While nobody can seem to agree on how many people are actually using ad blockers, there is consensus about three things:
- There’s a bunch of people using them.
- The number is growing.
- Publishers are increasingly worried about losing revenue.
A study by Juniper Research estimates that it will cost publishers $27 billion dollars of ad spend by 2020. Whether you believe a number that big isn’t the point of this article, though. We know instinctively that less ad space, and fewer people seeing the ads, leads to less ad revenue.
It also strikes publishers in a different way. Some ad blockers also block information gathering. That means publishers often don’t get credit for a visit, which diminishes their overall reach.
The Social Contract between Publishers and Consumers
We (publishers) give you (consumers) good quality content for free as long as you put up with a few ads. Publishers get money for ads. Advertisers get exposure to consumers. Consumers get content for free. That’s been the unwritten “social contract” that’s been in place since the internet took off.
Lately, though, consumers says the ads are becoming more intrusive and coupled with the fact that it’s eating up data – and mobile customers are paying for data – it’s become more than just a nuisance. It may be costing consumers money.
More Education needed
“I think there’s some education that needs to happen,” said John Dick, CEO and Founder of Civic Science. “Education about the social contract that happens between publisher and customer.”
Civic Science is a Marketing Research company that does polling via some 900 websites, including many of the top news publishers in the country. In a recent webcast, Dick urged publishers to do a better job of education.
“When we asked people if they were concerned about preservation of objective press,” Dick said. “They overwhelmingly said yes.” At the same time, however, Dick said that many of the people that said yes were using ad blockers.
Civic Science recently polled more than 11,000 respondents to try to gauge who is using ad blockers and how they view the world. It turns out there are some very specific differences between those using ad blockers and the general online population. First, ad blocking varies greatly by site category.
The group is more likely to be sports fans, healthy consumers, and politically active. Ad blockers are more likely to be men in the 25-54 years old demo. They’re a little more tech savvy than the general public and often early adopters of technology. Makes sense right?
They also tend to be “highly vocal” on line. In other words, the type that may, as an early adopter, try out new products and tell people about them, but also be more likely to write negative product reviews. And they are more likely to seek out on-line reviews. You know the type – maybe it’s you? As Dick says, “They’re the type that will go to Best Buy to look at TV’s, then go home and buy it on Amazon because they can find it cheaper.”
One of the things that surprised me a bit in the Civic Science study is that ad blockers use social media less than average.
Ad blockers as a group tend to watch less TV overall, but say they are more influenced by advertising on television than on other media. The study points out a logical construct, however: If you’re blocking ads online, you’re not seeing them, but you’re still seeing them on TV. So maybe they’re more impact because you’re seeing less overall advertising.