Commentary

How Blocking Ads On Apple Phones Can Create A Grand Mess

Things seem to be go swimmingly for online video and then, wham! Apple says it is adding the capability of blocking ads on its new Apple iOS 9 phones. Then suddenly, a good portion of the ad universe goes ballistic.

“Apple’s iOS9 Takes Ad Blockers To Dangerous New Heights,” headlines the InfoWorld story by Galen Gruman. A “game-changer” says Apple Insider. “A Potential Nightmare For Publishers,” says the Wall Street Journal.

Actually, as the Website called Hacking with Swift.com notes, the iOS 9 won’t block ads per se. 

“It has announced a new method of filtering data that could, with vast amounts of work, be used to build an ad blocking system,” the Website explains. “Of course, the modern definition of  ‘one man year; is ‘365 Reddit users working overnight’  so even the vast amounts of work might turn out to be trivial if massively crowdsourced – we'll have to see.”

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Apparently, most people assume at the bottom line, ads will be blocked with a few simple adjustments on a phone’s settings, so those iOS 9 users would join up with millions of owners of laptops and even Apple’s iPads already blocking 

Those missed ads, usually accomplished with the help of Ad Block Plus, are effectively lost business. Apple Insider estimates because of it, publishers will lose $21.9 billion in 2015, “a figure that could nearly double to more than $41 billion by 2016.”

As Keith Jackson would say, if he cared, and if he were alive, “Whoa, Nellie!”

There are less than I-hate-advertising reasons for smartphone users to block ads. They eat into data plans badly enough that snipping out ads seems a thrifty thing to do.

With all those existing ad-blocking customers on laptops, mobile seemed to be a safe harbor of sorts--fewer than 2% of mobile ads are blocked.  And what’s more, increasingly, streaming is shifting, massively, from laptops to those little pocket pals that also happen to come shopping with you. In reality, advertisers couldn’t really have a much better platform than a smartphone.

But look out. Already, a quarter of all browsing happens through Apple’s Safari. If it is easy for users to add extensions that shut out ads that could be a mighty blow to publishers and the ad tech companies that serve them. 

Among the victims could also be Ad Block Plus.  

“If iPhone users can switch off all ads across the Web simply by changing the settings on their phone, then a huge portion of Ad Block's customers will be wasting their time with Ad Block,” notes Business Insider.  

The beat goes on. The Next Web.com notes that the same blockers that will stop ads also stops tools like Google Analytics, disallowing publishers and advertisers from knowing all that granular stuff about who’s watching, which is the heart of the business.  “There are hundreds of popular tools that marketing professionals use that could simply cease to be useful if mobile users disappear from their grasp altogether,” TNW warns.

Now, that’s a disruptive development.

pj@mediapost.com

3 comments about "How Blocking Ads On Apple Phones Can Create A Grand Mess".
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  1. J S from Ideal Living Media, August 28, 2015 at 2:57 p.m.

    I would like to see some sort of large-scale response from the ad networks to speed up ads, especially on mobile. The struggle, there, is real.


    And yet, I'd really like to see Apple take less drastic measures -- for instance, automatic blocking of Flash on websites, replacing the flash app's space with a clickable image to run Flash there after all, plus, a setting to choose to always allow Flash on a particular website. The Chrome browser already offers this functionality, which speeds up browsing mightily, while still allowing many ads through, supporting publishers, yet allows sites reliant upon the much-despised Flash to still work. I run it on my desktop browser, and it works very well in those respects.


    Plus, in a bonus for Apple, it would undermine their more-enemy-than-frenemy, Adobe, whereas blocking all ads is a ham-fisted and poorly-conceived concept that will be humiliating for them when they have to inevitably backtrack in the future.

  2. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, August 28, 2015 at 3:25 p.m.

    A grand mess for whom? Consumers get faster speeds without ads. Ask a former travel agent or taxi driver about disruptive change. Advertisers are not exempt.

  3. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, August 30, 2015 at 6:55 p.m.

    For all of those who didn't want to limit the quantity and punch in the face ads and all the rest, this is where you are. it won't get prettier.

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