So you use an ad blocker?

Having an ad blocker can only be good for you as a casual internet user, right? Wrong - we take a look at how publishers can be negatively impacted from ad blockers.

If you use an ad blocker, I get it. Bad ads and lots of them can be annoying, no one’s disagreeing there. Latest figures from the IAB show that 18% of us in the UK are now using them and global usage has soared by 41% in the last year but once we look past the instantaneous gratification brought about by no longer seeing that ad for the shoes you’ve already bought, there are bigger implications for all of us – advertisers, publishers and the common internet user (you and I).

The first two parties are pretty well-documented (very briefly - advertisers are potentially paying for impressions that haven’t actually been delivered and publishers are suffering as a result of reduced ad revenues) but the detrimental impact on internet users for the large part has been casually ignored, after all, there isn’t anything bad about using an ad blocker, is there?

Unfortunately, yes. That news site you check daily, chances are it relies at least in some part on ad revenue to provide you with a constant stream of real time content. Same for Facebook, and Instagram, and YouTube, and Buzzfeed, and…you get the point. In fact, current numbers suggest that our favourite publishers could suffer from $10.77bn unrealised revenue in the US in 2015 and without it, they simply won’t be able to sustain the volumes (and quality) of all that lovely free content we currently enjoy. So we’re going to miss out and none of us want that. Ad blockers can also result in funny goings-on when you’re browsing. Ever had that problem where you’ve been trying to buy something online and the payment or booking system hasn’t worked? And we’ve all encountered a time when a web page hasn’t loaded properly. Well there’s a good chance that an ad blocker could be part of the problem by causing incoherent HTML structure within the page. And speaking of UX, by preventing sites and advertisers from gathering cookie data, ad blockers make personalisation impossible, or at least really tricky, meaning it’s less likely that our desire for relevant content will be fulfilled.

It’s clear that there’s a lot more for us to lose when it comes to ad blocking than we may initially think, from the restriction or loss of content, disrupted UX and diminished personalisation but at the same time none of us want to be hounded by bad ads, so what’s the solution? There’s no doubt that advertisers and publishers will be key here and are making progress in improving the quality, relevancy and utility of their ads but we also have a part to play in ensuring a fair value exchange between those who provide content and those who consume it. It’s apparent now that the internet’s not really free so there’s no doubt that in the coming months internet users are going to have to start ‘paying’ for content in some currency in order to support and sustain the lush online ecosystem. It’s up to us to decide our method of payment – paid subscriptions, sign-ups, trading personal data, or turning off our ad blockers and embracing ads.

by Emma Blair, Display Team Leader