Commentary

Apple's iOS Content-Blocking Capabilities Causing Ad Agita

The accommodating nature of Apple’s forthcoming iOS9 to ad-blocking apps on its Safari browser is not only upsetting publishers because of what it can do, it’s all the more threatening because it may make the practice of just saying no to being pitched a mainstream practice.

“Apple is going to create a massive consumer appetite for blocking ads,” Sean Blanchfield, CEO of PageFair, which tracks ad blocking and displays “non-intrusive” ads to those who do so, tells the Wall Street Journal’s Daisuke Wakabayashi and Jack Marshall. 

“About 6% of global Internet users employ ad blockers, according to an August report by PageFair and Adobe Systems,” Wakabayashi and Marshall report in a story that echoes the cries of alarm voiced on a number of tech-oriented sites over the past few weeks. “That report said 198 million users ran ad blockers in June 2015, up 40% from a year earlier.”

And, points out an RTT News piece, “Apple's move is also seen as a threat to rival Google, which makes more money from Internet advertising than any other company. Apple already allows ad blockers on its Safari browser for personal computers.”

“Those missed ads, usually accomplished with the help of Ad Block Plus, are effectively lost business,” P.J. Bednarski pointed out in an Online Video Daily post on Friday. “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.’” 

But the appeal to consumers goes beyond the mere avoidance of a disruptive video in the middle of a compelling analysis of Miley Cyrus’ performance at the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards. Those smartphone pitches “eat into data plans badly enough that snipping out ads seems a thrifty thing to do,” Bednarski points out.

“Don't Call Them Ad Blockers!” because that’s not all they do, Sarah Perez instructs us on Tech Crunch. “As Apple explains on its Developer Site, content blocking also lets you block ‘cookies, images, resources, pop-ups and other content.’ That means things like autoplay videos can be blocked, as well as invisible tracking scripts that follow you around the web, comprising your privacy unknowingly.”

But, writes Farhat Sadoor Ahmed on Cheat Sheet, there could be a downside for consumers, too.

“If your favorite sites lose the information that they rely on to make effective changes, or make informed decisions about how to create new features or content for their user base, you could absolutely see the effects,” he writes. “Similarly, if your favorite ad-supported publishers can’t respond effectively to suddenly losing the opportunity to serve ads to iOS users, you could absolutely see sites scaling back or even shutting down.”

More than that, “content blocking may also benefit Apple's upcoming News application that will be bundled in the upcoming iOS 9,” writes Sumit Passary for Tech Times. “The Apple News app will include articles from many news publishers such as Daily Mail, The Atlantic, Time Inc. and more. Online advertisers may be forced to advertise directly via an app such as the Apple News app. Apple will get a part of the revenue, which is generated by selling the ads.”

In an academic piece re-published on Lifehacker yesterday, David Glance, the director of the Center for Software Practice at University of Western Australia, feels this is just fine for sites that are not only “annoying” but also exploit people’s privacy. And he names names: Google, Facebook, Yahoo and others.

“Most users don’t necessarily mind being provided with information that allows them to make a reasoned choice about a product when they have decided to buy it. But advertising that tries to persuade a consumer to buy something they weren’t considering buying is a different matter,” he says. “Once advertisers do more of the former and less of the latter, perhaps ad blocking will no longer be necessary.”

It’s hard to imagine returning to a halcyon world, even before the days of “Skip Ad,” where consumers only saw advertising that they wanted to see, isn’t it?

3 comments about "Apple's iOS Content-Blocking Capabilities Causing Ad Agita".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics, August 31, 2015 at 10:34 a.m.

    I wonder where TV would be if major TV set manufacturers included ad blockers in their receivers so viewers could automatically avoid TV commercials---even if they had to put up with blank screens everytime a break ocurred? Perhaps the manufacturers could provide more interesting "content"---say mini-documentaries about important societal and educational issues---to fill these voids? Another possibility is that the set automatically changes channels---to a pre-set list determined by the viewer--- whenever an ad break came on, then returnes to the original channel when the break ended.

  2. Randall Tinfow from CLICK-VIDEO LLC, August 31, 2015 at 3:58 p.m.

    I don't watch much TV, following the advice of a Time-Warner Chairman who said, "That (stuff) rots your brain."  When I do, the ads often have more entertainment value than the shows.

  3. Keith Huntoon from LiftEngine, August 31, 2015 at 6:12 p.m.

    Agreed Ed, those are certainly options.  Another one for you: what if the manufactures instead showed advertisements they sold instead of the networks/providers?  Technically, it's all possible.

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