Google’s ad-filtering version of Chrome will arrive in 2018. The update will help publishers to make sure that the ads on their websites do not negatively impact on user experience. But is this about more than just ridding the web of pop-ups and other distasteful ads? Let’s explore what Google Chrome’s Ad Blocker means for publishers.
Ad blockers have been a threat to publishers and their ad-based business model for many years. The plugins block ads from being served on websites, meaning that publishers lose out on the revenue that funds the creation of their content. This is a negative practice for advertisers who are attempting to buy ad space, too.
The use of ad blockers can threaten the balance of the ecosystem of the freeweb.
Publishers have tried to solve the ad blocker issue in many ways, but often with poor-to-mixed results. Some publishers try to block access to their content until ad blockers are disabled, but this can result in higher bounce rates. Paywalls have had mixed results depending on the publisher using the technology, and native advertising has been turned toward by some publishers but with diminished returns.
(Digiday and Instart Logic recently hosted a great webinar on this subject: “The Ad-Blocker Balancing Act”.)
Ad blockers are being used by readers to avoid intrusive ads that negatively impact their browsing experience, so a coalition was formed to find out exactly what readers do and do not like in an effort to resolve the ad blocker issue.
The Coalition for Better Ads is made up of a group of “leading international trade associations and companies involved in online media”. The Coalition conducts surveys and uses consumer insights to “develop and implement new global standards for online advertising that address consumer expectations”.
So far, the coalition have released a report that lists the main desktop and mobile experiences that push readers to use ad blockers. This research – “The Initial Better Ads Standards” – is built with the responses of 25,000 consumers and can be found here. The negative experiences listed in the report are going to be filtered out by Chrome’s ad blocker, helping to create a quality user experience.
Google predict that by eliminating intrusive ads from the browsing experience, audiences will become receptive to seeing the remaining, less intrusive ads and hitting the “off” switch on third-party ad blockers. Obviously, this would be great news for publishers who would increase their revenues by serving more ads to readers.
Publishers will have to spend some time becoming compliant with the new standards enforced by the updated Chrome browser. Google will release tools that publishers can use to check that their websites are compliant, and give them an opportunity to prepare for the new browser. The Ad Experience Report is one of these tools.
Revenues won’t be the only metric given a boost: with unpleasant ads having disappeared, bounce rates should drop while engagement and average amounts of time spent on pages should also increase.
Last year, there was a global 30% growth in ad blocker usage. In the past, the use of ad blockers was restricted to tech-savvy millennials, but ad block users are becoming more diverse.
Ad blocking technology is also becoming increasingly popular on mobile, too. However, 94% of mobile adblock usage takes place in the Asia-Pacific region. This very rapid rate of adoption in the region is a consequence of manufacturer-installed ad blocking software and strict data caps that mean users want to save as much bandwidth as possible. By forcing ads to be complaint, the updated version of Chrome will attempt to stop a similar trend toward mobile ad blockers in North America and Europe.
Critics of the Chrome ad blocker argue that because of the conflicts of interest for Google, the tech giant should not have the ability to enforce these standards and affect the flow of ads. Supporters of the initiative offer the counterargument that the quality of ads has to be guaranteed somewhere, and if Google stick to the standards defined by the Coalition for Better Ads, they will be offering a great service for the web.
Other critics argue that publishers should be able to determine what type of inventory they would like to include on their website, regardless of quality standards. The open web should not be controlled and moderated by a single entity, let alone the world’s largest media owner. Chrome’s ad blocker brings up familiar concerns about the independence of online communication and distribution.
With a market share of over 50% globally, Chrome is certainly the world’s most popular browser. This means that the impacts of the ad blocker update could be profound and far-reaching. Could the implementation of this ad blocker clean up the web globally and be the nail in the coffin of intrusive ads that have plagued the web for so long? Time will reveal the answer to that question soon. If you would like to discuss your current ads or chat more about Chrome’s ad blocker, please feel free to send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Where do you stand in this debate?
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