In the last month the latest Apple iOS launched alongside Apple News, Amazon has stopped accepting flash ads and adblockers rose to the top of the charts.
It seems like the crucible is reaching melting point but what’s the motivation behind the big players latest moves and how does it affect the publishing and creative based industry?
Who owns what?: Browsers, phones & social
Google has always made the majority of its revenue through web Ad Serving, Ad exchanges and search. Apple obviously resents this but controls the mobile hardware part of the picture. Neither however have the traction in social that Facebook control. However the latest hot topic touches all of these: Ad Blocking
Ad Blocking storms to top of the charts
iOS 9 brings with it the option for developers to use a ‘content blocking’ feature – essentially to monitor and block specific types of content – Ads and data tracking – delivered to a browser.
Adblocking: That’s not new – is it?
In it’s early days, before users were even credited with having an experience, Their journeys we’re being interrupted by a plethora of unsolicited pop-ups spawning at an alarming rate across their screens. Eventually plug-ins became available to prevent this, and soon after pop-up blocking became a feature of modern browsers as standard.
Something parallel is happening now but the eco-system is far more advanced – and perhaps even more sinister: One of the most popular adblockers – AdBlock Plus – has an ulterior motive – it’s developers Eeyo have a whitelist – which companies can pay to be included in and have their ads still appear to users with the plugin.
A larger strategy at play?
Adblockers using Apple’s new content-blocking feature can only block ads in-browser, apps remain uneffected. Seen alongside the newly launched Apple News app, and it’s attempted resurrection of iAds, it would seem to strengthen the idea that this is another swipe at Google’s mobile ads dominance.
Publishers fight back
There has been some response from publishers of course. Some adblocking users are presented with a notice when visiting a publishers site (ITV/C4) , and unconfirmed reports of similar action by Trinity Mirror, saying they can only view site’s content without ad blocking enabled and youtube actually embedded unskippable pre-roll ads for adblock users.
That might sound like a silly question but perhaps it needs answering to tackle some root motivations.
The key advantage for the user of adblocking is speed, and following that data privacy issues. Perhaps though the larger issue is the relationship between free content and advertising.
The web has propagated the idea of a ‘free’ service more than anything – whether Google’s gmail & Google docs or Facebook’s social apps – but if you’re not paying a price then you are the commodity. And it’s that valuable data that powers the targeted advertising which publishers require to generate any revenue from their online content.
There was always going to be a backlash from users. The proliferation of so many server calls, from so many script tags – ultimately slowing everything down, forcing pages to jump around as extra ‘content’ loads in and recording everything that can be measured through so many analytics calls – all contributing to a very poor experience for the end user.
Where do we go from here?
Firstly, there is a chance that revenues may funnel back into in-app placements and Native formats that escape the reach of Ad Blockers. However, the main thrust should be to refine and optimise the advertising creation and delivery and re-focus on the user experience, on all platforms. Flash may have been killed off by Apple, Google and Amazon but it’s in everybody’s interest to re-focus on one of my own motivations in the industry: Make advertising that doesn’t suck…