The recent release of iOS 9 brought to life a major concern digital publishers have been fearing over the last few months: mobile ad blocking.
With iPhone users upgrading to the new operating system by the millions, paid ad block apps shot to the top of the charts in the US and UK almost immediately.
Why the frenzy around ad blocking? Because Internet ads have a tendency to interrupt our experience and slow things down.
The End Of An Interruptive Era
Installing an ad blocker is a logical response to a broken ecosystem. An ecosystem that until native advertising, has been built largely on interruption. From the banner ad the pop-up, pop-under and now the much-loathed interstitial (those unskippable ads you’re forced to watch before anything on YouTube), all of those ads get in the way of whatever it is we’re trying do online.
Yet none of this is new — ads have supported media, be it print or television, for a very long time.
“Media has always compromised user experience for advertising,” writes Nilay Patel, editor-in-chief of tech publication The Verge. “That's why magazine stories are abruptly continued on page 96, and why 30-minute sitcoms are really just 22 minutes long.”
The co-founder and CEO of native advertising company Sharethrough, which runs this publication, started his company to end interruptive advertising.
“Traditional ads were built on the premise of interruption, where you can steal someone’s time and show them your ad,” Greenberg told Venturebeat in 2015. “You can’t force people to pay attention to your brand, you need to earn it.”
Ad blocking is especially disconcerting for the publishing industry.
Companies who serve up news and entertainment for free online — from CNN to TMZ — depend on ad revenue to stay in business. And when ads aren’t shown, publishers don’t get paid.
One report pegs the revenue loss from ad blockers at $22 billion, but other estimates are much more conservative.
Whatever the figure, ad blocking poses a threat to the free information, one of the founding principles of the Internet and a democracy.
Native advertising, from sponsored content to in-feed ads, can be blocked too. And that’s just as much of an issue for The New York Times as it as for companies like Sharethrough.
It’s a divisive issue, even for those blocking the ads. One ad blocking app, Peace, decided to shut down after just two days. The developer realized his approach was too extreme.
“Peace required that all ads be treated the same — all-or-nothing enforcement for decisions that aren’t black and white,” Peace creator Marco Arment wrote on his blog just 36 hours after his app made to to the top of charts.
With all this hype around ad blocking, it's understandable that publishers are more concerned than ever about the future of their bottom line.
There are options, however, for publishers to navigate this so-called "adblockalypse."
1. Enhance Your Native App Strategy
Step one: have one! Native apps like the ones you download on your smartphone and tablet aren’t subject to adblocking. Drive people to it from your mobile website and create a real reason for them to download it. Support deep linking so links from social posts open in your app instead of an embedded web view. You have total control over your native app environment and now more than ever it’s essential to be wherever people are — be it the mobile web, your app, email or social media.
2. Emphasize Well-Designed, Respectful Native Ads
Most ad blockers don’t block all ads, and allow the most respectful ads through. AdBlock Plus has an acceptable ads whitelist. Long-term, the solution to ad blocking is a world where people don’t feel compelled to install ad blockers. If your ads attempt to be as awesome as your editorial, you’ll be in a better place.
3. Consider An Anti Ad Blocker Solution
In a game of cat and mouse, some publishers are installing software that blocks the ad blockers, like SourcePoint or PageFair, to preserve some of the revenue ad blockers are costing them. If you choose this route, proceed with caution: the relationship between you and your readers is the most important thing.