Ad Blocking in Perspective

There has been tremendous anxiety in the media world around Apple’s move to allow ad blocking software on iPhones and iPads. After all, eliminate ads from mobile devices, and you take a big bite out most publishers’ ad revenue. Publishers are describing this move by Apple in near-Apocalyptic terms. But let’s get a grip.

First, we need to be clear that this ad blocking capability applies to the mobile web, not to apps. In that respect, this move by Apple is really just a big kick in the pants to build an app and get your audience onto it as quickly as possible.

Second, this move makes a lot more sense when you consider what’s driving it. Apple doesn’t make money from mobile search advertising; Google does. Apple doesn’t like Google for a variety of reasons, hence this aggressive move cuts into Google’s main source of revenue. We’re all just collateral damage in this war of the titans. But this perspective also helps you understand why apps are (and will likely remain) protected from ad blocking technology. The Apple ecosystem depends on apps, and Apple makes a lot of money from apps. Apple is not really against all mobile advertising; it’s against mobile advertising that benefits Google.

Third, some of these new mobile ad blockers will reportedly strip out some content as well as advertising (not text, but some things such as bloated masthead graphics). Indeed, the new breed of ad blockers are really less focused on eliminating advertising than improving the mobile user experience by speeding up page loads as much as possible.

Fourth, once again, publishers are feeling the pain of a self-inflicted wound. By junking up their websites (and by extension their mobile websites) with all manner of trackers, ad networks, auto-play video, re-targeting ads, overlays, and perhaps most ironic of all, ads to get the user to download the publishers own app, we’ve junked up the mobile experience quite thoroughly. When was the last time you recall having a satisfactory (as in fast and easy) mobile web session?

I certainly agree that a lot of people are using ad blocking software out of a sense of entitlement – they truly believe they should have limitless access to content without fee and ad-free. Of course that’s another self-inflicted wound (a topic I’ve discussed many times over the years). But the more important reason that users are flocking to ad blocking software is that it actually improves their online experiences. That’s a sad statement, but the resolution of the problem is firmly under our control.