Apple’s Support of Ad Blocking Shocks Industry

ios-9Buried in the fine print at last week’s Apple developer conference (WWDC) was some industry-shaking news: The next version of iOS will let users block ads on their iPhones and iPads.

“What this means is, when iOS 9 launches in the fall, you’ll be able to go to the App Store and download an extension that will block ads on most news sites,” explains Nieman Labs’ Joshua Benton, who analyzed the developer document for this fall’s release.

To digital advertisers already struggling with attention and ROI, this is business-model-altering news.

“If ad blockers for iOS 9 attract the same sort of popularity as desktop web ad blockers, it could be a devastating blow for publishers and advertisers looking to reach a growing mobile audience,” writes Mark Hoelzel in Business Insider.

Why would they do this? Because they want to own their customers’ experience online, according to Wired’s Julia Greenberg, who saw evidence of this at WWDC.

“Apple is trying to pull iPhone and iPad users off the web,” Greenberg says. “It wants you to read, watch, search, and listen in its Apple-certified walled gardens known as apps. It makes apps, it approves apps, and it profits from apps. But, for its plan to work, the company will need those entertainers and publishers to funnel their content to where Apple wants it to be. As the company makes strategic moves to devalue the web in favor of apps, those content creators dependent on ads to stay afloat may be forced to play along with Apple.”

“And yet if more ad blocking does make publishers more dependent on third-party platforms such as Apple News, Facebook Instant Articles, and Snapchat Discover, it could help consolidate those companies’ power as gatekeepers to determine what qualifies as news,” Greenberg continues.

For large publishers that can adjust their business plans quickly, this may be a challenge but survivable. Smaller publishers and content producers, however, are right to be concerned…maybe even freaked out.

“Smaller publishers, bloggers, and niche sites won’t have the clout to get the premium placement or partnership with third parties that future success may demand. Without ads, it’s the little guys that could suffer the most,” Greenberg notes.

Digital marketers are already getting mugged, and many are advocating a return to print for editorial reasons. One more reason to advertise in print? Short of scissors or white-out, you can’t block a print ad.