BELOW ARE SOME OF OUR GENERAL THOUGHTS AND SHARED KNOWLEDGE AS WE LEARN AND BUILD OUR COMPANY
We think the following:
- Ad blocking is a serious problem that needs to be addressed.
- Ad blocking is a complicated issue.
- It is a war between two well-funded armies.
- No one has all the answers.
- Consumers, publishers and advertisers need choices.
- All participants need to be transparent, open and dialogue – Publishers, Advertisers, Agencies, Vendors and Consumers- to solve the challenges.
- The buzz and PR surrounding the issue is over-hyped.
- The industry data that has been captured and reported to date, is flawed and not accurate.
– The vast majority of the tools/scripts used to capture ad blocking analytics don’t accurately capture the data a publisher needs to understand the real impact of ad blocking on their business.
- Once a publisher is confidant they are measuring ad blocking correctly, some publishers will need to take urgent action:
– For publishers that have less than 10% ad blocking rate (lost opportunity), they do not yet need to take action and/or should proceed with caution, as most have inventory that they can use to back-fill lost impressions. Publishers need to start thinking about how best to address and start planning for it sometime this year or early next.
– For publishers that are above a 10% ad blocking rate (lost opportunity + lost revenue; depending on avails), you must start now on figuring out how to deal with it.
– For publishers that are nearing 15- 20%+ (lost revenue) ad block rates, must take action now.
- Blocking an ad block user from a publisher’s entire site unless they take an action (white list or pay) is dangerous.
- Serious publishers need serious technology.
- Ads need to be better.
- Ad block users are willing to see ads.
- Consumers will not pay for content from most media companies.
- Mobile ad blocking is a potentially huge problem, but not yet.
- Ad blocking right now has leveled out in the US, but will increase. Europe and Asia is a different story.
- If publishers don’t start soon on planning and putting strategies in place, they will be caught off guard and suffer serious damages.
- Premium publishers that act now will be positioned for the future. 2017 and 2018 will be pivot points on ad blocking for most premium publishers.
- The IAB’s LEAN and DEAL initiatives are a good start and need to evolve.
A few things we think are important for all participants to understand:
A technology arms race is developing between two well-funded armies: Ad blockers vs. Publishers. Ad blockers should be more accurately thought of as generic “blockers” because they block more than just ads, and they represent a significant and growing subset of Internet users who wish to block most advertising technology in order to improve their online performance, privacy, and end user experience. Publishers wish to freely offer their content in exchange for monetizing that content using advertising as the main means for generating revenue. And herein lays the battlefield.
Publishers started the war by chasing advertising revenue to the detriment of their end user experience. End users responded by inventing ad blockers to improve their experience, thus breaking the implicit agreement between publishers and their audience: Publishers provide their content for free, and in exchange their audience will see advertising to cover the costs of providing that content. Now that implicit contract must be renegotiated, using a combination of technical counter defenses and an open dialog between publishers and their audience.
The goal of the ad blocking is to dramatically improve their online experience. Although ad blocking started as a desktop/laptop browser extension, that threat is broadening with Apple’s support of content filters in iOS, new browsers with ad blocking baked in, firewall vendors and cell phone carriers jumping on board to block ads at the network level. New ad block solutions seem to emerge monthly, requiring publishers to stay abreast of the latest threats and potentially make technical changes to their technology stack.
Increasingly publishers are tracking new Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to measure the extent of their ad block problem including:
- Percent of ad blocked page views and users
- Advertising revenue lost to ad blockers
Publishers use these KPIs to drive both technical and business process changes to improve these metrics. Ideally publishers build multivariate testing on top of these KPIs to further speed up the optimization.
While publishers should be looking at these new KPIs, it’s critical to understand the effect that any ad block strategy can have on other KPIs. For example, if publishers take a hard core stance and require their audience to disable their ad blocker to view the site, the publisher will dramatically reduce their percent of ad blocked page views for sure, but they will have fewer overall page views because some percent of their audience will not accept that deal. That could either increase or decrease total ad revenue, and publishers need to understand which is happening and why and be prepared to react quickly.
It’s important to know where the ad blocking is occurring in order to provide appropriate messaging to your ad blocked audience. As an example, if ad blocking is occurring in the network fabric, you can’t ask the user to disable their ad blocker because they don’t have one. However you can give this choice to browser-based ad blockers and present a different message to an ad blocker that is occurring at the network level.
The goal of the Publisher army is to monetize their ad blocked users. Publishers have a range of options available to them to achieve this:
- Thwart the intentions of the ad blocker.
- Block valuable content from being viewed by ad blocked users.
- Engage ad blocked users in dialogue to explicitly renegotiate the broken contract between publisher and viewer.
Different publishers take different approaches based on their unique audience profile. But it all starts with detecting whether or not a user’s experience is being filtered by an ad blocker either on their device or somewhere in the network fabric. From there, publishers can develop and implement strategies that minimize or eliminate ad blocking and its effects on their business.