Last week, social media giant Facebook announced that its latest web version of its site de-blocks ad blockers to serve ads. Content providers rejoiced – users not so much. So what’s the deal with Facebook blocking ads?
Facebook to banish ad blockers from its site
First, let’s look at both sides of the argument.
For consumers, ads are often viewed as an intrusion. Pages tend to load slower, waiting for adverts to fill the page, or campaigns pop up unexpectedly rendering you to frantically search for that little X – which increasingly seems harder to find.
A new report from PageFair found that 419m users are currently blocking mobile ads worldwide. Indeed, mobile is a whole new ball game in the ad blocking arena. It conquers territory that was previously deemed safe by publishers and marketers.
For them, adverts are a lifeline. Publishers and content sites feature branded images or videos in order to keep their sites up and running.
The free web isn’t free. That’s a pain point consumers tend to forget. Essentially, this means that ads are benefitting them too. Yes, that may sounds contradictory, but we wouldn’t be able to enjoy our favourite online news sites or magazines at $0 if it wasn’t for advertising paying the writers and editors.
Now, let’s get back to Facebook. The company obviously has a good reason to put an end to ad blocking: it makes a ton of money from advertising. Indeed, the company is expected to rake in 12% of the $187bn global digital advertising market this year. Its ad revenue increased 57% during the first quarter of 2016 from $3.3bn to $5.2bn, with mobile accounting for four-fifths of that revenue.
That’s a lot of cash – and a lot it stands to lose if ad blocking becomes the new craze.
Some have argued that Facebook’s changes to its mobile apps and web sites will spark a backlash from blocking providers such as Eyeo which makes Adblock Plus to forego the Facebook technology.
Others are wondering why it’s only happening now? After all, ad blockers have been around for quite some time.
For starters, it shows publishers and marketers that Facebook is committed to help them get the most out of their ads. Whilst some content providers such as The Washington Post have been able to launch their own initiatives and rolled out a technology that detects ad blockers and stops users from accessing the site unless they turn them off, others just don’t have the budget for such large-scale action.
Protecting their revenue streams makes Facebook a viable option to launch campaigns.
Likewise, the move has calmed down the company’s investors. Switching off ad blockers makes way for higher value ad impressions.
In addition, Facebook is focused on growing ad revenue across its other apps and channels including Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp.
It looks like we’ll bear witness to an interesting battle ahead.
Ben Williams, Communications and Operations Manager for AdBlock Plus, Eyeo, believes:
“Facebook might ‘re-circumvent’ at any time. This sort of back-and-forth battle between the open source ad-blocking community and circumventers has been going on since ad blocking was invented; so it’s very possible that Facebook will write some code that will render the filter useless – at any time.”