I was telling a colleague recently how I felt so frustrated as a mobile user these days. I was following the news from the recent Brexit announcement and I encountered an infinite number of data walls. The realisation that free content is becoming more and more limited is really starting to hit home. To add to my pain I am constantly battling with annoying adverts, badly proportioned on my iPhone six screen that is still loading as I close the browser. I am starting to see the attraction to Ad Blockers.

So what are Ad-blockers? They are technological methods for removing or altering advertising content like videos and images on a website. This can be done in a controlled format or automatically.

You can enable ad blockers on your desktop through your browser or you can download the app from an app store. You can also block ads on your mobile through ios or android either using the settings option in your phone or by downloading a plug-in.

With Ad Blockers just hot off the press for desktop and android it was disconcerting to learn from recent articles that mobile carriers are getting into the ad blocking game, curbing adverts at network level. A new Israeli start-up called Shine claims to have backing from the major wireless carriers, which could seriously threaten the mobile advertising industry. Shine have built ad blocking technology that will run as a white-labeled piece of software, licensing the service out to mobile carriers.

One might wonder why mobile carriers would be interested in ad blocking technology? The reality is that ads can actually be a hindrance for them. Roi Carthy, chief marketing officer at Shine claims that the standard app or website pings an antenna up to 50 times a minute — it’s called background signaling. Bandwidth is one of the most expensive pieces of infrastructure for a telecommunications company to operate.

It’s expensive for users too: Shine estimates that, depending on your geography, ads are using up to 10-50% of user’s data plans (and not to mention sucking up battery life, and making load times slower.)

According to Market researcher eMarketer, more than $101.37 billion will be spent on ads served in 2016 to mobile phones and tablets worldwide. That’s a 400 percent increase from 2013. From 2016 to 2019, mobile ads will nearly double again, rising to $195.55 billion.

With the increase in mobile consumption for web and the colossal investment in mobile advertising, the impact of mobile ad blockers for publishers and media groups could be dire. There are many industry reports presenting results on the impact of ad blocking.

“Ad blocking software could cost digital publishers over $27 billion by 2020, according to a new report by Juniper Research”.

What does this mean for publishers and content providers? Steve Jobs once said “Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones that do”. Granted it’s a bit of a crisis situation but lets look at what measures publishers can take to preserve their market share.

  • See this as an opportunity to really connect with your customers and readers through any level of loyalty, brand leverage you can exploit as media and publishing companies
  • Differentiate yourself from the mainstream providers who focus on page impressions and ad revenues with no consideration for the reader or what ads would grab the readers attention.
  • Ensure your web sites are mobile first, there is nothing more out-dated than a poor UX site.
  • Ensure you know who your customers are, track them, profile them and target them with interesting content that appeals and entices purchase. Avoid mass marketing and serving pesky adverts with large videos. Native works well, stick to clean screens with well-positioned ads in keeping with the article.
  • Assure readers that their data is secure and won’t be passed onto third parties by using cookies on the site, inform them that the cookies and other data collection will enable more targeted content and avoid wastage with non applicable ads.
  • Use social platforms to enhance engagement with your customers, Google Amp and Facebook Instant Articles are monopolising with their quick loading functionality and low-key ads.
  • Ask your customers what they want, offer competitions, discounts, functionality to comment and feedback to your site.

Having offered all of the above you should be in a position to sell your premium content so look to monetize offering multiple product bundles including print, mobile, tablet and desktop. Sridhar Ramaswamy from Google believes the health of the Internet depends on enabling more non-ad monetization options for publishers.  If the content is relevant for the user then undoubtedly the reader will be prepared to subscribe.  The offering gives one better than ad blockers in that the reader receives a tailor made experience.

There are a number of ways existing digital publishers are trying to push back against ad-blockers.  Some Web sites, like Forbes and Wired.com, are blocking their content completely from people who make use of ad-blockers. Once the ad-blocker is turned off, the content will reappear.  Other Web sites, like The Guardian, ask ad-blocker users to donate a small fee, like £1 a month, to continue using ad-blocking technology on the site.

There is so much going on in the world of ad blocking.  Publishers need to accept that cramming their sites with disruptive ads will eventually drive users away. On the other hand Publishers have a great deal to lose as advertisers won’t want to pay for ads which are blocked. It’s a numbers game, the loss of ad inventory needs to be made up with new revenues by careful targeting, offering premium content and charging for subscriptions.