Our Thoughts on iOS 9 Ad Blockers

Apple’s commitment to making user experience as awesome as possible has created the inception of ad blockers. As their namesake suggests, these third-party applications (which can be downloaded from the App Store) block advertisements on the iOS’ browser, Safari.

Advertisements on mobile platforms are highly unappreciated. They slow down pages, chip away on your limited and precious cellular data, and they could sometimes lead to malware-ridden websites. Most of these are made for desktop computers and when they appear on mobile browsers, they take up screen space.

With the launch of iOS 9, Apple has successfully brought ad blockers into the scene – much to numerous publishers’ dismay and to its users’ joy. Peace, an ad blocking app, held the top spot briefly on the most popular paid iPhone apps…

…only to be pulled out by its creator, Marco Arment, citing his app is “hurting some people”, notably web publishers, who rely on ad revenue as their primary source of income. However, other ad blocking apps are still online, giving users a variety of options.

Ad blocking is a touchy issue. There are several sides to this, along with numerous implications. Here’s what we think:

It’ll affect several industries

While a browsing experience devoid of ads is definitely a joy, unknown to many, there are several large-scale industries and parties in which the ad blocking consequences could be dire:

  • Major publishers, like news sites and blogs which heavily rely on ads to gather income.
  • Independent bloggers who rely on it to earn extra money.
  • Programmatic advertising companies.
  • Both large and small e-commerce businesses.
  • Advertisement creators.

Companies in these fields will lose thousands – perhaps millions – of dollars.

For publishers and advertisers, what could this mean?

They might go out of business if they don’t find an alternative source of revenue. A single banner ad on a major publication could cost thousands of dollars – a $2.99 ad blocker could deprive publishers from earning this. Meanwhile, advertising companies, designers, and marketers will likely go out of business, given that their source of income has been eliminated in one fell swoop.

And yes, this will lead to the death of a number of industries, causing people to lose their jobs.

Pay-per-click advertising on search engines could die

Google, Yahoo, Bing and other search engines mostly rely on pay-per-click ads as their main source of income. You will usually see ads on the search page, which is usually listed above the search results.

Ad blocking software could potentially destroy pay-per-click advertising, especially if they block out SERPs. However, Larry Page, doesn’t seem too concerned – he quipped search ads don’t have to be blacklisted because they “are really useful”. He also said “the industry needs to do better at producing ads which are less annoying and are quicker to load”.

There is a need for better ads

Sometimes, your mobile browser looks like Times Square: full of ads.
At some point, your mobile browser looked like Times Square: full of ads.

There are too many suboptimal advertisements online. Some run on Javascript and Flash, which may be incompatible with certain devices. Other ads even use videos (that automatically play) which direly slows down browsers and irritates users. Certain ads use GIFs and animations, increasing your cellular data bill. Worse, some lead to unscrupulous websites, promising weight loss and skin whitening procedures which are all hogwash.

Ideally, ads should be unobtrusive, be trustworthy, and load quickly. Bad ads nowadays are considered a hindrance and are comparable to spam, thus contributing to its negative reputation. The ad industry should put up higher standards without compromising their income and their audience’s browsing experience.

Ad blockers could create a new field

In the digital marketing industry, we talk shop about SEO (search engine optimization), SEM (search engine marketing), and SMO (social media optimization). If these fields exist, why shouldn’t something in the vein of “Online Ad Optimization” be a possibility?

Ad blockers should be selective of the ads they blacklist – after all, not all ads are annoying.

And we’re seeing many examples of ads that actually enhance the online experience – just look at how BuzzFeed has changed the game.

Though this suggestion could be absurd for now, imagine a future wherein only “good ads” exist on the cloud – and this is something publishers, marketers, and ad blockers should consider.

Advertisers should plan…NOW

Although Peace was pulled out of the App Store, there are still dozens of ad blockers up for sale, including Crystal and Purify Blocker. According to TechCrunch, there are more of them in development – this could certainly spell doom for publishers. They, along with other advertisers, should consider investing in other endeavors if this keeps up.

So far, only those who have downloaded ad blockers are “lost audiences”, but if this becomes mainstream, expect it to take a huge toll on the online advertising industry unless we do something about it. And as advertisers ourselves, I advocate that we don’t react in the same way that the RIAA reacted to illegal downloads. Let’s use this as an opportunity to innovate and treat our readers with the respect they deserve.

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