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Ad Blockers – the death-omen of free content?

Posted on August 05, 2016
By Arun Pattabhiraman, VP & Global Head of MarketingVP & Global Head of Marketing

Originally published on The Financial Express

Author and media theorist Steven Johnson got it right when he said,“Chance favours the connected mind.” And in this era of humankind, the internet is driving the connected mind. It stands as a testament to the great strides we have made and it has changed the world for the better. This level of connectivity has just deepened with the onset of the smartphone era. Rich content is accessible to everyone on the planet, no matter where they are—or is it?

The internet has more information than what one person can consume in a lifetime, even if one glosses over all the spam. The rich content from cyberspace has built massive economies, positively impacting the lives of people even in the remotest of villages. To achieve this, the internet has relied on allowing a vast number of information-rich websites to remain completely free.

Online content publishers depend on advertising revenues to keep their businesses afloat. Rich content attracts a large number of readers; which advertisers are keen to tap into. To achieve this, publishers can integrate ads into their web page and earn revenues. Similar to print publishers, websites can also employ a subscription based model to keep their content ad-free, but this model has met with limited success on the scale of the internet; where most content is free.

Initially, it was believed that the advertiser-publisher-reader synergy would work seamlessly, but misuse and greed crept in. Publishers eager to earn more money spammed every visitor with excessive and often obtrusive ads. This misuse has simply been amplified by the growth and dominance of mobile as a content consumption platform.

Ad Blockers are being created for the express purpose of blocking intrusive ads to enhance a consumer’s interactive experience. The rising adoption of ad blockers pushes such firms towards developing innovative, non-intrusive ad format that could in fact help enhance consumer experiences.

A common misconception is that the iOS 9 Ad Blockers can block ads across all mobile spheres. In reality, this is far from the truth. Incidentally, iOS 9 brought in the capability to develop content-blocking extensions in Safari, in order to improve the browsing experience. Employing these extensions leave in-app ads unblocked, which attract a majority of screen-time. In fact, a recent report by PageFair and Unruly shows 22% of the world’s 1.9 bn smartphone users employ ad-blocking on mobile web. On the other hand, about 9 out of every 10 minutes spent on mobile devices is spent in apps rather than the mobile web, according to comScore.

Even though the concept of ad blocking is appealing to many consumers who have had their mobile experience disrupted by ads, the process of setting up the ad blocker is a little more work than just downloading an app and letting it do its thing. Users have to get into the device’s system preferences and enable the app to communicate with Safari. While 93% of

mobile users say they would consider using ad blockers, most of the time, they couldn’t be bothered to go through this extra effort to block a minor disruption.

On the other hand, Google has never been pro-Ad-Blockers; the obvious reason being that their revenue heavily depends on ads themselves. For Ad Blockers to work on Android, the app requires root access. Without root access, some ad blockers can still block ads to a certain extent.

Though the difficulty of blocking ads on smartphones is significant today, this is not the reason enough for mobile AdTech firms to become complacent. Now it is the responsibility of AdTech firms and publishers to create an environment where Ad Blockers become redundant.

This trend of ad blocking, although limited to a very narrow user base, encourages mobile advertising companies to create ads that don’t interfere with the consumer’s experience.

Ads act as a discovery platform for consumers to discover new products and services that they didn’t know existed. Ad Blockers have now become the harbingers of the next renaissance in digital advertising. The time has come where advertisers and publishers must work with Ad Blockers to preserve consumer experience while exciting them with the latest that brands have to offer. The internet personifies democracy and freedom, and it is the responsibility of everyone of us to make the best of this virtual world.



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