According to research by eMarketer magazine, more than 25 percent of Americans will block online ads this year. More than sixty-nine million Americans are expected to use ad blockers in 2016. That represents a double digit jump in the number of people acting on their frustration with online ads since last year. Moreover, by 2017, more than eighty-six million people are projected to make use of ad blockers.
For survey purposes, eMarketer defined an ad blocking user as anyone who uses the Internet at least once a month via any device that has an enabled ad blocker. Around one in five people have caught on to the utility of these devices, and the idea of reading ad-free content seems to rapidly spreading.
Naturally, marketers and advertisers are dismayed by this trend. Any industry that depends on ad revenue, such as publishing, marketing, and ad agencies, is negatively affected by online users’ efforts to stop ads from appearing. Just when they had adjusted to the online universe by producing digital versions of their wares, the uniquely digital problem of ad blockers grew to epidemic proportions.
New York Times versus Ad Blockers
Publishers are preparing various lines of attack against this phenomenon. The New York Times, for one, has announced its intentions to launch an innovative approach to fighting ad blockers. Its chief executive, Mark Thompson, declared that the venerable newspaper is ready to cut off any non-subscribers who use ad blocking while reading the NYT online. In his thinking, anyone who is unprepared to “pay” for reading high-quality journalism, in the form of tolerating online ads, is unworthy of accessing said journalism.
Additionally, the Times is considering offering its subscribers an alternate, pricier subscription plan. Many subscribers have complained about being bombarded by ads even though they pay to read the newspaper online. This proposed new subscription scheme would allow paid subscribers to its online newspaper an ad-free experience. Subscribers might embrace such a program, but the NYT risks putting off its advertisers, and losing even more revenue, with the advent of this plan.
Avoiding Ad Blocking
Other publishers are using alternate routes to avoid ad blockers. Developing their own apps, which are less affected by ad blocking, is one popular option. Another is trying to improve the ad experience, by either eliminating pop-ups, increasing page load speed, or decluttering pages that feature ads alongside content. Many publishers have turned to native advertising, or ads that mimic content, to circumvent ad blockers. The ad blocking programs don’t recognize these as ads, plus consumers tend to value them more than traditional advertisements.
Zero Sum Game
Some contend that banning people using ad blockers from reading their content is a foolish move for publishers to make. They say that ad blocker bans are a zero sum game. The harder publishers try to quash them, the harder developers will push back by boosting ad blockers’ capabilities and ubiquity.