Tag Archives: ad-blockers

Ad-blocking up 30pc in 2016 as privacy becomes a hot button topic

A new worldwide report into ad-blocking has found that 615 million devices globally are blocking ads on the web.

To put that in context, that figure represents over one in ten people online, and is also up 30 per cent in 12 months.

The state of the blocked web survey, by Adblock, presents a combined picture of desktop and mobile adblock usage for the first time, and found that ad-blocking on mobile is exploding, particularly in Asia.

Key stats to be aware of:

  • 615 million devices now use adblock
  • 11% of the global internet population is blocking ads on the web
  • Adblock usage grew 30% globally in 2016
  • Mobile adblock usage grew by 108 million to reach 380 million devices
  • Desktop adblock usage grew by 34 million to reach 236 million devices
  • 74% of American adblock users say they leave sites with adblock walls
  • Adblock usage is now mainstream across all ages

Certainly privacy is one of the key drivers fuelling this phenomenon, as people tire of intrusive ads tracking them around the web, although the ads’ impact on page loading speed as well as bloated pages eating through data allowances are also significant factors.

So what does the ad-blocking surge mean for the privacy landscape?

Well, the numbers involved are obviously significant, which means we have a rapidly-growing online population that will modify online behaviour to avoid things that worry or irritate. And they’re doing it at scale, and across all devices, with the mobile ad-blocking increase predicted to hit North America and Europe next.

Also control is key – while this is not a revolt against digital advertising per se, rather the methods it employs, the internet population is increasingly showing it won’t be forced to watch or download things it doesn’t want to, because there is now another way.

With awareness around personal data issues also growing exponentially, this is heartening news – because the old ways are being disrupted in this industry, too, and technology such as digi.me is innovating in a way which again will benefit the consumer with minimal hassle to implement.

So all hail the ad-blocking army – user control and willingness to use a tech solution that shows a better way is good news for everyone driving the Personal Data Economy forward to a person-centred Internet of Me.

A plan for peace in the personal data war

Our founder and chairman Julian Ranger is the subject of an excellent new interview.

Taking a look at the war between those who want to take our personal data and those who want to use it to track and target us with ads, the first paragraph eloquently sums up the situation: “Starting wars is easy. It’s finishing them that’s difficult. What exactly is peace going to look like? How do you repair the damage? Can life really be the same again?”

It’s a fascinating look at a difficult and tricky situation – and Julian explains why some vaunted ‘solutions’ just won’t work and why the digi.me-supported Internet of Me vision and forum based around the same ideas, where the interview appears and which we started and support, is the only way forwards.

Some choice quotes to whet your appetite:

“There’s this strange paradox where people seem to care about privacy but carry on doing things that compromise it,” says Julian. “I think that’s because it’s all too difficult. People turn away and pretend to ignore it ­­– we all do it.”

“At digi.me, when we talk about what the Internet of Me means to us we talk about utility — utility to you the individual getting your data back and then utility to businesses, government and society as a whole when we share it.

“We say that by doing it the way we at digi.me propose it is 100% private and it will enable a more private world. But there is this huge body of people who are not going to come to that way of thinking because they want to fix today’s privacy problems. I want to tell them this: we can’t. We can’t fix all those problems with a load of different point solutions. The model is so broken and busted that you can’t do it.”

I see a true Internet of Me as being where I own and control my data and companies knock on the door to ask for it and I get to control who gets it — that’s all open and transparent. It’s the light side.

Click here to read the interview in full


Ad-blocking hits the mainstream in the UK

Nearly 15 million people in the UK will be using ad-blocking technology by 2017 according to the first ever estimate from eMarketer.

By the end of next year, it expects 27% of internet users, or 14.7 million people, will be choosing to stop digital ads on at least one of their devices, largely in response to evermore intrusive tracking ads that take personal data without permission and also create slow, heavy pages that cannibalise bandwidth and add to page load times.

The report estimates that of the 10.9 million people who currently block ads, the vast majority (90.2%) do so on a desktop or laptop PC, with about 28% blocking ads on smartphones, although there is overlap as some block on multiple devices. Mobile ad blocking is still lagging behind, as the tech is still catching up and ad blocking doesn’t fully work within apps, where most mobile users spend their time.

eMarketer senior analyst Bill Fisher said: “There’s no doubting that ad blocking is now a very real issue for advertisers. Next year, over a quarter of the people they’re trying to reach will be wilfully making themselves unreachable.

“The good news is that numbers like this have forced those within the industry to think long and hard about what it is that they need to do better in order that this practice doesn’t become an epidemic.”

The “greatest consumer boycott in history”, as it has been dubbed, already sees more than 250,000 million users of ad-blocking tech worldwide, with numbers increasing fast.

And while a failure of advertising to understand what their readers do – or don’t – want has contributed heavily, the effects are far-reaching.

Industries and models that rely on advertising to fund their content and make it available for free – including video games and newspapers – find their very funding model under threat as part of this anger aimed at advertising that tracks us and sells on our data.

So what’s the way forward? Ad blocking has always been with us, in the sense that if we didn’t want to read an ad in a paper we simply skipped over it and on to the next news item we were interested in. Ad-blocking isn’t designed to punish the publishers, but the ads that don’t respect our privacy – so how can we apply this analogue blocking to the digital age, and pack a punch where it needs to go without hurting those who are largely innocent parties?

Handily, work is underway at the Internet Identity Workshop in Mountain View on just that, at sessions run by internet legend and our advisor, Doc Searls, and attended by our founder and chairman Julian Ranger and our EVP North America Jim Pasquale.

As Doc said ahead of the session: “What we need is a solution that scales for readers and is friendly to publishers and the kind of advertising readers can welcome—or at least tolerate, in appreciation of how ads sponsor the content they want. This is what we have always had with newspapers, magazines, radio and TV in the offline world, none of which ever tracked anybody anywhere.

“So now we offer a solution. It’s a simple preference, which readers can express in code, that says this: Just show me ads that aren’t based on tracking me. Equally simple code can sit on the publishers’ side. Digital handshakes can also happen between the two…”

The work at IIW will be to reach agreement on that term, its wording , and the code that expresses and agrees to it.

As Doc said: “…this one term is a first step. There will be many more before we customers get the full respect we deserve from ad-funded businesses online. Each step needs to prove to one business category or another that customers aren’t just followers. Sometimes they need to take the lead.

“This is one of those times.  So let’s make it happen.”

Ad-blocking: new ideas in the unwinnable war of our time

The great online war of our times, ad-blocking is an escalating battle which can never be concluded to the satisfaction of both sides, even as both are seeing increased and unexpected damage. So the only logical way forward is to take an entirely new path, one that changes the priorities and qualities of the precious data at the heart of the struggle, to re-center it back around the individual.

Certainly, the numbers involved in this battle speak for themselves – over 250 million consumers are estimated to be blocking ads on webpages they visit, in response both to being constantly tracked by advertisers and ads they don’t want slowing down their viewing experience and costing them money in bandwidth use.

But businesses are suffering too – many, such as news platforms and video games sites, are important and well-loved content sources that rely on advertising to fund their free output. Even the advertisers themselves are being affected as reach plummets – and what has been dubbed the biggest consumer boycott in history shows no signs of slowing.

Gaming, in fact, is being particularly hard hit – the fourth biggest entertainment industry in the world is feeling the brunt of adblocking more than most. It was top of the PageFair and Adobe Cost of Ad-blocking Report last year, which put global accumulated losses at $21.8bn. Among gamers, 26.5 per cent block ads – and young men, the most committed and thus core gamers, do it more than most – a double blow for the indie publishers in particular.

In an article on MCV, Venatus Media co-founder Rob Gay spelled out the stark reality of the state of the gaming industry: “It’s publishers who’re haemorrhaging revenue because gamers who ad-block are killing the thing they love. 

“…It’s a warning flag – players want free content without realising the impact of their actions, not just on publishers and advertisers but the entire games industry.”

So people using, and presumably enjoying, these services are the very ones threatening their whole existence, simply because of their unwillingness to be tracked, combined with a limited view of the bigger picture.

Of course gaming companies are experimenting with options to get around this – but that is often only possible for the bigger companies, or by those who are prepared to serve controversial whitelist ads, a process which Gay bills as “tantamount to extortion and counterintuitive to next-generation tech – taking online advertising back to the 1990s while the rest of the internet moves forward.”

No-one sheds many tears for it, but the media too is suffering from this same paradox – that those who value and inform themselves daily through the free content pushed out by news platforms are once again those threatening the funding mechanism through which whole organisations operate.

The great Emily Bell, formerly of The Guardian, gets to the heart of the matter when she says that “adblocking thrives because of a failure towards consumers” and “the right of consumers not to look at advertising has run straight into the right of companies to advertise, and publishers to make money.”

And of course it’s true, that’s what it does. But the current system is broken – completely and irredeemably broken, and starting afresh is the only hope of finding a solution that fits all.

At the heart of this great battle is data – it is the essence of each of us and we create more of it daily but are unable to control it who accesses it, while advertisers and businesses are just desperate to get hold of it in any way they can.

So let’s take a step back – how can we make this work for everyone? The obvious starting point is that each of us should be in control of our own data. Own it and use it as we wish and with who we wish, entirely on our terms.

In this Internet of Me, as we call it here at digi.me, the consumer is in control – but businesses can still benefit. It’s not a switch from business control to consumer control, but rather to a model in which both benefit.

Businesses need extensive and good quality data to innovate and continually grow – but what they get from the desperate measures of ad tracking is poor quality, thin data – often stale, often wrong. If they can go direct to consumers for their data, they will access 100 per cent accurate, rich data, which is countless times more valuable to them, and comes with user consent.

No-one needs to get data around the sides, the whole process is open and war ceases.

Platforms such as digi.me have already recognised the need to re-invent the permission circle, to put consumers at the heart of their own connected worlds. In fact, we think it’s so important that we’re supporting and sponsoring an independent industry forum aimed at helping companies do just that – do come and join the conversation aimed at finding a new and better world.

ad-blockers, apple, ios9, data, advertising

Why ad-blockers really aren’t the data privacy win you might think

Ad-blockers shot straight to the top of the paid-for apps list in the App Store when Apple’s iOS9 update that allowed users to block mobile advertising was released.

So far, so not unusual – ads are pesky little things, right? Popping-up unexpectedly when you least expect them and generally bloating pages, crucifying page load times and eating up data allowances. Not to mention their tracking qualities as well as the past searches and purchases that stalk you round the web, site after site, day after day. Nope, no redeeming features at all – let’s block them all.

Then something unexpected happened – Marco Arment, creator of the no1 paid ad-blocker Peace, pulled it from the store after just two days, saying that “success didn’t feel good”.

What exactly the problem is remains unclear, altrhough comments on the Instapaper’s founder’s blog where he talked of needing to find a “more nuanced, complex approach” offer some clues.

He added: “Ad blockers come with an important asterisk: while they do benefit a ton of people in major ways, they also hurt some, including many who don’t deserve the hit.”

What Arment seems to be alluding to is what Seth Godin termed the shared understanding that websites offer free content in return for attention. For most sites, advertising is what quite literally pays the content creation bills.

Of course, pages have become increasingly riddled with evermore intrusive ads over the past few years, and it’s hard not to see that the reader has been assailed from all sides. So the appearance of ad-blockers was only going to end one way. Or, as Godin put it: “In the face of a relentless race to the bottom, users are taking control, using a sledgehammer to block them all.”

But still the fact remains that readers and sites have been in a mutually-beneficial relationship where advertising has played a key role in funding content for which there is demand but no serious suggestion that users would pay the full creation cost. And that remains the case even as ad-blocking apps proliferate.

So if ad blocking is not the answer, what is? There is clearly change needed on both sides – advertisers needs to show self-restraint and not machine gun content over every page we open, while users need to understand that on the internet, as with so many things, we can’t simply have the good for free without giving something back.

But there also needs to be a fundamental shift in how we think about data. We don’t like these ads that follow us around, or trackers, because they feel like an assault on our privacy. Yet it is the information gained through this that allows businesses to begin to better target our wants and interests.

I say begin, as the data available to date is so thin and incomplete that it is estimated to be up to 30-50 per cent wrong, to the obvious detriment of both the business and user.

Imagine how much more beneficial for both sides a rich data set would be – useful data 100 per cent certified and licensed at source, used to target appealing ads back to that same user.

A vision for the future to be sure, but a vision that comes ever closer as the Internet of Me follows close on the heels of the Internet of Things, with companies like digi.me at the forefront of this digital revolution.