One of the big stories right now is the dramatic increase in the usage of ad blockers. As someone who earns a living by providing free content in exchange for advertising, this is a trend I’m paying quite a bit of attention to. If you’re an affiliate marketer, online advertiser, blogger, or website owner, you should definitely be aware of how these ad blockers will be impacting our industry in the near future. In fact, ad blockers are already impacting our industry.
How Popular Are Ad Blockers?
The most popular ad blocker is called AdBlock. This ad blocker is an extension that can be added onto most of the major web browsers. AdBlock boasts that it has had over 50,000,000 downloads to date (and climbing fast). Over the past few years, the impact due to AdBlock and other ad blockers has been rather limited because people weren’t using these blocking programs on their mobile and tablet devices. That is all changing. As time goes on, we may even see browsers, tablets, and smartphones come pre-programmed with ad blockers installed. At that point, ad blockers will quickly have a huge impact on anyone who uses online advertising (whether as an advertiser or publisher). In 2015, it is expected that approximately $20 billion will be lost due to ad blocking technology. That number will continue to climb.
How Do Ad Blockers Work?
Admittedly, I am not the most technical individual, so I can’t give you a very technical answer. In short, however, most ads such as Google Adsense are hosted on servers, just like your website or blog is hosted on a web server. These ad blockers essentially prohibit your computer from accessing the ad servers, and thus, they are never displayed. They also have the ability to block your browsing history from potential advertisers and skip right through video ads such as the advertisements you see on YouTube.
Why Ad Blockers Have Become So Popular
Unfortunately, the online advertising industry has nobody to blame but themselves for the rise in ad blocking technology. While many of us advertise in ways that aren’t overly obtrusive, there are far too many companies and individuals who use advertising methods that have ruined it for the rest of us. Anything from auto-play videos to pop-overs to malware infested landing pages to exploitation of privacy and more… Ads have become such an annoyance around the web that people are simply fed up with it. The browsing public is deciding en-mass that they won’t stand for it anymore. They are no longer willing to put up with free content in exchange for advertising.
How Content Publishers Will Fight Back
We are just in the beginning stages of an epic battle that is to come between advertisers and ad blockers. Those who install ad blockers are enjoying all the free content on the web without providing a means for those content creators to earn any revenues. Once ad blockers reach critical mass, we will see a couple of things happen. First, we will see the free content industry dwindle down. Many bloggers and website owners will stop creating content. Quite simply, there are not a lot of people who are willing to work for free. Those who rely on ad revenues will lose all incentive to keep their websites and blogs going. We will also see free content sites begin to restrict access from people using ad blockers.
One way some websites will fight back is by blocking access to those using ad blockers. Instead of seeing the free content, users may only see a small excerpt and be asked to whitelist the site in their ad blocker in order to view the remainder of the content. Others may be asked to perform some other task like join a mailing list or join a social media page in order to see the content. We may also see a rise in “micro purchases” where those using ad blockers can opt to pay 50 cents to a few dollars in order to view the content. Some content publishers may also begin requiring memberships in order to view ad-free content.
It is also likely that content publishers will begin to rely on alternative forms of compensation. Affiliate marketers may begin to create and sell their own products. In-text ads may become more common as banner and pop-up ads are eliminated. We might even see a rise in embedded advertising methods (this post is brought to you by Pepsi!).
However, in the end, we are all still in a “wait and see” mode. Rest assured, things will change and that change is on the horizon. What exactly the change will be remains to be seen.
Are Ad Blockers Legal?
I believe in the next few years we will see some court battles over the legality of ad blockers as it pertains to copyright infringement. The argument is, if I create a website and place ads on the site, it cannot be altered. It’s my work, my site, and my ads, so if someone alters my content, they are infringing on my copyright. Whether this will stand up in court is something that remains to be seen, but the odds are stacked against publishers. Courts have already ruled in favor of other ad skipping techniques such as DVR’s for televisions where you can simply skip over the ads. That has been deemed legal and that will likely hold up for online ad blockers as well. With that said, there are some big companies such as Google who have billions of dollars that can be lost due to ad blocking technology. I doubt they will go down without a fight.
A HUGE Opportunity Is On The Horizon!
Many in the online publishing or advertising field are very nervous about ad blockers. While I think the tension is warranted, we also must realize that there is an tremendous opportunity at hand here. Most people like the free exchange of information on the web and they are willing to put up with some advertising here and there in order to get all of that information for free. The issue is HOW people are being advertised to. They don’t like being tracked, they don’t like being forced to watch an ad, they don’t like pop-ups, they don’t like how ads slow down their connections and eat up bandwidth, etc. If people don’t like being advertised to in that way, then we need to find alternate ways to advertise or earn revenues. I don’t claim to have all the answers, but just because things are changing doesn’t mean all is lost. Publishers will find a way to profit and the public will find ways to obtain information for free or at a very low cost. There is simply a re-organization going on here. Don’t fight it – just keep an eye on the trends and get in on the massive opportunity that is about to exist. Anytime there is a major shift in the industry there are those who give up and those who cease the opportunity to jump on a new trend. The internet is a fast changing place. The only thing that remains constant is constant change, so just roll with the punches and allow your business model to navigate the twists and turns, just like it’s always been for online business owners.
As A Publisher, What Should You Do Right Now?
Ad blockers are becoming more of an issue with each passing day, but you need to be patient here. We don’t know yet how these ad blockers will change the way the web works. Change is certainly coming (it always is), but don’t make the mistake of taking drastic measures before drastic measures need to be taken. You don’t want to be the guinea pig here, especially as a small publisher. Let major publishers such as newspapers and other high profit sites experiment first. When they find a new method that probably hasn’t even been thought of yet, you can replicate what they do.
My advice is almost always the same no matter what changes are occurring in the industry… you must DIVERSIFY! If you want your business to be sustainable long-term, you can’t rely solely on one form of revenue. Sure, affiliate marketing is my bread and butter, but I also use display ads and also sell my own products and services across a dozen or so websites. If you aren’t diversified right now, you should consider moving in that direction.
This year (2015) has been my most profitable year with both affiliate marketing and Adsense display ads, even with the dramatic rise in ad blocking technology. We’ll see what next year brings, but one thing is for certain – I’m not scared one bit. This industry NEEDS a change. We don’t need to use the annoying advertising methods that have begun dominating the web. I, for one, will embrace the change. I’ve said it many times – If you are able to get 1,000 unique targeted visitors to your website each day, there will always be a way to monetize that. What the future holds may be better and more ethical than this industry has ever seen before.