By Todd Crawford on September 22, 2015
Apple just released their latest software for the iPhone and iPad – iOS 9. Notable in this release was the support for ad blocking apps. When ad blocking is enabled it removes ads from websites, videos and apps from your mobile devices. In general, people tend to dislike ads, often finding them disruptive to the mobile experience. Just like when watching TV, people prefer to skip the ads or at least fast forward through them. With online ads, instead of skipping them, they simply disappear from view. An additional benefit of never seeing these ads is it also reduces your data and battery usage on your mobile device.
Apple’s iOS 9 release doesn’t mark the first availability of ad blocking technology. Android also supports ad blocker apps, and desktop computers have had ad blocking built into anti-virus software, browsers, browser extensions, and stand alone ad blocker software for several years now.
I always find it odd that companies that rely on advertising sell or enable ad blocking – effectively shrinking their marketing footprint. If I use an ad blocker you can’t advertise to me. Apple itself probably spends close to $1 billion on advertising across TV and the Internet. The argument for ad blocking is that the people that use them aren’t the advertiser’s targeted customer or are not online shoppers so there’s really no harm done. Another point is that a lot of kids will use these apps and they don’t have the disposable income that adults do, so the impact will be minimal. Unfortunately that’s not really the case.
The Internet is, for the most part, free. Most of the websites and apps you use on a daily basis provide all of their content for free. Think about ESPN, YouTube, Huffington Post, etc. How can these sites afford to provide all of this content for free? Advertising of course! If enough people enable ad blocking, then advertisers will be less likely to buy ads online since no one can see them. If less ad revenue is earned by the sites providing free content, then there are only two outcomes: start charging for the content or shut down the websites.
Many apps are free but ad supported, meaning you get the app for free but must endure ads periodically. If enough people use ad blockers, app developers will end up charging for the apps or stop developing them completely since they can’t make money.
To illustrate this point, the developer of the number one ad blocker (Peace) in the Apple AppStore pulled the app and offered users a refund stating, “It just doesn’t feel good.” He explained his choice saying, “While they do benefit a ton of people in major ways, they also hurt some, including many who don’t deserve the hit.”
Right now it is a wait and see game as to whether these ad blocking apps make a significant dent in online ad revenues. I don’t think they will. Besides, I personally like ads, but hey, I am in the business. What are your thoughts on ad blocking and its potential effects on consumers, marketers and publishers?