catch up to modern standards. This is one of the primary reasons for their demise as has been detailed by a new research done on Ad Blockers by Fargo Securities and Optimal.com.
While most of the efforts have been based on the desktop market till now, especially when it comes to Ad Blocking software and combatting the effects of them the results of this survey are unique in the sense that they include the opinions of smartphone users in the US. As is with most cases, the trends that have been shown in the mature smartphone markets of the US has gradually trickled across to the entire global smartphone market. Hence, there is no reason to think that the situation would be much better anywhere else in the world. With all that being said, we come to the point that should scare the living daylights out of every ad-based Internet content provider out there. Out of all the people who didn’t already block ads on either desktop or mobiles, a whopping 45.6% said the only reason that stopped them from doing so was the lack of technical knowledge. We will let that sink in while we look at some more shocking data that we will cover in today’s analysis.
Publishers Beware: Ad Blockers Are Not Gonna Stop Anytime Soon
In the survey of 1,712 US cell phone users, 22.8% of users said that they do use Ad Blockers. Out of the 392 people who were actively using ad blockers, almost 1 in 2 people blamed ads for slowing down their browsing experience. Coming up a close second at 40.6%, spyware and malware from ads are what have pushed people the way of Ad Blockers. Interestingly enough, coming up above privacy which with 24.2% of the votes sits at 5th place; 40.3% of people who never click on ads and 37.0% of the people who think ads are irrelevant to them and hence deserved to be blocked. This is significant and could be a major breakthrough as we design the ads of the future.
But before we get to that, let us first get to the 6th point on the list which while not so significant in a mature market like the US, would probably be much higher in markets like India where cellular Internet connectivity is far more common than other forms of wired or wireless broadband. 21.4% of the people who use ad blockers did so because ads would run through their data caps and cost them extra in data overages. Interestingly, even here, we find that 47.6% who voted, for this reason, were worried about their mobile data bills as even though less than other non-mature markets, LTE connectivity remains pricey even in the US.
With all these benefits of ad blocking, the natural question that arises out of all this is why did 77.1% of the survey not have some sort of ad-blocking service enabled? While we would like to think that this was done out of generosity for content creators, the truth remains that only a meager 3.3% cared or knew enough about the harmful effects of blanket ad blocking to consider not using one of them. In fact, 6 out of 10 people answered that the only reason for not using an ad blocker had been because of the fact that they didn’t have the technical knowledge to set one up, or remained ignorant of the fact that Internet ads can be blocked at all.
This should ring some serious alarm bells for all of the publishers out there and they should be scrambling to take action otherwise their entire livelihood would be at stake. What can they do to battle the Ad Blocker? Well for starters, realise that their war is not against ad blockers, but the ads themselves. Seems counter intuitive? We discuss more in our final segment.
To have a better understanding of the crisis that publishers and content creators across the world are facing right now, we must take a look at the basic structure of the Internet and how websites that run on ad have made their money thus far. People have gotten used to getting basic services like email, online storage, social media and even messaging apps for free. But as we stated in detail in one of our previous articles, nothing is for free, especially in today’s ruthless digital world. So what have been the consumers of Internet content been paying in till now? The one-word answer to that is data.
In exchange of various private information ranging from the choice of food to the choice of linen, we have exchanged our private opinions and choices for free services from corporate giants such as Google and Facebook. They, in turn, have sold this information to ad companies who have tried to sell us what we already like to buy in the form of targetted advertisements. However, this plan has backfired, and the cause behind it can be summarized neatly into two main points.
- With the turn of the decade, Internet users have gradually become more conscious about their security and privacy and as such have in recent years resented the data collection and targeting practices of ad companies.
- And secondly, with the Internet being tied to every aspect of our lives, what we really would spend money for and what we interact with on the web has diversified rapidly. This has led to one of the major problems for traditional ads. Not only have they become annoying, but they have also become irrelevant as well.
This is why the battle against ad blockers that is being waged by websites like Forbes is majorly a lost one. The primary reason for using ad blockers has become the fact that the ads have failed to add any value to the user instead becoming data, processing and power hogs. The Ad Industry needs to let go of antiquated technology like Flash and step into the future. We have highlighted a few ways that Content Publishers can usher in the new Internet in the following concise bullet points.
- The Internet of free content is gradually drawing to a close. With newer adblocking alternatives like Optional, publishers can get a cut of the money that the user pays for their favorite content. Alternatively, users can also subscribe to websites to enjoy an ad-free experience and donate to support the writers and enjoy their creations.
- With desktop browsers like Opera and Safari on Mobile blocking ads on their own, the time is nigh for ad makers themselves to have a long hard look at their current model and create ads that are better in security measures and can pertain more to a users use case scenario.
- With the boom in wearables, Ad Makers now have an opportunity to target location-specific ads for their user base to increase conversion metrics as well as provide relevant information which would increase the usefulness and thus effectiveness of the app.
- As search moves to the smartphone from the desktop, even Google the undisputed king of Internet Advertisement has made a move towards an app-based experience. With the increased proliferation of smartphones, Ad Makers should be ready to make the jump from traditional ads to app-based ads and even use messaging services as a way of personalised advertisement.
Given that ad blockers (including those of the highest quality, like uBlock Origin) are often distributed to users without charge, the increase in awareness of ad blocking will be a major adoption driver, and it is possible that publisher action to curtail content to ad blocking users might actually further increase consumer awareness of online/mobile ad blocking.
And this statement embodies what we have tried to portray through our analysis today. While the numbers may seem small now, the rise of Ad blockers is inevitable, and the more websites resist this change, the more traction the movement will gain. The previous year, 11.7% of display ad impressions had been blocked in the US alone. Estimates point towards worldwide figures for 2015 standing a nearly 14% of Internet users availing an Ad Blocker.
These numbers look even grimmer for this year. In 2016, initial estimates peg ad blockers will account for nearly $3.9 billion in lost revenues. But what is scarier is the fact that in the next half a decade, Ad Blockers are expected to rise to astronomical proportions. By 2020, more than 36% of the US population will be blocking ads costing $12.1 billion in overall Ad revenue.
Ads must evolve rapidly or face extinction in the hands of a smartphone-centric Internet. What is even more troubling is that the lives of countless content creators and publishers hang in the balance. The one glimmer of hope lies in the direction that Social Media giants like Facebook are taking modern Ads towards. We can only hope that the change can arrive fast enough to prevent the annihilation of the free nature of the Internet that we have all grown to know and love.