Ad blocking should be banned

By Nov.06, 2016

ad blocking should be bannedOk, so ‘Ad blocking should be banned’, maybe a little over dramatic, but Internet adverts are the main source of revenue for most of the websites. The majority of websites are free to browse which is thanks to the advertisements displayed on the web pages. This model of internet has been steady over the last two decades. As time goes by, ad companies have become more and more aggressive in their approach and this has led to the use of ad blocking software rising dramatically.

At the present time, if you open a web page, you are to likely to see many ads based on your browsing history, cookies and other private information. More annoyingly, many ads are simply deceiving, forcing the users to click on them to view the original content. No one will disagree that the digital ad business has now reached a point where the users find the ads an annoyance rather than useful.

This atmosphere has given birth to ad blockers. You just install software or a browser plug-in to block the ads from being displayed. This prevents the ads from displaying and also prevents hefty ads from eating up bandwidth and lets pages load faster. Ad blockers are gaining more and more popularity. From old players like ‘AdBlock Plus’ to Opera‚Äôs new, free built-in blocker. The rise of ad blockers is threatening the economic model that the internet is based on. For these reasons maybe ad blocking should be banned.

Recent rise of Ad blocking

According to several reports from internet research organisations, ad blockers are on the rise. An IAB UK report, published March 2016, shows approximately 22% of web users (UK) use ad blockers, up 4% since October 2015. A staggering rise, making it alarming for the digital marketers.

Sites will no longer be able to support themselves through this valuable income stream due to the increased use of ad blockers. Larger sites will move to a subscription based model, whilst smaller sites may disappear entirely. The growing popularity of ad blockers is actually threatening the diversity of the internet.

High profile individuals such as Edward Snowden, continue to encourage internet users to install ad blockers, albeit for security reasons. As a result, this trend is likely to continue.

Infographic: The Use of Ad-Blocking Around the World | Statista

Global ad blocking growth courtesy of Statista

Reasons behind the increasing popularity of Ad blockers

Digital marketers have neglected the issue of poor user experience (UX) for too long. This has almost encouraged the use and development of ad blocking plugins and software. We can summarise the key reasons behind the popularity of ad blockers as:

  • Most of the ads ignore the user experience of a website
  • Ads collect personal data. Users are concerned about their privacy on the internet. Overly personalised ads disturb the user and hence they turn towards ad blocking
  • Ads have become so heavy that they cause a noticeable delay in page loading. By blocking ads, it ultimately makes the browsing experience smoother and faster.

On the surface, ad blocking seems a good thing for the end users but in the long run they will disrupt the open atmosphere of the internet. Closing off the main stream of revenue for sites will lead to some closing, which in turn could lead to the internet becoming a more closed place controlled by a few large companies.

Internet users no longer welcome methods deployed by digital marketers. No one objects to small, relevant and unobtrusive adverts on a page. Huge multimedia enriched ads that damage the usability of a site must stop.

Statistic: Which of the following adjectives would you use to describe online advertising? | Statista

How digital ads are viewed by internet users, courtesy of Statista

To reverse this trend

Key steps to stop the increasing use of ad blockers:

  • Align advertisements with the usability and UX of the webpage
  • Inform users that the use of ad blockers will make the internet ecosystem unsustainable. The IAB UK report shows that if requested, 54% of the users will turn off ad blockers to access a site. Furthermore, people aged between 18 and 24 years of age are more likely to respond to that request
  • The number of ads per page must be reduced. Pages overloaded with ads serve to encourage the user to install ad blockers
  • Digital marketing organisations should form a standardisation system. This will regulate the placement of ads on web sites.

Here is the summary of IAB UK report:

Graph showing stats for those who would switch ad blocker off

Most people would switch off ad blocking if access to a site required them to do so, courtesy of IAB UK.

There is a fine line between generating income and not alienating web users. Should ad blocking be banned? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave me a comment or tweet me @marc_creighton

First published on my business blog socialmediamanager.ie 11th June 2016