Rise of the ad blockers: a warning

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Ad blocking has been around almost as long as online advertising. As it becomes increasingly more prevalent, what are the implications for advertising revenue, content and recruitment?

Ad blocking is the removal of advertising content including pop-ups, banner ads and autoplay ads from a web page, app, game or browser. To users, the benefits of ad blocking include quicker loading and cleaner looking web pages free from advertisements and privacy benefits gained through the exclusion of the tracking and profiling systems of ad delivery platforms. Blocking ads can also save data allowance and battery life on mobile devices.

Ad blocking has been available for a long time but, recently hit the headlines when Apple included tools for developers to create apps that block ads on Apple’s Safari browser with iOS 9. The public has also become more wary as data mining makes pop-ups every more personal.

Where ad blocking was the previously the sole preserve of the geek elite, it is now beginning to become used more widely. On average 9.26% of all adverts impressions are blocked, and experts predict that in the next 20 -24 months it is set to double.

Most online media publishers rely on advertising revenue as their main source of income, and in some cases rinse it for all it’s worth. The downside to this can be a poor user experience providing an increase in advert intolerance. This “milk it till its dry approach” has been exacerbated by the rise of programmatic advertising.

More generally, publishers are struggling to settle on a model to monetise the web. A good example was The Sun’s recent backtrack over the paywall it introduced on its online platform in 2013 following the example of fellow News International titles The Times and The Sunday Times. Despite this flop, the paywalls introduced by the New York Times, The Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal are considered a success, and The Times and Sunday Times are persevering with their experiment, albeit with generous promotional offers.

Whatever your view on ad blocking, the bottom line is that good content costs money and must be paid for; the compromise is that if you don’t want advertising then you will have to pay for it directly.  Media publishers have been their own masters in the decline in display advertising, effectively bringing up the younger generations with the expectation that content is free. The need for good, edited and checked content is more important than ever, but it needs to be paid for.

My advice would be to think twice before installing an ad blocker because you will end up having to pay for it one way or another.

From a recruitment perspective, this means we need to focus on creativity and execution, working with media publishers in order to provide relevant and effective advertising and engaging promotional content in order to enhance their media consumption experience.

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