The consensus is that ad blockers pose a significant threat to both readers and publishers. For digital publishers where advertisement is a main revenue source, ad blockers endanger their entire business model.
For readers, they threaten the end of free, unrestricted content on the web. If a user's engagement can't be monetized through ads, publishers would be forced to implement paywalls or resort to strategies already in use such as restricting access to users who have any kind of ad blocker enabled.
But the reality is that the predominant use of ad blockers on mobile is limited to specific regions. In addition, the announcement that the next version of Chrome will contain a built-in ad blocker has compounded publishers' fears that their ad revenue-based models may become obsolete. However, for publishers that want to value the reader and promote an optimal UX, Chrome's new functionality will work in their favour.
The reality of ad blocker usage
The majority of ad blocking on mobile occurs in Asia-Pacific, facilitated through built-in ad blockers from popular browsers like Alibaba's UC browser. According to a report by PageFair, Asia-Pacific is single-handedly responsible for 94% of ad blocker usage across the globe. Ad blockers are dominant in this market because readers want to protect their limited data plans and the popularity of low-bandwidth phones - preventing a lack of performance from bandwidth-draining ads.
In the rest of the world, desktop is the overwhelming device with ad blockers installed. This is especially the case in Western Europe and North America where the use of mobile ad blockers is almost non-existent when compared to desktop usage.
Moreover, the report states that 77% of ad block users are willing to view some ad formats, suggesting that employing an ad blocker is a response to heavy, intrusive ads.
Chrome ad blocking feature
In 2018, the Chrome browser will contain an ad blocking feature for both its mobile and desktop versions. This feature however, won't block all ads; it will only block specific ad types that are deemed intrusive and a detriment to the user experience, meaning that it will act more as an ad filter than an ad blocker.
The ad types that are going to be blocked have been outlined by the Coalition for Better Ads whose membership includes Google, Facebook, IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau), and a host of prominent ad networks and some of the world's largest advertisers. Some of the ad types that will be filtered include prestitials and large stickies. For a full list of each ad type to be blocked, see the Initial Better Ads Standards report authored by the coalition.
The ultimate objective of the ad blocker is to provide a quality filter that promotes a favorable UX and encourages ad display best practices.
The logic behind the move is that if companies like Google and Marfeel continue to promote the balance between an optimal UX and monetization through display ads, the growth and wide-spread use of blanket ad blockers will be deterred and nullified.
How this affects Marfeel partners
Marfeel follows and helps define the mobile ecosystem's best practices when it comes to serving ads.
For partners on the Enterprise business model, Marfeel follows a strict policy: The ad setup prioritizes the reader while optimizing a publisher's ad space, delivering a balance between quality and value. Marfeel only sells inventory that demonstrates the highest demand from demand-side platforms and avoids the noisy ad types that will be targeted by Chrome's ad filter functionality. By following a lazy loading strategy, Marfeel also optimizes the performance and smoothness of serving ads.
Delivering ads that are higher in quality and promote UX maximize a publisher's ARPU (Average Revenue per User). This is because a publisher's ad inventory increases in value as ads are more viewable. Impressions also increase because a by-product of optimal UX is an increase in engagement as readers spend more time on site and register more pageviews per visit. Following this philosophy is how Marfeel was able to increase pageviews by 5x, leading to a 6-fold lift in ARPU for just one publisher.
While some publishers may be left scrambling to get their ad configuration up to speed before Chrome's ad blocking version is deployed, the partners that have entrusted Marfeel to manage their ad setup know their publications will always follow the industry's best practices for the best UX possible while maximizing their ad revenue.