Apple’s support of ad-blocking technology in the upcoming release of iOS 9 puts the $70 billion global mobile ad market at risk, forcing publishers to rethink their mobile strategies.
Over the past few years, publishers have seen a large chunk of their revenues coming from ads served to users consuming content via the mobile browser. The main strategy concentrated on getting stories widely shared on popular social apps such as Facebook, which in turn drove users to mobile-optimized websites that served up ads.
However, Apple’s latest software update enables the use of content-blocking tools that will let users block ads in the Safari browser. Users who adopt the technology will be able to bypass banners, pop-ups, and pre-rolls, upending the mobile-web strategy that has allowed publishers to make money without charging end users.
With over 1 billion iOS devices out there – what does this mean for publishers?
Ad-Blocking on the Mobile-Web Drives Publishers To Promote Apps
One thing we know for sure is that publishers need to take the threat of ad-blocking on the mobile-web seriously. An August 2015 report from PageFair places the number of ad-blocking users at around 198 million worldwide and draws attention to the significant cost to publishers, estimating up to $22 billion worth of inventory was blocked in 2015.These figures are expected to rise dramatically over the next year when mobile users learn about the value of content-blockers beyond just stopping ads to include faster load time. For example, Crystal, one of the most hyped content-blocking apps, claims its users see pages load nearly 4 times faster with the app installed and use 53% less data.
So, are the days of enjoying free content on mobile gone for good? Not quite.
Apple is only allowing ad-blocking technology to work on the Safari browser, leaving publishers free to reap the benefits from the App Store. With this tactical move, apps will continue to work unhindered by the ad-blockers and, as a result, publishers will start aggressively pushing users to download their apps to bypass the ad-blockers.
Short-Term Pain (Reshuffling Focus) for Long-Term Gain (Better User Insight)
Although this shift requires new effort on the part of publishers, it will likely benefit their core business for the long term. Publishers will gain a much more granular view into their users, because of the richness of data that can be collected through apps. This insight will enable the creation of inventory that targets users based on the types of content they consume, the devices they use, their location, and demographic information – which could sell for a premium.
Balancing Ads with a Smooth App Experience
It is important to note that in an app environment, publishers will need to pay much closer attention to the balance between serving ads and creating a great user experience. App users are generally more valuable than the typical mobile-web visitor because of their expressed loyalty. A user downloads an app if they value the content and intend to consume it on a regular basis. The smartest publishers will work hard to embrace and retain their app users by constantly evaluating the impact that different types of ads have on consumption, social sharing, time spent in app, and user retention.
The Future for Publishers
Apple has once again flexed its muscles to shake up the mobile landscape. With this new policy in place, publishers will likely come out as winners. Publishers will create better experiences for their users through apps that are designed for iOS and create loyal audiences in the process. Furthermore, they stand to benefit from the granular data that can be collected via apps and the premium inventory to be created from it.