Mobile Ad Blockers: Who Will Pay The Price? - InformationWeek

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IoT
IoT
Mobile // Mobile Applications
Commentary
10/3/2015
09:05 AM
Larry Loeb
Larry Loeb
Commentary
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Mobile Ad Blockers: Who Will Pay The Price?

A report from the New York Times removes doubt that ad blockers make a difference in the mobile experience, but at what cost?

iOS 9: 10 More Hidden Features To Explore
iOS 9: 10 More Hidden Features To Explore
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

The ad blocking debate is raging on.

Stoking the flames of the controversy is a recent New York Times report that found that, "For a number of websites that contained mobile ads with a lot of data, Web page data sizes decreased significantly and load times accelerated enormously with ad blockers turned on. The iPhone's battery life also improved -- but more modestly -- with ads removed."

The Times used Purify, Crystal, and 1Blocker as the test apps while viewing ads on 50 of the most popular news sites from an iPhone.

Incidentally, ad blocking is a misnomer. It is really "content blocking" that is under discussion since the mechanism used in the apps can block content of any kind, not just ads.

For example, Fortune recently found that the Crystal app for iPhones caused websites for retailers such as Sears, Walmart, and Lululemon to load with some content missing or prevented customers from adding items to their shopping carts.

(Image: Ellica_S/iStockphoto)

(Image: Ellica_S/iStockphoto)

Long available for desktop Web browsers, the content blocking support present in Apple's recently released iOS 9 has targeted the fastest growing segment of Web browsing -- mobile.

While there has been much discussion lately on how this technology will impact the business models currently in use on the Web, hard data about its effects has been lacking.

But the Times report has helped change that.

One of the sites the paper tested for its report was Boston.com. The testers found that with ads, the home page on average measured 19.4 megabytes. When ads were removed using Crystal or Purify, it measured 4 megabytes. On a 4G network, this meant that the page took 39 seconds to load with ads and eight seconds to load without ads.

Another site -- the home page of the Los Angeles Times -- measured 5.7 megabytes with ads. After filtering the ads, it dropped to 1.6 megabytes with Crystal and 1.9 megabytes with Purify and 1Blocker. On the same 4G network, that page took 11 seconds to load with ads and four seconds to load without the ads.

[Read more about ad blocking.]

However, not all sites showed the same degree of improvements.

The Times found that BuzzFeed.com came in at 3.8 megabytes and took eight seconds to load with no content blocker. Enabling Crystal caused it to measure 2.9 megabytes and six seconds for loading.

MSN.com measured 2 megabytes with ads, taking four seconds to load. When ads were removed with Purify, it measured 1.8 megabytes, and the loading time remained the same.

So, content-blocking effects were a product of how stuffed the sites were with ads and how heavy the individual ads were. While there was a 21% increase in battery life while using the apps, it only applies to time spent on Web browsing.

These results may show the way out of the blocking conundrum for publishers. They must find a way to enable only light-weight ads, ones that will not impair load times or inflate the data size of their pages.

By making the need for the content-blocking apps less urgent -- or getting sites exempted by a blocker's whitelisting -- through featuring user-friendly advertising, publishers may yet save their business models and prosper.

Larry Loeb has written for many of the last century's major "dead tree" computer magazines, having been, among other things, a consulting editor for BYTE magazine and senior editor for the launch of WebWeek. He has written a book on the Secure Electronic Transaction Internet ... View Full Bio
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larryloeb
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larryloeb,
User Rank: Author
10/6/2015 | 5:13:06 PM
And in breaking news...
An IOS 9 app called Been is touting that in can block in-app ads; such as iAds and the ones found on Facebook.

Apps have never been blocked before this product, and we shall see how loud the screaming gets now.
larryloeb
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larryloeb,
User Rank: Author
10/6/2015 | 5:03:30 PM
Re: Dilemma
Usually, the advertiser pays if the ad is served to the requesting site.

A blocker stops it from being served, so no charge for the advertiser should be incurred.
Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
10/6/2015 | 4:29:16 PM
Re: Dilemma
I don't use my phone for surfing much but the thought of an mobile ad blocker is interesting. I wonder if the advertiser still gets credit even though the ad was blocked ?
Joe53773
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Joe53773,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/6/2015 | 12:29:53 PM
Cable vs Broadcast?
If we take the example that cable television has provided then I believe some users would be glad to pay a fee to a web portal in order to block and/or moderate ads and other unwanted content for them.

Even if a user were not able to access a desired page, then it would be the users choice to open that pathway either by allowing one time access or using an alternate portal to gain access.

I think this would bring about a similiar balance between desired content and targeted marketing that has been achieved with broadcast television to stay competitive.
DennisB098
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DennisB098,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/6/2015 | 12:25:11 PM
Adblockers and the current business model
It's really quite simple.

Provide advertising that doesn't load down the systems accessing the website, advertising that doesn't carry malware, advertising that's actually useful to the website visitors, and the advertising won't be as likely to be blocked. In other words, provide advertising that's not so different from text-heavy pages. Multimedia, dancing baloney, all the rest - I'll block it, or I'll refrain from visiting your website.

There's very little on the internet that is essential to my daily life. The advertisers are visitors to the screen I use - my personal space, as it were - and visitors who don't know how to behave are and will continue to be either ejected or refused entry outright.
larryloeb
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larryloeb,
User Rank: Author
10/5/2015 | 8:33:40 PM
Re: Dilemma
If the whitelisting is unacceptable to users, they wont use the blocker. 

AdBlocker is finding this out.

But you have a gppd idea hding there. Companies may pay users somehow NOT to block their ads.

Maybe a discount, maybe  bitcoin tips. Something.
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
10/5/2015 | 8:08:30 PM
Re: Dilemma
Yes, the second way bothers the economy. If companies start paying to be on the "acceptable" list then ad blocker version 2.0 will be marketed to users as the blocker that blocks companies on the "acceptable" list and companies will start paying to be on the "acceptable" list of version 2.0, and so forth. This makes an ad blocker into a micro display network that is more expensive for both the user and producer.

If a user has never experienced a $50 saving on a $500 purchase due to a company's retargeting effort then, yes it would be good to pay $50 for ad blocker software. However, it is a different case if a user has experienced savings.
servnhimusa
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servnhimusa,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/5/2015 | 7:15:28 AM
The Good and the Bad
While I feel the pain for advertisers and businesses, I have to say that end user was getting bamboozled by the fact that the ads were eating up their cell data.  Unless one has Sprint or T-Mobile, users have to be ever vigilent on making sure they did not go over their data allotments with AT&T or Verizon.  Example, I tested AT&T for a week and I burned through 2GB of data in 3 days.  I did not do anything out of the ordinary or change anything I was doing that I did with my previous carrier.  What I did notice is that when I installed the Ad-blocking features on my device, my data consumption went down.

If the industry wants to have ads, then the carriers need to either increase data allotments for their customers or find a means of makning ads mobile-data friendly.
larryloeb
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larryloeb,
User Rank: Author
10/5/2015 | 5:52:08 AM
Re: Dilemma
> I wonder how an ad blocker is monetized.

Pay the guy that wrote it to get it.

The Adblocker Plus approach: Companies pay them to be on the "acceptable" list.

 

I find the second way to be extortion, btw. Does it bother you?
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
10/5/2015 | 2:10:54 AM
Re: Dilemma
Agreed, the ad industry should create high standards that are acceptable by consumers. Quality is important and the data size should not create a huge drain on 3G/4G data usage. If customers can view content and gain valuable information in a given data size then, ad content should also be able to deliver their message with similar efficiency.

Advertising is an important function for the marketplace. It is important for both the consumer as well as the producer. Hence, I have not experimented with ad blockers a great deal. I wonder how an ad blocker is monetized.
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