Startling mobile ad blocking trends have emerged from PageFair’s 2016 ad blocker report titled “Adblocking Goes Mobile” and PageFair’s findings paint a troubling picture of the emerging mobile, ad blocker landscape. At the same time, the data point to possible solutions for publishers as they seek more sustainable revenue models.
You may remember that, in the first part of my Ad Blocker Strategies series, titled “Ad Blocker Strategies – Ad Blockers Awaken”, I summarized PageFair’s findings in its 2015 report as follows:
Ad blocker use started to grow fairly dramatically in late 2012 to early 2013 when the estimated number of ad blocker users jumped from around 39 million users in mid 2012 to 54 million in January 2013, according to a 2015 report by PageFair and commissioned by Adobe titled “The cost of ad blocking” (I’ll refer to the report as the “PageFair report” below). That figure increased to 121 million by January 2014 and 181 million users by January 2015. The estimated number of ad blocker users in June 2015 was a staggering 198 million. It is likely well over 200 million users now. To give you some context, the population of Brazil, the 5th most populous country, is currently about 205 million people.
The mobile ad blocking tsunami
PageFair’s latest report reveals that the incidence of ad blocking on mobile devices is even more substantial. Compared to roughly 200 million desktop ad blockers (likely more today), there are “at least 419 million people blocking ads on smartphones”. This estimate excludes:
- content blocking apps;
- in-app ad blockers; and
- opt-in browser ad blockers.
The dominant form of mobile ad blocking appears to be ad blocker browsers which PageFair estimated to be in use by roughly 408 million users as of March 2016. That accounts for around 21% of the total estimated number of smartphone users.
By far, most of the users of mobile ad blocking tools are in the Asia Pacific region where roughly 36% of smartphone users block ads using an ad blocker browser, alone. This accounts for almost 93% of ad blocker browser usage worldwide.
Expect mobile ad blocking to grow in Europe and the USA
Although the majority of mobile users blocking ads are in the Asia Pacific region, Europe and the USA are likely to follow eventually. Telling signs of this eventual growth are the growth of ad blocker browser usage in the West, followed by content blocking app downloads and in-app ad blocking app downloads. In March 2016, for example, ad blocker browsers were in use on roughly –
- 2.8 million devices in the USA; and
- 11.2 million devices in Europe.
Not even Facebook ads are immune
Many publishers’ and advertisers’ hoped that Facebook’s ads would, somehow, be immune from the growing ad blocking trend. Unfortunately this is no longer the case. PageFair pointed out that apps such as “Friendly Social”, an iOS and Android app, are able to identify in-feed ads on Facebook and filter them out. The paid version of this app includes an ad blocker.
What this means for publishers’ ad revenue
Going forward, you, as a publisher, should focus on two major strategies:
- Optimize ad placements, improve viewability and choose more effective ad solutions (such as in-image and native advertising solutions) to maximize ad revenue; and
- Address the root causes of ad blocker adoption, in particular the user experience of your site, and boost engagement.
As troubling as the trends may seem, you should think of this time as an opportunity to innovate and build more sustainable revenue models through smarter choices. As I pointed out in my article titled “Behind Ars Technica’s Winning User Experience” –
On the other hand, if publishers can successfully meet the user experience challenge, consumers will be less likely to block ads on their sites and publishers may see a more substantial result. As fewer consumers resort to ad blockers due to poor user experiences, publishers will earn higher ad revenue and be able to continue providing their readers with high quality content.
In the meantime, here is the PageFair report in its entirety:
Image credit: alana.io