February 27, 2017

Adblocking Goes Mobile

Some quick facts from the PageFair 2016 Mobile Adblocking Report:

  • At least 419 million people (22% of the world’s 1.9bn smartphone users) are blocking ads on the mobile web.
  • Both mobile web and in-app ads can now be blocked.
  • As of March 2016 an estimated 408 million people are actively using mobile adblocking browsers (i.e., a mobile browser that blocks ads by default).
  • As of March 2016 there are 159 million users of mobile adblocking browsers in China, 122 million in India, and 38 million in Indonesia.
  • As of March 2016 in Europe and North America there were 14 million monthly active users of mobile adblocking browsers.
  • A further 4.9 million content blocking and in-app adblocking apps were downloaded from the app stores in Europe and North America since September 2014.

“Although consumer adoption of mobile level ad blockers is lower than the desktop market, Juniper Research believes that adoption is set to witness a sizable increase,” said Juniper Research analyst Sam Barker. “Drivers of this include Apples inclusion of ad blocking compatibility with Safari and increasing consumer awareness.”

He adds, that much like desktop browsers, mobile ad blockers are not able to block all types of advertising:

  • Internet Search and Display Adverts will be blocked, however like the desktop space, native adverts are not able to be blocked.
  • Video Display Adverts are able to be blocked, except if the video is channelled through a mobile application.
  • The possibility of blocking in-app advertising has been explored, however when speaking to players in the market many feel the practice to be morally unethical or the technical challenges too costly.

“In comparison to the desktop space, the mobile ad blocking market is still fairly nascent,” said Barker. “Since the announcement from Apple in September 2015 that iOS’s native browser would be able to support ad blocking applications there has been a rise in the number of users adopting the technology.

The Bad News is AdBlock-Plus is Not Alone

IAB President Randall Rothenberg noted that for-profit adblockers have become the “darlings of the venture capital industry and angel investors” and include otherwise mainstream advertising technology and publishing companies.

There’s Shine, an Israeli startup that sells adblocking software for mobile phone networks so that they can block ads at the network level. Shine is backed by Horizons Ventures which backed Spotify and Facebook.

Then there’s Brave, that was launched by former Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich. Rothenberg says that “his business model not only strips advertisements from publishers’ pages – it replaces them with his own for-profit ads.”

“The ad-block profiteers are building for-profit companies whose business models are premised on impeding the movement of commercial, political, and public-service communication between and among producers and consumers,” says Rothenberg. “They offer to lift their toll gates for those wealthy enough to pay them off, or who submit to their demands that they constrict their freedom of speech to fit the shackles of their revenue schemes.”

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