Ad Blocking Billions: What’s Really at Stake

adblockinggrowthWe fast forward through the commercials, watch advert-free streaming TV, and pay a small fee for ad-free radio. Why should the content on our mobile devices be any different?

As consumers wrap their head around just how much mobile ad bloat they are truly exposed to, it seems natural that they’ll download and use ad blocking technology at their first chance. And for Apple users, it’s about to get a whole lot more likely that they’ll do so, as iOS 9 will make ad blocking easier.

So what’s really at stake for publishers and advertisers if the trend toward using ad blockers grows into a stampede?

“A new report by PageFair and Adobe estimates $21.8bn in advertising revenues will be lost in 2015 due to ad blocking,” notes this press release from PageFair. In the United States, ad blocking cost an estimated $5.8bn in lost revenue in 2014 and is projected to reach $10.7bn in 2015 and $20.3bn in 2016. The global cost of ad blocking is expected to reach $41.4bn by 2016.”

The report, titled “The Cost of Ad Blocking,” notes that “that not only has ad blocking continued its fast growth on desktop, but it has also leaped onto mobile in Asia, and will soon go mobile in the West with the upcoming launch of content blocking on iOS.”

PageFair’s CEO gets a bit hyperbolic when describing the situation.

“It is tragic that ad block users are inadvertently inflicting multi-billion dollar losses on the very websites they most enjoy. With ad blocking going mobile, there’s an eminent threat that the business model that has supported the open web for two decades is going to collapse,” Sean Blanchfield writes.

While it will require content publishers to rethink their business model, it certainly doesn’t rank as a tragedy in our eyes. TV has evolved and survived; radio too. Content that is worth reading will always find a way to support itself.

As digital evolves into its pre-teen years (or perhaps more fittingly, into the toddler stage), these kinds of issues will continue to arise. The reality is that people will pay for content that they respect and enjoy, in any medium. Advertisers will figure out a way to make the ads part of that enjoyment and engagement, or they’ll seek out mediums like print where ads are a welcome part of the experience.

Tragic? Naw, it’s just good old fashioned Business 101.