On an advertising-supported medium like the worldwide web, programs that prevent ads from being seen impose big costs on both the advertisers and the websites that depend on advertising for revenue. To these groups, ad blockers are public enemy number one, and Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOGL) plans to do something about ad blockers — like make them go away.
According to a report from PageFair, 11% of global desktop and mobile devices (numbering 615 million) were using ad-blockers at the end of 2016. Year-over-year growth in ad-blocker usage last year reached 39%. In 2015, ad-blockers cost publishers $21.8 billion in revenues.
Google conducted its own survey and found that 63% of users installed an ad blocker because there are just too many ads. Nearly half (48%) installed an ad blocker because they found the ads annoying.
With an eye to stopping the spread of ad blockers, an industry group called the Coalition for Better Ads tested six types of desktop ads and 12 types of mobile ads to find out which ones are driving users crazy. The survey found four types of desktop ads and six types of mobile ads that “fall beneath a threshold of user acceptability.”
Google announced Thursday how it plans to support the coalition’s guidance. To that end, beginning early next year, Google’s Chrome browser will stop showing ads (including those owned or served by Google) on websites that do not compliant with standards established by the coalition.
The company is issuing a guide that includes screenshots and videos of annoying ads. Google also has created a list of best practices illustrating the types of ads that consumers can put up with.
The company also is testing something called Funding Choices, a program that allows publishers to ask consumers who are using an ad blocker either to let the publisher display ads or to pay a fee to remove all ads from the site using a new Google program called Google Contributor.
Google’s in a tough spot here. On one hand, it wants its Chrome browser to be used by as many people as possible and to accomplish that it is going to force advertisers to comply with some standards.
On the other hand, if Google doesn’t do something the proliferation of ad blockers (growing at a rate of 30% a year, remember) threatens the company’s bread and butter revenue stream.
A choice between making a few advertisers angry and facing an existential crisis is really an easy choice to make.