40% of UK consumers use ad blockers, finds Reuters study

Four in ten (39 per cent) of UK Internet users use ad-blocking technology to curb the number of promotions they see while browsing as they become increasingly dissatisfied with the types of ads on show, according to a new study.

It’s not surprising then that many publishers are “abandoning the old models in favour of new ‘native’ advertising or sponsored content”, according to Reuters Digital News Report. Consumers are becoming more apathetic to online ads and increasingly searching for ways to screen them out of their experience, the report concluded, which is part of a fundamental shift in how they interact with brands online.

A third (39 per cent) of people in the UK say they ignore ads, while in the US the figure was slightly slower at 30 per cent. Around three in ten (31 per cent) consumers in the UK said they actively avoid sites where ads interfere with the content. In the US, one in two consumers do the same thing and nearly half (47 per cent) of them revealed they now use ad blocking software.

Ad blocker use is on the rise; so much so that some publishers have already tried and failed to get them banned due to concerns the technology could slash revenues. Apple will allow ad blocker software to be installed on iPhones later this year, while several telecommuuncations firms are tipped to introduce the service in an attempt to wrestle revenues away from publishers and the likes of Facebook and Google.

Publishers aren't giving up their share of the ad pie without a fight. Indeed, many will be watching with the interest the development of a service which promises to take the fight to ad blockers - unveiled earleir this week.

It spotlights the urgency around publishers' attempts to make display ads more engaging with reveneus from them plummeting. And yet alternatives models such as native advertising are still short of providing the silver bullet to elevating consumer interest in online promotions.

A third or more of those surveyed in the UK and US admitted they have felt disappointed or deceived after reading an article they later found had been sponsored. More than half said they don’t like sponsored content but accept this is part of how they get free news, while over a quarter feel less positively about the news publisher as a result of sponsored content or native advertising.

It shows why the likes of the Financial Times, Guardian and the New York Times are now pinning their commercial hopes on deeper, more integrated partnerships with brands, which newer publishers such as Vice and Vox have built from the ground up around.

The importance of creating ads that people want to click on is compounded by the lack of takeup of paid online content. Publishers, particularly over the last 18 months, have tested numerous strategies to convince younger readers to pay for a subscription though the sheer breadth of channels they consume news from has made it difficult to build that loyalty.

In the UK, just 6 per cent are paying for news, while in the US this figure rises to 11 per cent. However, these figures do hide some interesting trends that could give publishers food for thought.

Almost three quarters (71 per cent)) of the way UK consumers now pay for news now is through an ongoing subscription (digital only or print and digital), compared to the one-off payment method that was most popular four years ago, according to the report. It means the average yearly spend has risen to £10 a month, which is twice the amount spent on online news in Spain where there is a higher preference for one-of payments.

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Seb Joseph

Hi, I'm the news editor at The Drum. Give me a shout if you have any questions about our news coverage or would like to pitch in a story.

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