Ad blocking or ad filtering (removing or altering advertising content on a portal) has turned into a nightmare for publishers. The problem created by publishers and advertisers is going to lead to almost $22 billion of lost advertising revenue this year.
The growing frustration has been evident during the ongoing Advertising Week in New York. Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), who have been thinking to sue the ad blocking software have announced the creation of a working group and an online hub to help publishers deal with software that strips advertising from their sites. But not before terming the ad blocking software as highway robbers.
“We don’t want to see highway robbery becoming the norm across the Web,” said Scott Cunningham, the general manager of the IAB’s Technology Lab. “When it comes to how ad blocking effects [sic] small publishers, there is no question that ad-blocking companies are holding their sites, their livelihoods in fact, hostage.”
Gradually we are seeing other players opening up on ad blocking. Yahoo CEO Marrisa Mayer was the first one to open up at the IAB MIXX conference. She thinks it’s a mistake for internet users to install ad blockers. And why not? The stakes are also high for her.
“I personally think it’s a mistake to install ad blockers,” Mayer said. She says Yahoo has ads that work and make for a better internet experience, adding to the content versus taking away from it. According to Mayer, ad blockers result in the loss of a rich, full experience of the Web. “I want to make sure to keep monetization models vibrant,” said Mayer. “It’s about transparency, choice and control.”
The entire debate on ad blocking got more heat when Apple decided to include ad blocking capabilities for the mobile Safari browser. Within hours after iOS 9 came out on September 16, three ad blockers made it to the top 10 most popular paid apps for iPhone in the US market. The Peace ad blocker even took the number one spot.
Apple has its own motives to support ad blocking so that it can hit Google’s revenue platform.
“And with iOS 9 and content blockers, what you’re seeing is Apple’s attempt to fully drive the knife into Google’s revenue platform. iOS 9 includes a refined search that auto-suggests content and that can search inside apps, pulling content away from Google and users away from the web, it allows users to block ads, and it offers publishers salvation in the form of Apple News, inside of which Apple will happily display (unblockable!) ads, and even sell them on publishers’ behalf for just a 30 percent cut,” wrote Nilay Patel on his hard hitting post at The Verge – Welcome to hell: Apple vs. Google vs. Facebook and the slow death of the web.
Further he highlighted that the real fight is Apple vs. Google vs. Facebook. “Google has the web, Facebook has its app, and Apple has the iPhone. This is the newest and biggest war in tech going today.”
While Facebook has been pushing publishers to join Instant Articles, The Washington Post is the latest to accept the offer; Google has opened up by supporting the need for online ads. After all the search giant made $16 billion, up 11% year-over-year in advertising revenues from Q2 2015.
Ad blockers don’t offer users enough control and are having a negative effect on online publishers. So says Brad Bender, VP of Product Development for the Google Display Network, speaking during the keynote session at the SMX East conference in New York City.
“The problem with ad blockers is that they’re blocking the good ads and the bad ads. We think it’s important that publishers continue to be funded. I’d love to see it so that good ads are able to get through, and we go after the bad players – especially fraud and malware,” he added.
However, the AOL Chief Tim Armstrong questioned why no one is talking about why users are blocking ads. “This may be controversial, but everyone’s talking about ad blocking now, and everyone should be talking about why people should feel the need to block ads,” he said. “Ad blocking is a definitive sign that marketers have to get our butt in gear.”
In an hour long interview at Advertising Week, Tim questioned the annoying tactics. “The reality is, it’s probably stupid to have a 30-minute show where there’s eight minutes of commercials and you see the same commercial five times.” He also took particular aim at popup ads on mobile, saying “few things are more annoying.”
He pointed out to the industry failing in getting the consumer point of view when designing ad strategies. “Until we start talking to consumers about what advertising can serve them…it could be rough sledding.”
Will publishers and advertisers wake up to smell the coffee? If not then the industry is in real trouble, today’s reader is digitally equipped and knows how to get rid of irritating ads that want to make money at the cost of her reading experience.
Image courtesy: AdWeek