What does ad blocking software mean for digital media?

The advent of ad blocking software is increasingly becoming a problem for digital media companies, and their revenues are suffering a large blow. Google, for example, has been predicted to have lost out on 10% of their revenue in 2014 due to ad blocking. This equates to $6.6 billion, which is a lot of money in anyone’s book - except perhaps Google’s. Although several billion for them is just lost change down the back of the sofa, the huge impact that ad blocking software has had already cannot be ignored.

Those particularly affected are digital publishers; in 2014 a study found that 69% of US news media revenue comes from advertising. Jim Edwards describes the relationship between news publishers and readers as a ‘social contract’, whereby publishers give readers free news in exchange for there being ads on the page. The ever-rebellious users of the internet have found a way around this through ad blocking software. Vive la revolution.

This has sparked numerous studies and articles. Jon writes that “A recent surge in adblocking… indicates that users prefer to consume content uninterrupted.” Ground-breaking. This appears an inevitable consequence of increasingly instant technology – people become impatient. Considering the fact that ads have been found to take up between 25-40% of all internet bandwidth, it is not surprising that a faster as well as ad-free experience is enticing. We want our content and we want it NOW. 

Another important thing to consider with ads is privacy concerns, and 17% of people surveyed cited this as their reason for using an ad blocker. With increasingly targeted advertising, this does not seem to be a concern that will go away so easily.

However, it is not all bad. When the data on ad blocking is analysed in more detail, it is evident that it’s not necessarily all advertising but only some that is opposed by the users of ad blockers. The real problem is with distracting and intrusive ads, and the majority of ad block users reject only these. So the solution seems to be for less-intrusive ads, and Adblock Plus already allows some ‘non-intrusive’ ads through their system. Really, it is down to websites and advertisers to make the changes as the demand for uninterrupted usage of the internet is not going to go down any time soon. Or, alternatively, the solution is a return to print and its beautifully non-intrusive ads that remain calmly on the page. We’re not biased, we promise.

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