AdWeek recently published an article concerning ad blocking, advertising revenue, and the future risks and opportunities of digital publishing. The article is fascinating because it take the form of a roundtable between some of the major players in the fields. And, interestingly enough, all those involved seem to agree with each other about what the problem is and how they might fix things.
In "We Brought Together the Major Players in the Ad Blocker War, and Here's What They Told Each Other" by Lauren Johnson, and Christopher Heine, the roundtable discussion includes Jed Hartman, the chief revenue officer of The Washington Post, Ben Williams, communications and operations manager of Eyeo GmbH which makes Adblock Plus, Steve Carbone, the managing director and head of digital and analytic of Mediacom, Lisa Valentino, the chief revenue officer of Condé Nast Digital, and more.
As the article states, ad blocking in the digital publishing industry has quickly grown from an annoyance to a real threat - the use of ad-blocking software in the US has grown by 48% in the last 12 months. In terms of monetary impact, a report from UBS estimates that revenue lost due to ad-blocking via mobile devices is in the vicinity of $1 billion, while a separate report conducted by PageFair and Adobe puts the attributable revenue loss via desktop ad blockers at up to $22 billion.
Included in the issues and conflicts caused by ad blockers is how, as we have written about before, a big part of who allows and doesn't allow ad blocking software is based on the large tech companies trying to outleverage each other in order to cut off or gain access to ad revenue. The whole thing is very complicated.
The whole roundtable is worth reading, if only for the fact that while the people on the digital publishing side and those on the ad blocker side don't exactly see eye to eye, they are a lot closer in viewpoint than you might think. Multiple parties fully admit that the rise of ad blocking software comes from the users trying to avoid often large, intrusive online ads. Especially since those ads are often a big chunk of users' data plans, a cost that has become acute with the growth of mobile.
Jared Belsky, the president of 360i, noted the need to differentiate between those kinds of disruptive, obnoxious ads and more high-quality ads that use little data and don't intrude. Hartman states that the issue of ad blocking is a demonstration of what happens when technology gets ahead of an industry's ability to deal with and adapt to it.
Fascinatingly, one gets the impression from Ben Williams of Adblock Plus that not only the rise of mobile but also Apple suddenly allowing ad blocking software of iOS 9 came as a bit of a surprise, as he insists that ad blocking had always been more of a desktop phenomenon. This lends credence to what Hartmen stated about technology getting out of hand, if even the software makers were surprised by unexpected changes in the industry.
Finally, one thing that echoes among the content producers at the roundtable is the need for more branded content and native advertising (stuff that can't be blocked, in other words). All those representing publishers in the roundtable seem more enthused about that than anything else. So, if the words of the participant are at all prescient, one can expect more of that kind of content in the future.