In its first forecast on ad blocking in the U.S., eMarketer found that more than 25% -- 26.3% -- of Internet users will block ads this year. Even more alarming, the digital research firm found that ad blocking in the U.S. is projected to increase by double digits in 2016. In fact, eMarketer forecast that in 2016, 69.8 million Americans will use an ad blocker, an increase of 34.4% over last year. And in 2017, that figure will grow another 24.0%, to 86.6 million people.
The researcher found that ad blocking is more common on desktops and laptops than on smartphones. And this year, 63.2 million people will use an ad blocker on their desktop or laptop PC, vs. 20.7 million who will use one on their smartphone. Furthermore, 90.5% of ad-blocking users will block ads on desktops and laptops, while just 29.7% will do so on smartphones -- eMarketer found an overlap among the groups.
"Ad blocking is more common on desktops and laptops because screen sizes are large enough to accommodate multiple ads. This includes videos that might be out of view but still audible, which are especially annoying to users," stated Paul Verna, senior analyst, eMarketer. "Also, ad blockers typically don't work on apps, where users spend most of their mobile Internet time."
As the use of mobile devices grows, so too will the use of mobile ad blockers, according to eMarketer. The number of people using smartphone ad blockers will jump 62.3% this year, while the number of PC-based ad blocking users will grow 30.1%.
The researcher wasn’t that surprised by the findings. “We’ve been tracking ad blocking rates around the world and noting that in many countries, including the U.S., rates are high enough to cause concern among those who depend on ad monetization,” Verna told Real-Time Daily via email. “We’ve seen research showing that rates have risen over the past year and are expected to continue climbing, so our forecast is in line with those data points.”
What the findings portend for publishers and advertisers is the real question. How alarmed should the entire ecosystem be about these numbers? Verna explained that while ad blocking hinders the entire ad economy, publishers are currently the most affected party. “They’re seeing immediate revenue losses and would be remiss to downplay what amounts to a large-scale rejection of their main monetization model. Marketers, on the other hand, can focus on consumers who aren’t blocking ads or turn to platforms that are less affected by blocking, including mobile apps. But in the long term, all participants in the advertising ecosystem will suffer if consumers continue to ramp up their use of blocking technologies,” Verna said.
Efforts by publishers including Wired, Forbes, and the New York Times, along with new anti-ad-blocking technologies to combat ad blocking and develop new business models, are wise. “Publishers are responding to ad blockers with tactics ranging from gentle prods to refusals of service. One can’t blame them for taking steps to counteract blocking, but these measures risk further alienating customers who are already disaffected,” Verna said.
“It’s particularly challenging for subscription-based news organizations like the New York Times to nudge their readers to disable ad blockers because those readers are already paying for access. In that regard, it wasn’t surprising to see the Times announce a new ad-free subscription tier—naturally higher priced than its current pay wall. Ultimately, the best way to tackle the blocking problem is to deliver ad experiences that users consider compelling—a tall order considering how much damage has already been done. Still, holistic solutions are likely to be more successful than an arms race of technological fixes,” Verna said.