Ad blocking rates hit 20% in Europe and the US

Up to a fifth of all online ads served in Europe and the US are proactively blocked by web users, with the number of global ad blocking software users now approaching 200 million, according to research.

The statistics were presented yesterday (30 July) by digital entrepreneur Ben Barokas, chief executive of Sourcepoint, at an event hosted at the IAB (Internet Advertising Bureau), where he gave an early glimpse at the yet-to-be published research from his outfit and online measurement firm ComScore.

Barokas, who co-founded supply-side platform (SSP) Admeld before selling it to Google for $400m in 2011, explained to attendees that 11.2 per cent of UK web users proactively installed ad blocking software on their devices – a higher rate than in the US, but not as high as the rates in France and Germany.

Sourcepoint and ComScore are set to publish the full findings of the study – which draws its conclusions by observing the behaviours of millions of web users, to help the online advertising industry better understand the impact of online ad blocking software such as Adblock Plus – in September, to coincide with the Dmexco conference in Germany.

Early conclusions of the research found that ad block software users consume up to 21 per cent more content compared to those that do not, with 22.9 per cent of those aged 18-24, and 14.1 per cent of those aged 25-34 (age groups collectively termed as “millennials") blocking ads served to them online.

The problem of ad blocking is more likely to affect online publishers trying to appeal to the ‘millennial male demographic’ – for instance online audiences interested in online gaming – as those audiences are more likely to install such software, according to Barokas.

He further explained that the potential growing scale of content blocking – ie ad blocking – given the upcoming iOS9 update from iPhone manufacturer Apple, which further accelerated the need to address the situation.

However, Barokas did note the end-user benefits of installing ad blocking software, noting how it can improve the online consumer experience as it means webpages are often quicker to load, due to online ads taking up so much bandwidth.

He hastened to add, however, that many ad block providers – such as AdBlock Plus provider Eyeo – are engaging in “blackmail and extortion” as they detract from the monetary reward that ad funded publishers deserve for providing web audiences with content.

Ad blocking is a “binary solution to a nuanced problem", born out of the aggressiveness of advertisers to push advertising, according to Barokas, who added that a clearer articulation of the value exchange between publishers and web audiences is needed.

Formerly, ad funded businesses did not have to articulate the value exchange to consumers, but now the possibility of online ad blocking means that ad funded media owners have to start doing this with consumers, he added.

Sourcepoint and Comscore are set to publish the full findings of their study in September. This will follows an IAB UK and YouGov study published last month which found that 15 per cent of online Britons use ad blocking software.

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