Stats in a new report from Blockthrough suggest that more than 750 million devices (mobile and computer) were running ad blockers in Q4 2019. The increase is pegged at roughly 64% over the past three years. According to cnet.com, Blockthrough’s CEO believes this means that “15% to 30% of website traffic is using an ad blocker.”
This should surprise no one. Browsing the web sucks. The experience on some sites (you know who you are) is so laden with popups and ad trickery that you literally can’t find the content for the clutter. This is often true even if you’re using an ad blocker. It has been an escalating arms race between users and publishers for quite some time.
Add In Google’s 2 Cents
Google says that a little more than 50% of all web traffic are bots. I believe them. Doing some grade school math, there may be as few as 20% of web users seeing your ad… oh… wait. I forgot to add in ad fraud, ads you pay for but that don’t display (for legitimate technical reasons), and all the viewability issues that persist to this day. Being a bit snarky and doing some more grade school math, maybe 10% of users can possibly see your digital display ad on the web. Pick a number (a low number) and you’ll be about right.
What to do?
There’s no magic bullet; publishers need to treat users with respect. No one wants to deal with the clutter and evil experiences currently provided by mainstream publishers. You’ll never see a link to a story from USA Today (or other sites that torture users) in my newsletter, which is sad; the content at USA Today tends to be great, but the user experience is unacceptable. I don’t mean to pick on them (well, I kind of do), but they are not alone. I could name 50 websites that I don’t visit or publish links to anymore. I’m sure you can, too.
Next, we (the industry) need to do a better job with value exchange. Users are happy to see relevant advertising (even some irrelevant advertising) in exchange for receiving content they value. This concept is as old as the web. However, between bots and ad blockers, publishers are caught in a very powerful vortex. Less real traffic requires more real estate dedicated to ads and ad tricks, which disgusts users… which, in turn, lowers traffic… which, in turn, requires more ad clutter… and on and on. It’s a vicious circle for commercial web publishers, and the problem is clearly getting worse.
What will become of the online blockable display advertising business? If this trend continues at this rate, we’ll see single digit human traffic even eligible to see an ad in the very near future.
None of this is new, and none of this is news, but the Blockthrough report made me think it was time to remind everyone that this problem is getting much worse — which is progress in the wrong direction.
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Author’s note: This is not a sponsored post. I am the author of this article and it expresses my own opinions. I am not, nor is my company, receiving compensation for it.