The State of Adblocking: With Admiral CEO Dan Rua

The State of Adblocking: With Admiral CEO Dan Rua

May 31st, 2017 - The following is an excerpt from an interview conducted by and originally published on The State of Digital Publishing.

What was the internet like before the introduction of adblockers?

The internet used to foster a symbiotic & sustainable relationship between content creators, publishers, and consumers; spawning many of the free websites that are household names today such as Google, Facebook, Yahoo, and Twitch plus millions of blogs, forums and outlets for individuals to have a voice in the world. Much of that still exists since the launch of adblockers but the sustainability of the free internet is at risk.

How would a publisher determine whether a user has ad blocking enabled and if so what is the opportunity cost?

Interestingly, many of the industry’s most trusted analytics tools, including Google Analytics, ComScore, and others get blocked by some adblockers. That means that not only are ads not showing, but entire groups of users are visiting without a publisher knowing.

Therefore, most publishers adopt some form of adblock detection or adblock-specific analytics to understand their adblock exposure, measuring blocking rates and lost revenue down to the ad impression and dollar level and can be drilled down by the user agent, geography, and many other segments.

How do you interpret the outcome of what Google’s ad block solution will result in for publishers?

Admiral just published a primer for publishers on the Google Chrome adblocker rumor. Every time adblocking gets attention in the media, there’s a bump in adblock adoption growth. Therefore, the initial impact, if Google does release a Chrome adblocker, will be growing block rates and more lost publisher revenues.

However, it doesn’t sound like Google is launching an adblocker, but instead a “bad ads filter” in Chrome – much the way they already had a popups filter. Blocking bad ads in a way that supports the IAB’s work on LEAN ads (disclaimer: I’m on the IAB’s AdblockWorking Group) and research from the Coalition for Better Ads should be great for users and publishers long-term. But it won’t stop adblocker extensions growth unless Google also blocks those extensions in the Chrome store. Our research with adblocking users indicates that they block for a multitude of reasons that extend beyond specific ad units that Chrome might filter. Much the way free music trained users to expect free, adblockers are training people to expect ad-free, and that won’t stop with a Chrome bad ads filter. Therefore, the adblocking outlook for publishers likely gets worse for publishers before it gets better.

What are the current initiatives the industry is taking to ‘fight back against’ ad blocking? are there more creative ways around still having to advertise without interfering with a site’s UX?

A few publishers alternatives that don’t involve direct revenue recovery include native ads, sponsored content, migration to mobile and relying upon platforms like Google AMP and Facebook Instant Articles to avoid adblockers. Unfortunately, some of those carry large strategic consequences that could be worse for the publisher long-term. Also, some are temporary, like native and mobile, because adblockers are already growing their capability to block native ads and their footprint to block mobile ads.

One reason adblocking is so painful for publishers is that most publishers only know their visitors as eyeballs instead of relationships. The more relationships a publisher builds, the stronger they will be long-term, regardless of the future of adblocking.

For the full interview: The State of Adblocking

Michael Yeon

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