Is Adblock bad? What Adblocking Means For Digital Publishers

Readers may not need a subscription to access the content on your website, but that doesn’t mean the content is free. You rely on ads to generate the revenue necessary to keep your website going. However, more and more internet users are using adblockers, without much thought to whether it hurts businesses. This is driving some to wonder: Is Adblock bad?

If you haven’t taken measures to prevent adblocking software from affecting your site, it’s time to start. Unfortunately, not all strategies for adblock prevention are effective, and implementing the wrong one can mean lost time and revenue.

What they do and why people use adblock

Adblockers do exactly what their name suggests: they block website ads from appearing on a web browser. In their simplest form, they detect calls to load images, videos, audio, and flash from known ad servers and prevent those files from loading. However, more sophisticated adblockers use filters to determine what does and doesn’t load on a website.

There are several reasons people decide to block ads. Some readers dislike ads they consider intrusive, finding them distracting and annoying. Others use adblockers because they want to speed up their browsing experience. A third camp fear that ads could increase their risk for malware. And lastly, there are those who use adblockers because they’re uncomfortable with the idea of being constantly tracked online, with the purpose of being advertised to.

With the number of adblock users on the rise, it’s becoming increasingly important to talk about adblockers and how they affect websites.

Is adblock bad for websites?

Adblockers are becoming a significant threat to online businesses. According to a 2016 report by eMarketer, the number of adblock users has reached an all-time high across devices with as many as 63 million people in the United States alone using them on desktop computers.

The same report projects that adblock usage would likely jump to almost 80 million in 2017, with as many as 30 million people using adblockers on their smartphones. Consider the fact that adblocking use grew 41% worldwide between 2015 and 2016, and that that number is only projected to grow in the coming years.

This growing increase in adblockers hurts online business. Running ads doesn’t just earn a site money when readers click, but rather just for showing up in a reader’s browser. This is called serving an impression, and it’s an important part of your website’s revenue. Juniper Research last year estimated that adblocking software cost web publishers more than $27 billion worldwide in lost ad revenue, making adblocking anything but a victimless crime.

Some homegrown attempts to turn the tide

Businesses have tried to recover lost ad revenue by engaging users and counteracting adblockers. Usually, this involves transparent discussions about the value of free content or technological solutions to deliver an ad-supported or ad-light experience. However, adblockers evolve their circumvention techniques, developing workarounds to undercut publisher efforts.

Forbes

Forbes was one of the earliest publishers to engage its adblocking users.  What started as periodic, experimental tests that allowed users to proceed with adblockers active, eventually grew to a homegrown solution that required users to deactivate their adblockers in exchange for consuming Forbes content.  Early results were promising, but adblockers have created filters to circumvent the Forbes solution and Forbes doesn’t have the team or time to respond to every circumvention.

Facebook

Even Facebook’s massive team of engineers loses millions in revenue to adblockers. In 2016, they started re-inserting ads when adblockers were active. However, Facebook’s success was short lived. Within days, Adblock Plus, one of the most popular adblocking services, released a workaround and Facebook was back to square one.

Of course, the social media giant didn’t take this lying down and quickly released a workaround to AdBlock Plus’ workaround, using code to hide its ads from adblockers even more effectively. Regardless, AdBlock plus responded the next day with another circumvention and Facebook countered later that same day with a third adjustment of their own.

Although these results are encouraging, most publishers don’t have developers they can devote to the adblock problem like Facebook. The best results come from third-party providers of anti-adblock solutions that specialize in 24/7 adblock monitoring and recovery solutions.

New Hope on the Horizon

Despite the struggle between adblockers and publishers, the game is far from over. There are companies and services that help prevent adblockers from stealing your revenue.

Anti-adblock companies help websites understand the impact adblockers have on their bottom line and apply engagement and technical solutions to recover revenue for website owners. Some anti-adblock services, like Admiral, even provide a suite of solutions from free measurement, to engagement, recovery and microtransactions; allowing publishers to tailor a solution that is best for their community.

Whether publishers attempt to tame the adblock beast with homegrown solutions or they partner with anti-adblock experts, their very survival is at stake.  Adblocking is projected to grow for years to come, but that growth can slow or reverse as more publishers size and solve their adblock losses.

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