October 20, 2015 | Business | by Xavi Beumala

How Will Ad Blockers Affect the Future of Mobile?

That’s the question marketing and advertising executives have been asking themselves lately, as ad blocking continues to become a significant issue—and with Apple’s announcement that iOS 9 will now include “content-blocking extensions” on Safari, the problem keeps expanding. While many people think that ad blocking is an ethical dilemma of enough magnitude to change the future of mobile publishing, others simply see it as the future of web browsing for consumers and readers.

There are now 198 million people using ad blockers online. That’s a 41 percent increase in the past year alone. In the US use of ad blocking grew by 48 percent, and in the UK ad blocking ballooned by 82 percent. Those numbers are hard to ignore. The most important number for publishers to remember, though? By the time 2015 is over, ad blocking will have cost publishers $22 billion.

The good news from the Apple release is that it only affects pages viewed inside Safari. Consumers using Chrome, Firefox, or any other web browser app will still be served ads. Social media apps like Twitter or Facebook will also continue to serve ads to viewers who access your site via those apps. Further, this means that Android phones, which ship at a much higher rate than Apple units, will not be affected by this news.

The bad news is that Apple is not the only provider of ad-blocking software. In fact, Apple is well behind when it comes to ad blocking. AdBlock Plus is the leader in this category, and it reaches far more users. For now, those users are still only a small part of the available market for mobile advertisers. That’s why the most important goal for publishers and advertisers today is making sure that this trend stalls, or preferably reverses altogether.

So how should we go about making sure this movement doesn’t continue in an upward trajectory? Since blockers are a symptom of the lack of engaging and efficient ads offered by most mobile sites, creating a better user experience for readers has to be the number-one priority. Practices like recycling desktop ads or using annoying interstitial ads increase the chance that readers will want to block your ads. Harry Kargman, the founder and CEO of mobile ad company Kargo, agrees that some online ads have created “a bad consumer experience—from an annoyance perspective and a usability perspective.”

Making sure your mobile advertisements are efficient and entertaining is the most valuable thing you can do to fight the scourge of ad blocking. Platforms like Google AMP can help publishers achieve this by cleaning up the format of the story to generate lightning-fast loading times. Using similar technology, you can achieve the same results for your mobile website or mobile app.

Apple’s tweak to iOS is another avenue leading readers to use ad blocking technology. This doesn’t mean that the ad-blocking community has won, or even that is seems to be winning. But it is another signal that to get the most from your mobile marketing, you must cater to the needs of your users—and today, that means you must be mobile first.