By Jaclyn Weiner
The effect of ad-blockers has been a buzzing topic in the news lately. During the past year ad-blocking has been on the rise. According to an ad-blocking report provided by PageFair and Adobe, the use of ad-blocking has grown by 48 percent in the United States since 2014. While ad-blocking can be beneficial and convenient to users, it has the potential to significantly damage the income of many online businesses such as media companies, tech companies, prospective writers and online content creators.
Most social media sites, video streaming services and news sites are free. Internet users are spoiled with free content. Due to this, it does not cross most of our minds that even though the sites are free, they often incur significant costs to provide the content. The way that most of these sites get the revenue to keep delivering their products for free is through advertisements.
According to Pagefair and Adobe, 126 million monthly active Chrome users, 48 million monthly active Firefox users and 9 million monthly active Safari users are using ad-blocker applications. The sheer numbers of people using adblockers have come at a cost, and that cost is rising every year. It is estimated that blocked advertising cost $21.8 billion dollars in lost revenue in 2015, and that number is expected to rise even further in 2016.
The rise of ad-blocker use has the potential to be the death of free Internet content. Popular websites that have been used for free for years may have to start charging users in order to keep their services running. This especially concerns smaller sites that do not have the backing of multi-million dollar companies.
Although larger companies may not be as affected as lesser revenue sites, they will still feel the effects of ad-blockers. One of the most prevalent examples of this is news sites. The rise of the internet has dealt the traditional media harsh blows. Revenue brought in by print advertisements has been steadily declining. According to Forbes, News Corp’s print business has suffered significantly, especially due to advertising. Advertising revenues declined from over $4.1 billion in 2010 to $3.4 billion in 2014. A large contributing factor to the decrease in revenue is the movement of advertising from print to online sources, which resulted in most news sources creating online presences in order to stay relevant and stabilize profits. Due to the rise of ad-blockers, newspapers are not only losing revenue from a lack of print advertisements but are also losing revenue from online advertising.
Ad-blocking app use is expected to grow even faster due to iOS 9, Apple’s newest operating system, which allows ad-blockers to be used on mobile devices, which has never been possible before.
Not long after the release of iOS 9, ad-blocker application Peace, spent 36 hours in the No. 1 paid app spot on the App Store but the brevity of its success was not due to the app falling in the ranks. Rather, the programmer of Peace, Marco Arment, pulled the app from the market. Knowing the harmful effects ad-blockers have, he could not in good-conscience contribute to the problem, no matter the money he was making. “Achieving this much success with Peace just doesn’t feel good, which I didn’t anticipate, but probably should have. Ad blockers come with an important asterisk: while they do benefit a ton of people in major ways, they also hurt some, including many who don’t deserve the hit,” Arment wrote on his blog post, following the removal of Peace. But shortly after Arment’s removal of Peace, another ad-blocker app, Crystal, rose in rankings to take the top spot.
Whether you are an ad-block user or creator, it is important to remember that even though ad-blockers are an immediate convenience, they have severe long-term effects on the future of media.
Jaclyn Weiner, FCRH ’18, is a communications and media studies major from Wantagh, NY.