Ad Blocking Is Decreasing, But Its Impact Is Worse

At first sight, it seems counterintuitive. The AOP is saying that ad-blocking rates are down -- and yet the impact on publisher revenues is getting worse. Sounds off, doesn't it?

Well, the explanation in Campaign probably goes a long way toward answering the riddle. The Association for Online Publishing (AOP) figures are in line with what the IAB UK has been saying for some time. Around one in five desktop users in the UK block ads -- down from nearly one in three just a couple of years ago.

You would imagine that would be great news, and it is. The problem is that overall traffic is increasing at such a rapid pace that the 20% of ad blocking that is occurring is a fifth of a much larger number. That means publishers in the UK are missing out on more than GBP18m per year in lost ad revenue. That's an increase of a third just since 2017.

There is also a suggestion that ad blockers are not acting evenly. For many it is no longer an all-or-nothing scenario.

Many are choosing to filter ads from the worst offenders or to let through ads from selected sites. Those that provide great content and do not overload people with ads are not being blocked as much.

If the quality is there and if a publisher respects visitors enough not to bombard them with messages that cover that great content, people are letting their guard down. 

So we have two things happening here. Although ad-blocking rates are down, the technology's impact is greater because traffic is on the rise. At the same time, the axe does not fall evenly. That is good news for sites offering content that is worth allowing ads through for and really bad news for those that do not. 

One alarm bell that is ringing quietly in the background is mobile ad blocking. Right now, it is tiny at just 2.4%. However, here's the rub -- it has doubled in a year.

It's probably not a cause for huge concern right now, but one would have to ask how many times that rate can keep on doubling before it becomes alarming. As we're seeing with desktop, increases in traffic mean the problem of ad blocking is magnified.

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