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Ad Blocking Uptake Stablises As Consumers Recognise Need For Adverts

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Necessary evil? Study finds 22 percent of British adults use ad blocking software, as growth stalls

British consumers are reportedly recognising the need for advertising to pay for their continued access to free online content.

That is the conclusion of a new Ad Blocking report from the Internet Advertising Bureau.

It found that the growth of ad blocking software remained at 22 percent of British adults, despite publisher concerns at the potential growth of this technology.

Opera ad block newNo Free Lunch

The IAB’s report also found that ad blocking levels may be lower than the claimed 22 percent, as nearly one fifth of those surveyed who claim to currently use an ad blocker either cited their anti-virus software, or couldn’t identify using a genuine ad blocker.

The IAB thinks the real number of people using an ad blocker could be nearer 18 percent.

And it seems that once people have downloaded an ad-blocker, they tend to stop using the software once websites refuse access.

The report found that one in five adults (21 percent) who originally downloaded ad blockers don’t currently use them.

The biggest reason that people switch off their ad blockers, aside from switching to a new device (24 percent), is not being able to access some content with the blocker installed – 24 percent citing this reason, up from 16 percent a year ago.

The IAB believes that this is because of more widespread consumer understanding of the ‘value exchange’ that ads fund free content (i.e. there is no such thing as a free lunch).

“The continued rise in ad blocking that some predicted simply hasn’t materialised,” said the IAB UK’s CEO Jon Mew. “A key reason is publishers denying access to content to ad blockers which, in effect, has created that ‘lightbulb’ moment for people who realise that they cannot access free content without seeing the advertising that funds it. The industry has worked hard on promoting this ‘value exchange’ and it’s paying off.”

However, publishers were keen to point out that this doesn’t mean a return to the bad old days of annoying pop up adverts constantly littering web pages.

“Like all publishers, we’ll continue our attempts to balance the often competing requirements of what brands and agencies value, with the experience that we would want to deliver for our users in order to invest in professional content,” explained Piers North, strategy director at Trinity Mirror. “This is especially important in an era where advertisers are increasingly demanding quality inventory and society is more and more concerned with the provenance of content and news.”

“Despite the stall in ad blocking, it’s vital the industry doesn’t take its foot off the pedal in working to provide people with a better, lighter and more considerate online advertising experience which will discourage them from blocking ads altogether,” said the IAB’s Mew.

Ad Blocking

Last year the European regulator of electronic communications (Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications or BEREC) issued new guidance that networks cannot offer ad blockers because it would violate net neutrality.

It comes after some network operators, such as EE, were reportedly investigating the possibility of blocking online adverts at a network level.

The government earlier in 2016 suggested it could be prepared to help content creators and publishers in their battle against ad blockers.

And Facebook has previously warned that it plans to override ad blockers, but it promised to give its users more control over what type of advertisements they see on the social network.

People use ad blockers for a number of reasons.

Some believe adverts slow down system performance and reduce battery life, while others hold security fears. A number of advertising networks have been used to launch malvertising attacks in recent times.

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