The free content that is quietly provided to us is not guaranteed. On the contrary, it is threatened by the unbridled use of adblockers. Most of us are unaware of this because the costs of an internet that severely limits ads are not obvious. But, make no mistake, advertising is the lifeblood of free content.
Net neutrality drives the internet
“The concept that broadband internet service providers should provide nondiscriminatory access to Internet content, platforms, etc., and should not manipulate the transfer of data regardless of its source or destination.”
Net neutrality gives websites equal access to internet traffic. The natural extension of this principle is that the majority of websites provide free content.
Free does not mean costless. Like us, publishers pay for internet access. Unlike them, users don’t pay the costs of creating and providing content.
These costs are hidden and adblockers can easily recruit users as a result. They capitalize on our decreased tolerance for disruption and concerns over security. However, the cost of their “free” service is hidden as well.
The irony is that advertising is at once one of the most effective…
…and demonized ways publishers cover costs.
Like it or not, free content depends on advertising. Don’t take my word for it.
Let’s look at the US. 283.7 million citizens accessed the internet in 2015 and online advertising revenue reached $59.6 billion.
Advertising revenue of $59.6 billion / 283.7 million users = $200 p/user/p/year
Second, let’s look at how many users are removed from the monetization pool. A rough estimate is that 45 million were using adblockers in Q2 2015.
$59.6 billion / (283.7 million users – 45 million using adblockers) = $250 p/user/p/year
Now, let’s estimate lost revenue(I’ll remain conservative and use the original figure of $200 p/user/p/year):
$200 p/user/p/year * 45 million users with adblockers = $9 billion in lost revenue
And the trend…adblocker use increased 48% from Q2 2014 to ’15
Meanwhile advertising revenues increased 20.4% from 2014 to ’15.
What do these numbers mean?
The model is unsustainable. Unchecked, adblockers will remove enough users from the monetization pool that free content will be severely limited. In fact, there are already signs that we are approaching that point. For instance, you’ve probably seen more websites that ask you to disable your adblocker.
Why are adblockers silent about this? Simple,they are earning most of their revenue from whitelisting, a practice where larger advertisers pay adblockers to allow their ads to be displayed. One adblocker calls it the Acceptable Ads initiative.
The wording is an attempt by private entities to conflate themselves with public ones. Their messaging reads like a public service announcement, promising protection from an industry gone rogue through its direct oversight…provided to you free-of-charge.
Admittedly, it’s a brilliant piece of marketing and would not be effective if the online advertising industry didn’t have growing pains. That said, the “service” is not free and there are better ways to address legitimate concerns over user experience and security.
Ads that interfere with user experience are the primary reason why adblockers are used. Ads that blink, shake, follow, block access, or increase load times are common irritants.
However, Adblockers are not ideal because this is the one area where user and publisher interests are most aligned. If a site bombards users with ads, how likely will they revisit or share that site’s content? Publishers want users to visit and stay.
Ad networks provide an increasing number of options for ad placement, format, and content. Coupled with improved tracking, publishers no longer have to monetize their sites at the expense of the user experience. Ads can now be optimized so that they add value.
Security will always be a hot topic and malvertising is extremely hot. Although this is the primary argument of adblockers, most users don’t cite this as their top concern.
Additionally, it may surprise you that adblockers have the right to alter content, without your knowledge.
Conversely, ad networks are addressing threats without such extreme measures. Remember, online advertising has only really taken off in the early 2000s and is evolving at a staggering pace.
The industry operates within an environment that places immense pressure on it and will continue adapting. After all, advertisers and publishers do not benefit when malvertising creates anxiety among users.
Meanwhile, adblockers are not adapting.
Facebook is now an “anti-user”, because it decided to give its community greater control over how they’re advertised to. They believe that they can provide secure ads which are not disruptive.
Adcash is adapting as well. With the Adcash Anti-Adblocker Solution, we are proud to be formally included in the “anti-user” camp, especially if it means allowing our publishers and advertisers to work together to provide value to users.