It’s Easy Being a Blockhead, Everyone is Doing It!

Digital ads go “pop” all day long on my PC, phone, and tablet. If you’re lazy, like me, you can’t avoid them. I just quickly close them and move on. But I’m making an early New Year’s resolution and going to install whatever is necessary between now and the holidays to keep them off my screens. I will join the legions who block digital ads. stop

Adblocking has become a big deal in the digital world and, in turn, a big deal for advertisers and their agencies. Digital advertising, easily the industry’s fastest growing and most cherished channel, is now in an almost daily ‘feint and parry’ duel with software programs, readily available to all who dig a bit; such programs are among the most popular apps available on the Apple AppStore.

As of last summer, over 43 million people in the U.S. alone blocked ads, according to Pagefair. This, they report, is about fifteen percent of all users. Germany, albeit a smaller country than the U.S., report nearly a quarter of all internet users block ads. The U.S., in fact, lags most industrialized countries. Greece, a country with a lot of work to do on other pressing issues, reports nearly forty percent block ads. Forty percent! The industry, it appears, has a lot to address.

For a while, ad blockers were only able to address what is referred to as the “open web,” or those parts of the web, like Google, open to all and relying on third-party networks for advertising. Networks that were “closed” and those one has to sign up for to view, like Facebook, were walled to ad blockers. Hence, Facebook and the like were freely able to advertise to their community sans ad blockers – an obvious advantage over open sites when enticing advertisers. But now it appears some ad blockers, applying a software tweak here and there, are dueling back and forth with closed sites. The pace is becoming frantic, for the prizes are large.

Closed sites have, until now, boasted content free unwanted advertising. Do we remember the days when such sites were absent of advertising? A distant memory. The trick now has been offering users relevant ad in synch with the narrative of their online experience. But now with the ability to block ads, the consumer can disrupt this model of rich content and related paid ads completely.

Over the past decade the advertising industry has readily embraced the digital world as its growth engine. The term “disruption” is now a well-worn term to address consumer interface with communications and messaging. Unfortunately for them, it appears consumers are readily embracing their choice to act and turn their back on such disruption, thereby disrupting the advertisers themselves.

While the future remains uncertain, it’s safe to say it will be a rocky road. Like most things in life I believe there needs to be a happy medium. Michael Rosenwald wrote in the Columbia Journalism Review “publishers must make money” but at the same time “the reader must not be overly annoyed.” It’s walking this ‘razor’s edge’ that’s going to be tricky in a world where the lines of editorial and paid content blur. Stay tuned!

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