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The Growing Problem of Video Ad Blocking and What Publishers are Doing About It

The Growing Problem of Video Ad Blocking and What Publishers are Doing About It

May 26, 2016

The war on internet ads has existed for years. And while the advertising industry typically remains one step ahead of the ad blocking industry, the gap between the two forces is closing. Currently, the biggest war is being waged on video.

The Rise of Ad Blocking

Unless you look at the numbers, it’s hard to really understand the full impact and far reaching nature of ad blocking. According to the 2015 Ad Blocking Report from PageFair, there are now 198 million active ad blocking users worldwide and they cost publishers roughly $22 billion in 2015. Even more alarming is the fact that ad blocking has grown by 41 percent globally in the past 12 months, and 48 percent in the US.

The thing with ad blocking is that it makes sense from a consumer perspective. As an internet user, ads can be distracting and irrelevant. Thus, when someone presents you with a free option to block these ads, most people are going to say yes.

The issue is that users don’t realize they’re inadvertently and gradually putting their favorite blogs, websites, and online publishers out of business. Internet users take for granted the fact that websites are free in the first place. Many don’t understand that it’s the ads that make the wonderful World Wide Web go around.

“The damage is more than financial. It’s existential,” says Michael Rosenwald of the Washington Post. “The rise of ad blocking comes just as the media industry had settled on a revenue model to move forward after years of disruption and pain.”

As you likely know, advertising was supposed to be the key to keeping news and digital content free. If publishers who once thrived with magazines, newspapers, and print publications could follow the same ad-based revenue models online, the transition from print to digital would be relatively seamless. Unfortunately, ad blocking has produced some palpable tension.

The primary issue is that younger internet users – millennials, that is – have a distinct distaste for online ads. Rosenwald quotes one young woman who says, “Online ads are obtrusive, obnoxious, annoying.” Those are harsh words for something seemingly innocuous, but reveal what’s really happening beneath the surface.

What it Means for Video

In 2016, research suggests ad blocking will nearly double, costing publishers a projected $41.4 billion. Much of this growth will be due to increases in video ad blocking – which is currently the main focus of the ad blocking industry.

As video content rises to prominence, so does the prevalence of video ads. The issue is leading ad blockers – including Adblock Plus – don’t understand that the future of advertising (and digital content in general) is video. And if people want to enjoy an internet that’s robust and enjoyable, video ads must be able to lubricate the wheels of this magnificent engine.

“It’s the same problem with video as with other types of advertising but with extra issues added in for good measure,” says Jeremy Makin, vice president of advertising sales at a digital news organization. “Irrelevance, poor execution, slow load speeds, and overlong formats lie at the core of the problem, but with autoplay, data usage and sound on [as default] jostling for position.”

In other words, the problem with video ads is that they exacerbate all of the things users are already not fond of with standard text-based display ads. But one thing is clear: As video content sees tremendous growth in the marketplace, the future of the industry will depend on the success of video advertising to overcome consumer distastes and provide real value.

3 Ways Publishers and Advertisers are Responding

According to Garett Sloane of Digiday, Adblock Plus has been negotiating with numerous internet ad companies – including large ones like Yahoo and Google – to brainstorm ideas. The goal is for advertisers to learn exactly what it is that ad block users are okay with in ads. So far, little ground has been made. The kind of ads that meet the approval of ad blockers consist of plain text.

This means publishers and advertisers are going to have to respond in other ways. To get an idea of what this looks like, let’s highlight some strategies and techniques currently being implemented by small and large platforms alike.

  1. Block the Blockers

The most aggressive strategy out there is to actually block access to content for visitors using certain ad blocking technology. In fact, Forbes has been experimenting around with this idea for years. With approximately 13 percent of its visitors using ad blockers, Forbes ran a test in December 2014 to see what would happen if they blocked content and notified users that the only way to view the content was to remove the ad blocker. Forbes claims 44 percent complied and actually turned off their blockers. 

  1. Improve Ad Experience

The Huffington Post is taking a much gentler approach to the problem. They have a specific team that’s tasked with uncovering the root causes of ad distaste. Their goal is to find out which elements turn users off so that more relevant and satisfactory ads can be produced. This is the long-term approach. They are trying to uncover the root of the problem as opposed to merely treating the symptom.

  1. Pay The Man

Would you ever consider paying an organization that’s already stealing money from you? Well, this is exactly what some companies are doing. Large companies like Google, Microsoft, and Amazon have paid Adblock Plus and others to not block ads on their site. This is a bit like giving money to a kidnapper who’s holding you ransom, but large companies with millions of dollars at stake know it’s the easiest solution.

Contact Verta Media Today

At Verta Media, we understand the current advertising landscape better than most. We deal with advertisers and publishers on a daily basis and know exactly what makes the industry tick.

If you’re looking to grow your advertising revenue stream, then you need a video supply side platform that allows you to carefully monitor results and optimize performance for high returns. Contact us today for more information!