A new study from Adobe and PageFair shows an increase over 2013 and 2014 in users who use some sort of Ad blocking software or plugin. We all know that annoying pop-ups and auto play video ads are, well, annoying. This is an interesting discussion we’re journeying out on and one I recently had with a friend of mine (Holland) on Google+. Some of what I’ll reference comes from an article he shared with me that helped me understand his point of view.
First let’s look at some statisitcs from the Adobe/PageFair report (links will be down at the bottom).
- Globally, the number of people using ad blocking software grew by 41% year over year.
- 16% of the US online population blocked ads during Q2 2015.
- Ad block usage in the United States grew 48% during the past year, increasing to 45 million monthly active users (MAUs) during Q2 2015.
- Ad block usage in Europe grew by 35% during the past year, increasing to 77 million monthly active users during Q2 2015.
- The estimated loss of global revenue due to blocked advertising during 2015 was $21.8B.
- With the ability to block ads becoming an option on the new iOS 9, mobile is starting to get into the ad blocking game. Currently Firefox and Chrome lead the mobile space with 93% share of mobile ad blocking.
So as you can see Ad blocking is on the rise and probably for good reason, the ads that a lot of websites are throwing at you are horribly obtrusive. My friend Holland suggested to me in our discussion, that we should probably re-consider running any ads or even social media plug-ins on our sites as people are blocking them anyway. Removing ads and social media plug-ins would increase the speed of page loading times and give a smoother experience to our readers. That I cannot dispute, it’s without question that adding code to a webpage that is sending out tracking codes will weigh that page down.
That’s where we’re at: websites are getting overloaded with ads, beacons, trackers and scripts that are all scrambling over each other in their attempt to squeeze the last bit of information about us from every page. But nobody asked us, the readers, along the way whether that was OK. And now, people are deciding that it’s not OK. ~Charles Arthur~
Who’s Blocking Ads?
There are so many good reasons to block online advertising these days and that’s exactly why ad blocking is on the increase. Full page pop-up ads that force you to search for the little X to close it. Self-playing video ads that have you scrambling for the volume at work. Ads that don’t come into play until you’re two sentences into the story and then it creeps up from the bottom or sides blocking the content. The worst offenders are ads that inject malware on users systems. There’s a laundry list of concerns that make ad blocking a viable solution for users.
The ad intrusion situation on mobile is arguably worse than on desktop, since people are more sensitive about the amount of data they download on mobile, and their phones are less powerful so that complex layouts take longer. ~Charles Arthur~
And it seems that as ad blockers are used more and more, advertisers are finding new ways of serving ads that circumvent the ad blockers. Not always with success but with some hit and miss results. Websites are so desperate for ad revenue (any kind of revenue really) that they sometimes tend to find advertising companies who don’t make the best choices for the user experience. For advertisers it’s all about pushing as many ads as possible, for content creators it should be about having the best experience for the reader. And that’s a difficult thing to keep in balance, you want your content to be front and center but you want to see earnings from that content. Not long ago we commissioned an advertiser to place mobile ads on the mobile version of this site. It wasn’t long after that users started emailing me complaining that the ads were taking over their mobile browsers. We immediately discontinued using that agency and never made any money through them. User experience is key for us.
The Price Paid
So what is the cost to website owners and advertisers when ad blockers are used? Turns out it’s significantly high. Ad blocking in the United States created an estimated loss of $5.8 billion dollars and $10.7 billion dollars is the 2015 estimate. Those numbers are pretty staggering and the global projections for 2016 are an insane $41.4 billion dollar loss in ad revenue when ad blockers are used. The Adobe/PageFair study found that visitors to gaming/geek sites are more likely to block ads than those who visit government/legal or charitable websites. And websites (such as ours) that cater to a tech savvy, male driven, generally younger crowd are more affected by ad blockers. “Ad blocking behavior on websites is a function of audience demographics. Websites that cater to young, technically savvy, or more male audiences are significantly worse affected.”
The irony in all this ad blocking is the tool in which many have found it: Google Chrome. Google’s life blood is in advertising. They inject it in as many products as they can and advertising has helped fuel Google’s innovation from Android to Glass and self-driving Cars to home automation. So with many more users installing ad block extensions on Google Chrome, eventually it will take a toll on the ad serving giant themselves. Ad block usage increased 51% on Chrome from Q2 2014 to Q2 2015 and ballooned to 126 million active users. Adblocking has also increased on both Firefox (17%) and Safari (71%) with a combined total of 56 million active users.
Mobile And The Future
With iOS9 coming soon mobile is going to be the next battlefront for ad blockers. Already heavily used on Android (for many years) iOS9 will have the option to block ads in the browser, though not on by default. This normally wouldn’t be that big of a deal except for two things. One, Apple is going to fawn over iOS’s new found ability pushing the spotlight on it. Two, that’s millions and millions more users being added to the already large numbers of ad blockers. According to the Adobe/PageFair research, in Q2 2015 mobile accounted for 38% of all mobile web browsing and only 16% of that browsing used ad blockers. Also, with the word of mouth that gets around from iOS users, it won’t be long until novice Android users figure out they’ve had this ability all along which will pile on more ad blockers.
So with the combination of desktop ad blockers and mobile ad blockers, the growth in the number of users taking advantage of ad block is only going up. Adobe/PageFair conducted a survey and asked 400 users who currently do not use ad blockers what might make them start using the tool.
- Misuse of personal information was the primary reason to enable ad blocking
- An increase in the number of ads was more important among millennials
- 1 in 4 respondents aged 35-49 do not have any desire to ever use ad blocking software.
So whether we as content producers like it or not, looks like ad blocking is here to stay.
It’s this lack of control – the mad desire and demand by advertisers to get everything, indifferent to the effect of the user experience on the reader – that is driving people to adblockers. It’s a variant of the tragedy of the commons. ~Charles Arthur~
When my friend Holland and I spoke about this subject, he felt I wasn’t understanding his point. He was wrong, I understood exactly what he was saying. Where I was wrong was the numbers. After reading Charles Arthur’s article and looking at the research from Adobe/PageFair I was stunned that the numbers were so high. I chose to believe that ad blocking was less prevalent than it really is and the these numbers show exponential growth.
We currently serve up a small amount of advertising on our sites, Google Ads, Stacksocial and Amazon. Why? Because every advertising firm I’ve come across is exactly what I do not want our site to become, advertising pushy. This website will be turning two years old in September and my first 14 months paying to keep the doors open came directly out of my pocket. We currently make enough to cover the essential bills for the website and are saving up what we can to make the trip out to CES.
Our entire staff is a volunteer crew. None are paid except for review samples they occasionally get to keep. Every one of them work full time jobs or are full time students. That includes the editors and even me personally. We all have families who tolerate the time and energy we spend creating the content for the sites and we pride ourselves on creating that content. To be honest, we’re like family here and these are some of the happiest and best people I’ve worked with. Do we want to make a living from writing about stuff we love? Of course, and we’re trying hard to make that a reality. I don’t say all this to lay a guilt trip on our readers, but it is important to know who is writing the content you read and perhaps make a human connection and understand the struggle.
We’ve been on a steady incline of growth since we started in September 2013, I think our growth can be attributed to a number of things and one of those things is less advertising than most all other technology websites. We could have already had four different ad agencies placing ads on our sites but after close scrutiny and investigation, we felt their methods would disrupt the flow and quality of our content. We value our readers more than making a quick buck.
Back to my friend Holland’s suggestion of removing all ads and social media plug-ins from the site to decrease the amount of weight on our webpages. Currently we’re not in a position to do that, the ads we do have in place make enough revenue to keep a roof over the head of our content and I know my family and I wouldn’t be able to take up the burden of out-of-pocket maintenance. So while I know that many of you are using ad blockers, there are still enough of you who aren’t.
Does it make me upset as a content creator that ad blockers are used? I admit, at first it did. But I’ve changed my tune on the matter, even more so after reading the facts, knowing full well that ad blocking is the future for consumers of content and as creators of content we need to find a new strategy to monetize what we do. You have to admit that it would be difficult for anyone to create something for others to consume on a daily basis and not be compensated for that work.
Writing and managing these websites is work that I absolutely love and in order for them to get better the escape from the day job must come. But that escape cannot be made if there’s no monetary support for my family. I’m going to throw one more quote out there from Charles Arthur, he writes:
Now? There are a gazillion websites – but tons of them are simple copies, monetised by adverts from Google or whoever, which leach from the originating sites by copying their content. We’ve now established the limits of how much news is generated each day: it’s more than fits in newspapers, but less than fits on all the websites currently dedicated to “news”. If adblocking puts some of the copiers on the skids, I won’t weep. That’s not journalism; it’s a sort of horrible stenography, even worse than some of the stenography that does pass for journalism at some bigger sites. Good journalism, and worthwhile sites, will survive. Or good journalists will.) ~Charles Arthur~
Arthur makes some valid points in that paragraph. Often times websites are regurgitating what’s already been said and the source links can trail back three or four deep. We’ve certainly had our share of news stories like that. This is exactly why we work as hard as we do, to try and improve the content we’re giving you. We want to be that “worthwhile site” we want to be good journalists who bring you compelling stories and news. We want to earn a readership that believes we’re good enough to support. We feel our time for success is nearing and we’re excited to take the ride and we want you all to come along with us.
We are currently in the process of trying new things on Techaeris and MOARGeek. We’ve been running some sponsored posts, which we appropriately flag as such. We’re still looking at other forms of advertising, but my feeling is we won’t find a good one that doesn’t clutter up our space with obnoxious drivel. The promise we have made to ourselves and to you our readers is, we do not want your reading experience to suffer because of obtrusive advertising. We want to remain a website you can come to and enjoy.
What Can You Do To Help?
Ad blocking is here, we can’t change that. We’re also not going to ask you NOT to use your ad blockers on us. However, if you do enjoy the content that we create on a daily basis and you believe that we’re a “worthwhile site” consider supporting us in one of two ways.
I believe that we can make these websites into something bigger and I believe our readers are the key for that to happen. User supported content is the path I’ve always wanted to go down, it keeps us accountable to the readers NOT to the advertisers. And you can support us by first, donating to our Go Fund Me CES 2016 Fund or keep an eye out in the near future as we revamp our Patreon campaign where you can pledge whatever dollar amount you like to our content creation.
We love what we do, we wouldn’t have continued to do it for nearly two years if we didn’t. Thanks to our readers for all your support, monetary or otherwise.
What do you think of of ad blockers? Do you use them? Why do you use them? What ways would you consider supporting your favorite content creators? Ideas on how content creators can monetize without an overt impact on the user experience? Let us know in the comments below or on Google+, Facebook and Twitter.