IAB report shows growth in ad blocking but finds mobile hasn't taken as big a hit as feared

The prevalence of ad blocking is showing no signs of slowing according to a new report from the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB), which found an additional 1.3 million people have adopted the technology since June, however the uptake on mobile hasn't been the apocolypse which some predicted.

Five months ago 15 per cent of web users in the UK admitted to using the service and the latest report from the IAB has found that number has increased to 18 per cent.

The figures illustrate growing discontent with ads especially among 18-24 year-olds with 35 per cent saying they blocked ads compared to 15 per cent of over 55s.

Apple’s decision to make the software available on its Safari web browser hasn’t had as huge an impact on mobile advertising as initially predicted. Prior to its introduction to iPhones ad blocking on mobile has increased from 2.9 per cent in June to its current level of 4.1 per cent. Of the 71 per cent of people who use the software on desktop browsers, only 23 per cent of them use it on mobile.

The IAB has encouraged the ad industry to abandon the more intrusive formats such as pop-ups and non-skippable video, which it says is the reason so many people have adopted ad blockers. This is reflected in responses from the study which found that while almost 60 per cent of people using the browser extensions said they wanted to block all ads, 48 per cent claimed that if ads did not interrupt their browsing they would be less likely to use ad blockers.

Subscription models have been widely discussed recently given News UK’s decision to drop the paid-for-content on the Sun’s website and the IAB study’s findings echo the lack of support for these models. When respondents were told that ad blocking would mean some websites would have to begin charging for content 61 per cent said they would rather see ads with just 4 per cent advocating the paywall.

IAB chief executive Guy Phillipson told the Guardian that in order to reduce ad blocking publishers had to make “consumers more aware of the consequences”.

He said “If more people realise content is only free because ads pay for it, then fewer people will be inclined to block ads. Only 4% are willing to face the other option – paying for content with no ads.”

A number of top publishers such as Axel Springer have begun banning audiences from accessing their websites if they are using ad blocking software. The German news site now asks users to turn off their ad block in order to view the content or sign up for a subscription. Bloomberg Media’s senior editor adopted a different stance on the issue, calling on the industry to innovate before the momentum on mobile gathers pace.

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