Another party has come forward to weigh in: A U.K.-based startup called Deliberate Digital, which is privately testing a service called Adblock Analytics with sites of various sizes and audiences around the world.
Pierre Far, the company’s founder, says many ad blockers can be configured (if not by default) to also block third-party analytics such as Google Analytics. He says his product Adblock Analytics measures this. “Based on the data of early users so far, analytics blocking is a huge problem for some sites and some countries,” Far told RTBlog that the analytics blocking rate is more than 10% in Germany, the Netherlands and France. The service can generate data by country and device type.
Part of what Far’s company is doing is trying to make sure that the pipeline measures ad and analytics blocking accurately in a way that is not itself blocked. He also said he fully agrees with GroupM’s assessment that the industry as a whole is lacking hard, accurate facts about ad and content blocking.
What stake does Far have? He’s not a publisher or an ad network, and doesn't sell anti-ad-blocker services, although he concedes that his code could be modified by his customers to do so. Deliberate Digital’s main source of revenue is derived from digital marketing consulting. His company has no accreditation.
Far makes a bold claim: that content blocking is actually a much larger issue than ad blocking. For example, third-party analytics are blocked by default by some content blockers, and Adblock Plus, the most popular ad blocker, can be configured to do so using the EasyPrivacy list. “This means publishers get a double whammy: Not only is the user not seeing an ad, the user is not even showing up in the analytics data,” Far says. When his clients tell him they’re losing traffic, he asks: “Is it really fewer people visiting the site or is it the fact that the analytics aren’t measuring them?”
The EasyList includes analytics providers like Google Analytics, Cicky and Sitecatalyst. The list is easily enabled in any Adblock Plus installation. Other blockers use it as well. Far says that while the newer, more privacy-focused content blockers like Ghostery and Disconnect.me are a small part of consumers’ mindshare, in aggregate, they are a significant addition to the threat posed by Adblock Plus.
Far argues that many tracker-blocking lists and browser extensions also block site functionality. For example, the teenage sexual health charity called Brook (which isn’t Far’s client) has a Web chat function to give teenagers support called Ask Brook. It uses a third-party chat service that’s blocked by tracker blockers. This is a disservice: When someone is in the most distress and in need of help, the browser may fail them.