Are ad-blockers the end of the free internet?

  • 12 May 2016
  • Daniel Kaempf

Are Ad-Blockers The End Of The Free Internet?

Almost 200 million Internet users have ad-blockers installed. Ad-blockers are browser extensions which remove advertisement from web pages. Last year alone, ad-blocking grew by 41%. In short: ad-blocking is not going anywhere. But what does this trend mean for Internet users and online marketers?

The benefits of ad-blockers

The main benefit of ad-blockers is obviously that they eliminate ads from the web browsing experience. Now that ad-blockers have even become available on mobile devices, more and more people are benefiting from their advantages: web pages load faster, data usage is reduced and performance enhanced. Ad-blockers also increase privacy and security but most of all they offer a distraction-free reading experience.

One man’s blessing is another man’s curse

But one man’s blessing is another man’s curse. It is estimated that ad-blockers cost publishers nearly USD 22 billion over the last year alone. In addition, many ad blockers also disable social media share buttons and tracking functions. That’s obviously a problem for any marketing campaign that relies on online advertisement and engagement.

A majority of websites or blogs on the Internet exists thanks to online advertising; they can only afford to produce fresh and original content because marketers pay for advertisement that appears on their site. But ad-blockers are undermining this logic of the free Internet. So what can marketers do to deal with this situation?

The rise of native advertising

The prevalence of ad-blockers has increased the popularity of native advertising. Native ads look like non-sponsored content and this way they are able to circumvent ad-blockers. A growing number of marketers are using affiliate links or sponsored content to close the gap caused by ad-blockers.

An affiliate link connects to an external website. Thanks to a tracking cookie marketers can see if users clicked on the link and actually made a purchase. The owner of the site where the link has been placed is remunerated directly by the business who had the link posted.

Sponsored content appears just like regular content on a publisher’s website but is normally clearly highlighted as a sponsored post. However, as publishers are being payed to present and potentially endorse a specific product this will affect the credibility and impact of a sponsored post.

Another way to navigate ad-blockers are new ways of presenting ads. You can for example play around with the design of an online ad so they look less intrusive and blend into the look and feel of the host website. Hard-coding these ads will also make detection by ad-blockers more difficult.

If you have creative ideas of how to handle this situation, please let us know using social media or email. We are a web design and web development agency based in Lausanne and Geneva and are always interested in hearing your thoughts.