Block Ads - Security Concept

The majority of people that use ad blockers claim that it’s about avoiding overly-intrusive and ads that clog up – and slow down – their web experience.  We may get a chance to see if that’s true, or whether it’s just a more politically correct way of saying I don’t want any ads at all.

Facebook is taking steps to make sure you see the ads on its stream whether you want to or not.

You can understand why they would want to do that.  It’s the same with any publisher.  Ads bring in the dollars and without the dollars, well, there isn’t anything else.  Facebook ad revenues topped $6.44 billion in the second quarter of 2016 alone, a 59% increase over last year’s 2Q.

In its 10-K filing with the SEC, Facebook admitted that ad blockers are a significant problem that, if unaddressed, could disrupt its financial future.

Technologies have been developed, and will likely continue to be developed, that can block the display of our ads, particularly advertising displayed on personal computers. We generate substantially all of our revenue from advertising, including revenue resulting from the display of ads on personal computers. Revenue generated from the display of ads on personal computers has been impacted by these technologies from time to time. As a result, these technologies have had an adverse effect on our financial results and, if such technologies continue to proliferate, in particular with respect to mobile platforms, our future financial results may be harmed. – Facebook 10-K filing with the SEC

ad blockers 2016Ad blockers have grown rapidly in the past year.  While it’s tough to get an accurate figure, CBS News this week put the number at 63 million users on PCs and 20.7 million users on smartphones.  That represents 26.3% of all internet users in the U.S.

eMarketer puts the figure at 86.6 million US ad block users, representing 32% of all internet users.

The biggest growth of ad blockers has come in mobile devices – which represents 84% of Facebook’s total ad dollars due to an 81 percent increase in mobile use on Facebook in the last year.

So it’s not blocking ads.  It’s about blocking “annoying ads”

When we asked people about why they used ad blocking software, the primary reason we heard was to stop annoying, disruptive ads – Andrew Bosworth, Facebook VP, Ads & Business Platform

An August study of 2,000 adults by Ipsos said much the same thing.  “The main reasons cited for using ad blockers include avoiding disruptive ads (69%), ads that slow down their browsing experience (58%) and security / malware risks (56%),” reported the study’s authors.

Facebook already includes ways to manage the ads that show up in its feed.  They’re not the easiest thing to navigate, but they are there.

Extortion Money?

Says ad blocking companies have approached Facebook about unblocking ads on its service… for a fee.  In other words, customers that use certain ad blockers get their ads blocked… unless one of the big companies has paid them to let the ads sneak through.  Sounds like a racket to me.

Some ad blocking companies accept money in exchange for showing ads that they previously blocked — a practice that is at best confusing to people and that reduces the funding needed to support the journalism and other free services that we enjoy on the web.  – Andrew Bosworth, Facebook VP, Ads & Business Platform

Combined ad spend on Facebook and Google claimed 64% of the digital ad spend in the US in 2015, according to Bloomberg.  For Google, it’s more about paid search – a service users don’t want blocked.  That means Facebook has the most to lose when it comes to ad blockers.