Sourcepoint, the world's first content compensation platform, today released the results of a new study of 150 premium publishers from the United States and Europe. The research explores the impact of ad blocking on their businesses and examines what publishers will be doing (or not doing) to understand and address the problem. The Sourcepoint study found that 78 percent of premium publishers are taking steps to measure ad blocking as we begin 2016 and that 51 percent expect ad block rates to reach more than 30 percent in three years. As a result, publishers are taking swift action, with two out of three viewing a combination of messaging, content locking and ad block circumvention as the optimal solution.
Consumers' frustrations with online advertising and concerns about online data protection and privacy are at an all-time high and 2015 saw the unprecedented adoption of ad blocking technology. Publishers cited a number of reasons for this development, including a greater awareness of ad block, poor quality ads, slow page load times, ad overload and privacy concerns. The study found that 54 percent of U.S. publishers think advertisers would find ad block users to be a valuable audience and 57 percent believe advertisers want to target and reach this group.
"Premium publishers recognize they're facing a real and serious threat as ad block usage has continued to grow," said Ben Barokas, founder and CEO of Sourcepoint. "And as the data shows, the vast majority of them have already begun planning how they will address the issue. As the threat of ad blocking is becoming more prevalent, publishers are working hard to identify sustainable ways of being compensated for the content they produce."
Publishers' search for an "ideal" solution to ad blocking is ongoing, and according to the report, most publishers have considered a range of options to combat the content compensation challenge including focusing on higher quality ads and providing a lighter ad experience. The majority of publishers, however, favored a combination of messaging, content blocking and ad blocker circumvention.
Ad block circumvention is currently the most popular solution, with 64 percent of U.S. publishers stating they're likely to implement this approach. Sixty-one percent say they are likely to use on-site messaging to encourage people to turn off ad block and 47 percent say they intend to use content blocking to counteract the growing use of ad blocking.
Whitelisting, by far, has emerged as the least popular solution for defeating ad block, with 91 percent of publishers stating that they would not be interested in a pay-to-play solution that required them to pay a fee to an ad block company in return for their ads being delivered, according to Sourcepoint's study. Meanwhile, publishers expect subscription models to rise, according to the study, with 43 percent of publishers stating that while less than five percent of their visitors are currently paying for content today, 76 percent expect they will generate revenues from subscriptions in the future.
While Apple's introduction of Content Blocking Safari Extensions in iOS 9 was a significant focus for the media in 2015, publishers remain skeptical of the overall impact of mobile ad blocking. When asked whether ad blockers on mobile represented a greater threat than desktop, only 41 percent of respondents agreed. Further, just 35 percent of publishers plan to focus on mobile app development as a result of growing ad block usage – while 62 percent do not.
U.S. publishers were mixed on using walled garden solutions to address ad blocking. When asked about forming platform partnerships with the likes of Facebook Instant Articles or Apple News, here's what publishers reported on whether they would work with these products in the next 12- 18 months:
It is also worth noting that a sizable number of the publishers, between 10-20 percent, were not familiar with these walled garden offerings.
"The rise of ad block threatens the very foundation of the free and open Internet," said Barokas. "Publishers may be the first to feel the pain but over time, left unaddressed, this is a symptom of a larger problem that will touch all of us."