It goes without saying that the Internet is a great tool for those seeking knowledge and entertainment. With a few clicks of the mouse or swipes of the finger, you can learn everything you ever wanted to know about Hamilton Fish. And once you’re done brushing up on that chap’s life, you can read about the unsolved mystery of the Somerton man.
Indeed, there’s no shortage of great content to read on the Internet. But that all might change very soon thanks to the way more of us are using the web.
According to the 2015 Ad Blocking Report, which was recently released by Adobe and Pagefair, nearly 200 million Internet users now use ad-blocking software, and the cohort grew 41 percent over the last year.
Well, that’s great, isn’t it? We all know how annoying pop-up ads and auto-playing video advertisements can be. Not to mention awful, distracting ads that seem to cover websites with clutter, making it that much more difficult to digest the content you want.
Not so fast. According to the study, publishers stand to lose a whopping $22 billion in 2015 thanks to crafty Internet users who are using ad-blocking tools. (Users tend to be young, tech-savvy males.)
Here’s why you should care about that number: The reason anyone goes into business is to make money. Even if publishers collectively are in the upper echelons of society in terms of financial wherewithal, $22 billion isn’t a figure to scoff at. At some point—and it may very well be far off—if ad-blocking adoption continues to rise as quickly as it has, these publishers may very well decide that it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to invest in content if there’s no way to monetize it.
In other words, ad-blocking software is great for the individual. But for the group? Well, if 100 percent of Internet users relied on ad-blocking tools, it’s safe to say it’d be a whole lot more difficult for publishers to make money on content, which means there would be a whole lot more paywalls (or they’ll think of something even newer and even more annoying).
What Ad-Blocking Tools Could Do to Content
Content creators won’t work for free. If ad-blocking adoption continues to rise so staggeringly (it’s worth noting that ad-blocking usage increased nearly 70 percent between 2013 and 2014, so this most recent growth isn’t as rapid), it’s only a matter of time before publishers rethink their approach to content.
Some of that rethinking might include deciding to:
- Pay content creators less. Sure, some of the best content creators do what they do simply because they love it. But people need to eat, and it’s not as though rent or living expenses are likely to decline anytime soon. If content creators are paid less, there will be less content.
- Offer the platform. Publishers can decide to nix paying content creators a la those who blog on The Huffington Post, choosing to accept work in exchange for exposure. Businesses are increasingly moving in this direction to minimize their expenses. But you can’t expect all 21-year-old interns to produce the best content possible every time.
- Embed ads in content. We’ve heard of the advertorial. What’s the next step in its evolution? Perhaps writers will embed ads directly in content. For example, a sports writer could talk about how a baseball player’s hat is made by New Era while writing about last night’s game.
If you use ad-blocking tools, don’t feel bad about your behavior. Technology is supposed to make our lives easier, after all. But buyer beware: If you’re an ad-block user, you may inadvertently be changing the Internet for the worse. Choose wisely.