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What do Ad Blockers Mean for Digital Publishers?

Various incarnations of ad blocking has been around for years, but more than ever it is now top of mind for marketers and publishers as ad blockers are experiencing massive popularity and growth.

Ad blockers are basically plug-ins to browsers, which block ads before these are loaded by the browser. Ad blockers use lists of rules (ad filters), to determine what should be blocked.

The number of consumers using ad blockers in the U.S. increased 48 percent during 2015, and to an estimated 200 million people around the world according to a report commissioned by Adobe and conducted by PageFair. They estimate that ad blockers on desktop computers alone will cost publishers $22 billion this year. UBS Securities predicts that the damage will be $1 billion for mobile devices.

A very important statistic to understand is that ad-blocking apps are among the most popular apps downloaded on smartphones. This demands attention.

The irony of this is that ad blockers would not exist if there was no demand for the technology. Ad blocking, like all new technology is a user driven business. There are several reasons that this is happening, and a lot of it has to do with the way we are using small screens, i.e.: mobile phones. Online display advertising is becoming more and more annoying and intrusive, and many ads completely cover the content when viewed on smartphones. The user experience is constantly being interrupted and engagement disrupted, which is the worst possible outcome for content providers and advertisers alike.

Another concern that has users reaching for ad blocking solutions is the fear that private data is being used and traded online with very few constraints or regulations. Cookies and other tracking devices are endemic in ad technology. More annoying than dangerous is the slow page loading times resulting from big ad files. This speaks directly to the customer’s perception and their feeling of being in control of their digital experiences, which is so very important to engage and retain customers.

On the other side of the coin are the publishers who also have a stake in how ad blocking regulations play out. Ad blocking poses an inherent threat to publishers because they largely depend on advertising revenue to stay in business. The advertisers do not suffer as much because they usually only pay once their ad has been viewed.

The monetary consequences are substantial. According to the PageFair and Adobe report, the estimated loss of global revenue due to blocked advertising during 2015 will reach $21.8 billion. These numbers cannot be ignored.

There are ways for publishers to mitigate the ad blocking effect and at the same time build customer loyalty. One option is to offer digital subscriptions. This can be beneficial in a number of ways, including enabling publishers to offer premium content and added value to subscribers while maintaining customer loyalty. By improving the overall ad experience for users without ad blockers, it ensures that they do not install them.

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