Marketing director CHARLIE MURDOCH road tests ad-blocking software and discovers he has been served more than 5000 ads a week.
Four weeks ago, amid rumblings that Apple’s (now released) iOS 9 update would permit ad-blocking to be installed on its devices, I decided to see what the fuss was about. Within 30 seconds, I had Googled and installed AdBlock software on my desktop.
Four weeks on, 21,223 ads have been blocked on my desktop alone.
Ad blocking does what it says – it blocks advertising on websites. As a result, you are presented with uninterrupted content, faster page-loads and your data plan isn’t consumed by having to download ads you probably didn’t want to see.
Many ad-block services also restrict the ability to track browsing habits, which can impact on publishers’ data collection and audience targeting, although I’m advised it is relatively simple to identify and manage users with ad-blockers through a variety of hard and soft measures.
I also recently downloaded an ad-blocking app called Peace to my iPhone.
As I’m reminded by my Gen Y, thick-rimmed spectacle wearing, tech-savvy colleague, ad-blocking technology is nothing new. What is new, however, is mainstream awareness and adoption.
A recent report published by Adobe and Pagefair states there are now 198 million active ad-block users globally. It claims penetration in Australia at 18 per cent – a somewhat alarming figure if your mortgage repayments rely on the buying and/or selling of digital advertising.
But it is the year-on-year increases in markets such as the US (48 per cent) and UK (82 per cent) that have raised concerns.
Financial services firms such as UBS and JP Morgan believe such grim projections to be “overblown”, although it is important to note their figures were published before Apple enabled ad blocking.
The potential ramifications to publishers are clear, even to those who built ad-blocking software. After just 36 hours, and having earned $157,000, the founder of my recently acquired ad-blocking app Peace, Marco Arment, withdrew the app from sale. He said: “While [ad-blocking apps] do benefit a tonne of people in major ways, they also hurt some, including many who don’t deserve the hit.”
Potential collateral damage from this software would likely begin with smaller publishers who rely on revenue derived from displaying ads (served by third parties) on their sites.
Tech site Verge argues ad-blocking may be the beginning of the “slow death of the internet”, in which consumers are used as pawns in a revenue battle waged between Silicon Valley behemoths Google, Apple and Facebook.
Perhaps ad-blocking will be one of the facets of the digital economy that, to quote WPP’s Sir Martin Sorrell who spoke at the Future Forum conference earlier this month, “swings the pendulum back towards traditional media”.
For more information on ad-blocking read:
- Details of the global newspaper publisher initiative
- Analysis of the issue and possible resolutions, by Brian Rock, head of Insights & Research
- The perspective of Nic Hodges, Head of Commercial Innovations, News Corp Australia and Founder, Blonde3, who believes ad-blocking to be the most over-hyped internet event since Y2K