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Adblock rates are up, but that isn’t necessarily bad news for publishers

Ad blockers are often seen as the enemy of the open web, but the real culprits are web pages that overflow with ads and disruptive ad experiences argues Jan Wittek, Chief Revenue Officer, eyeo

Millions of online users download ad-filtering and ad-blocking software not only to block or lighten their ad experience but also to access content in a non-intrusive way. They use it to stay in control, have options and experience convenience.

If you think about it, this really is not that hard to understand and respect. It is vital to know that these same consumers also respect and understand that content creators and publishers need to get paid for them to access content for free. Advertising is still the most important source of revenue for content creators, users respect that and deserve a good online experience. That’s why a balance is needed for the online ecosystem to thrive.

This brings me to the findings of the 2023 eyeo Ad-Filtering Report. Formerly called the PageFair Adblock Report, this is an annual study that provides a global overview of ad filtering and ad blocking trends and user insights.

The big takeaways from the latest report?  Ad blockers exist because many users are frustrated with the online ad experience. This year’s report highlights users’ desire for relevant and non-disruptive ads, emphasizing the need for a user-centric online experience. To regain control over their browsing encounters, users are increasingly turning to solutions such as ad blockers to optimize their overall online experience.  The total number of active ad-blocking users worldwide jumped to 912 million, an 11 percent uptick from Q1 2022 to Q2 2023. Since the last report, the research shows that ad blocking on desktop rose after a long plateau, buoyed by the move to work-from-home. Additionally, mobile ad blocking crossed desktop by the end of Q2 2023 and is expected to continue its long-term growth trend into the future.

There are a few factors at play in terms of the mobile uptick. The first is the long-term shift from desktop to mobile that’s been going on since the early 2010s. Users’ needs don’t change based on which device they’re on — if they’re browsing on mobile, and being inundated with poor ad experience, ad-filtering and ad-blocking tools will eventually proliferate that medium. Secondly, browsers and device manufacturers are locked in a never-ending race to expand their market share and blocking ads by default provides a competitive advantage. Lastly, users today have an increasing choice of tools when it comes to filtering or blocking ads on their favorite mobile browser or device. As a result, filtering or blocking ads has become significantly more user-friendly compared to just a few years ago.

What does this mean for media owners?

Publishers around the world are projected to lose $54 billion in ad revenue due to ad blocking in 2024, representing roughly 8% of total global ad spend. However, it’s worth noting that those losses would be significantly higher, at $116 billion to be precise, if ad-filtering tools that enable users to only see non-intrusive ads and other mitigation solutions did not exist.

Mitigation tools can make a dramatic difference and we’ve seen it firsthand with our leading ad-filtering solutions in the marketplace – Adblock and Adblock Plus. Revenue lost can be recovered and new streams could be found if we continue to transform, innovate and above all, focus on user-centricity. Therefore, I pose this question to all ad blocking/filtering technology companies out there – why not be allies to publishers and make the internet a trusted, sustainable, and accessible place for all?

With this report, we hope that by transparently sharing information and data about user preferences and growth in ad-blocking adoption, we are enabling decision-makers across the digital advertising industry to sit up and take notice of what users want. After all, what’s good for the user is beneficial for publishers and advertisers as well.

That leads us back to that fair balance that I referenced earlier. That is what users want from the open web. The good news is that the overwhelming majority of consumers who use ad-filtering tools do consent to see ads in return for accessing quality content – ads that meet the Acceptable Ads Standard. These standards are created by the independently governed Acceptable Ads Committee, which includes for-profit members, experts such as creative agents, researchers, and academics,  as well as the stakeholder who is at the center of it all – real-world users.

More good news is that the ad-filtering model keeps gaining traction, according to the report, the number of users who opted into Acceptable Ads has dramatically increased by 42 percent between Q1 2022 and Q2 2023, crossing the 300 million mark.

The adoption of Acceptable Ads is growing, first and foremost, because it’s a non-intrusive advertising standard that fulfills its core promise of user-centricity. With a high retention rate and stable user base, coupled with steady new growth, it enjoys strong YoY growth. In addition to this, there is increasing interest from browsers and device manufacturers to adopt the Acceptable Ads Standard because it strikes the right balance between their desire to appeal to what users want and the revenue growth that comes with that, while at the same time developing commercially viable business models.

The consumers who use the open web are the ones who ultimately fuel the digital economy. As mentioned earlier, many consumers are frustrated with the online ad experience. Strike a fair balance with them and they will happily support ad-supported content  – and they might be game for other opportunities that enable industry stakeholders to generate revenue and thrive.

Jan Wittek
Chief Revenue Officer, eyeo

eyeo is dedicated to empowering a balanced and sustainable online value exchange for users, browsers, advertisers, and publishers. By building, monetizing, and distributing ad-filtering technologies, we create solutions that allow all members of the online ecosystem to prosper. Our ad-filtering technology powers some of the largest ad blockers on the market, like Adblock Plus and AdBlock, and is distributed through partnerships to millions of devices. We currently have 300 million global ad-filtering users who consent to Acceptable Ads, an independently derived ad standard that determines whether an ad is acceptable and nonintrusive.