Content Blocking In iOS 9 Unlikely To Bring About Mobile “Admageddon”
Survey shows 70 percent would want to block ads, but few may actually do so.
There’s a great deal of hand-wringing over iOS 9 and the prospect of “content [ad] blocking” in mobile. Some ad-industry execs are concerned about a coming “Admageddon” of sorts, while some optimistically believe that ad blocking technology will actually motive ad-quality improvements.
The truth probably lies somewhere in between.
The first thing to understand is that content/ad blocking in iOS 9 will only be available on the mobile Web via Safari. Here’s what the developer documentation says about it:
The new Safari release brings Content Blocking Safari Extensions to iOS. Content Blocking gives your extensions a fast and efficient way to block cookies, images, resources, pop-ups, and other content.
While some conspiracy theorists believe this is Apple lashing out against rival Google (I’m dubious about this), the justification for content blocking is that it greatly improves page load times and the overall mobile browsing experience.
Ad blocking (at least for now) won’t apply or impact ads in mobile apps, where users spend most of their time today — roughly 90 percent, according to Nielsen and comScore. In addition, as AdAge points out, ad blocking has been available for Android phones for quite some time, and the sky hasn’t fallen.
In anticipation of the Apple event today, I conducted a quick Google Consumer Survey:
“If you could block ads on your smartphone, would you want to do that?”
Men and younger users were somewhat less hostile to ads than the overall sample of 1,000 US adults.
Despite the widespread interest in ad blocking displayed in this survey, the key question is whether consumers will actually take the steps needed to block ads on the mobile Web. There’s often a significant gap between what people say they’re going to do in surveys and what they actually do.
Still, ad blocking in iOS 9 may motivate a renewed effort and focus on mobile apps, which are for the time being ad-blocking-safe. Yet are many publishers and retailers that have recently turned away from apps after limited adoption. And the well-documented challenge here, as reflected in an earlier survey, is that smarphone owners spent 80 percent of their in-app time on just five apps.
Facebook and Google dominate that top five list. Facebook made a big point of this yesterday in its mobile Pages update event: “Be where your customers are already spending their time.”
In addition, according to eMarketer estimates, the two companies will control more than 50 percent of mobile ad revenue by 2017. Thus, as ad dollars migrate with consumer usage to mobile, Google (including YouTube) and Facebook (including Instagram) will capture a larger and larger share of mobile/total ad spending.
However, if mobile Web ad blocking does catch on with iPhone users, it could force publishers into a position of increasing dependence on Google and Facebook in particular to generate ad-safe mobile Web referral traffic. (Again, ad blocking hasn’t gone mainstream on Android devices.)
Mobile and apps in theory represented an opportunity for publishers and brands to get away from that dependence (e.g., SEO) and re-establish direct, unmediated relationships with consumers.
But because it has been extremely challenging to build compelling apps that people retain and use regularly, we may see a coming squeeze, as mobile grabs more consumer mind share and as publishers have fewer options to generate mobile ad revenue.