For marketers and publishers battling ad blocking tech, mobile had been seen as the last safe haven where audiences weren't installing the software. But now, Apple is putting a kibosh on mobile ads, introducing ad blocking tools to Safari with the new iOS 9.
Ad blocking software is has become a major concern for marketers and publishers alike. PageFair and Adobe's 2015 Ad Blocking Report found ad blocking software has cost almost $22 billion in lost ad revenue so far this year. Meanwhile, research from Genesis Media uncovered that compared to 24% respondents reporting using the software on home and work computers, only 3% using ad blockers on mobile devices.
The upcoming iOS 9 software update will make it so that the mobile version of the Safari browser will join its desktop counterpart with ad-blocking capabilities pre-installed, at least on Apple products.
Publishers and others face significant issues with blocked ads
In a PC Magazine opinion piece titled, “Apple iOS 9 Ad-Blocking Explained (And Why It's a Bad Move),” features editor Eric Griffith writes, “Blocking ads on our site, for example, directly impacts the bottom line — and puts our site, our staff, and our future at risk. The same goes for thousands of sites, including big names like The New York Times and Fox News. These large outlets have a huge audience, yet still make a pittance online, so imagine the outcome for a bunch of smaller, online-only venues.”
Publishers aren’t the only affected party. They might be losing revenue from ads, but marketers whose ads get blocked aren’t reaching their desired audience. And the most affected party might just be ad networks. Griffith points out that Google makes 90% of its revenue via ads, and both Facebook and Microsoft have ad networks that will take a hit when Apple users start blocking ads on their mobile browsers.
Griffith also points out that Apple iAds won’t be affected by the move because Apple doesn’t create browser ads, but instead develops for iOS apps a mobile venue that won’t be hit by the ad blocking issue.
And you can rest assured that Apple users and developers will be taking advantage of this new capability. There are already tutorials, such as this Hacking with Swift article that promises to show how to write a content blocker extension in 10 minutes.
Google is poised to be hard hit by iOS ad blockers
A Macworld article outlined just how much Apple’s move might affect Google citing a Goldman Sachs estimate that 75% of Google’s mobile search ad revenue comes from ads served on iOS devices, mostly because of a billion-dollar deal between the companies making Google the default search engine on iOS.
The article highlighted Apple CEO Tim Cook taking on unnamed tech companies that rely on data-mining to grab Apple users' information and sell it to marketers for more personalized and targeted ads. It went unsaid and understood that three of those unnamed tech companies were Google, Facebook and Yahoo. Cook said, “You might like these so-called free services, but we don’t think they’re worth having your email or your search history or now even your family photos data-mined and sold off for God knows what advertising purpose. And we think someday, customers will see this for what it is.”
An outlook for the ongoing impact of ad-blocking tech
Apple’s move should concern publishers, marketers and platform serving ads, but the problem is clearly not going away. One issue allowing users to block ads is a privacy concern – should publishers and marketers be able to dictate user experiences if those users want to block ads? At the same time, as outlined by Griffith in the PC Mag piece, a lot of content on the web is subsidized by advertising. Publishers may have conditioned viewers that content is going to be free, but when those ads get blocked it’s one more revenue hurdle for online publishers.
Harry Kargman, founder and chief executive of mobile ad company Kargo, told The Wall Street Journal, “The phenomenon of ad blockers hasn't been as critical or problematic to my business because for the most part they haven’t been that effective in blocking advertising in mobile. That’s changing now, which is going to put additional strain on monetization for publishers.”
Echoing the new world of mobile ad blocking, Jason Kint, chief executive of Digital Content Next, a digital publishing trade association, also told WSJ, “The ad-blocking problem is real and growing, and ad-blocking on iOS is only going to accelerate it.”
And to some extent, publishers relying on mobile ads, and ad platforms such as Google’s ad network, which is gaining such a large portion of its mobile revenue from iOS, will just have to wait for the new iOS 9 to officially roll out. Until then, how many ad blocking extensions are out there in the App Store and how many Apple users decide to take advantage of the new mobile browsing option will remain a looming uncertainty.