The Rise of Adblocking – One Year Later

About one year ago we published our first report on adblocking – “The Rise of Adblocking” – with some terrific initial coverage by Kashmir Hill at Forbes. Next week we’ll publish our second annual adblocking report, and we thought it would be interesting to reflect on how our 12 month old predictions have panned out.
In our new report we’ll be revealing some data that, quite frankly, took us by surprise. We based our 2013 report on our own data from hundreds of websites using PageFair Analytics to measure adblocking, and found 22.3% of their page views were from adblock users.  This number was subject to some degree of selection bias, and was definitely slightly skewed by the large number of tech-focused websites that engaged with us from day one. Despite being skewed towards more technical sites, we had enough general entertainment and news sites to know that the lower range of adblocking was about 10%, much higher than most people realized at the time.
Over the last 12 months, PageFair has become a lot more popular, especially with more general interest websites. As more and more non-tech websites piled on, our network-wide adblocking rate stayed stable at about 20%. It turns out that as our client base broadened, the actual growth of adblocking was being masked. In our research for this report we managed to uncovered global historical data on the actual numbers of adblock users. 12 months ago we predicted an annual adblock growth rate of 43%. That figure turns out to have been extremely conservative, with adblocking clearly hitting the knee of its growth curve at the start of 2013, and accelerating throughout the rest of the year.
In our 2013 report we also provided a breakdown of adblocking by site category (games = 30%, technology = 25%, entertainment = 18%, and business = 14%). Our thinking on this has evolved significantly.
In our opinion, there are two clear cohorts of adblock users: the geeks and the millennials. The geeks are the original adblockers, and have known about adblocking since 2004. The millennials are the second group, and have adopted adblock along with the Chrome browser. The growth of adblocking is driven by this group, who (by and large) have grown up using web browsers. They know what a browser extension is, they know how to install one, and they know that Adblock Plus and Adblock are the most popular ones out there. It turns out that how badly affected a website is by adblocking is more directly related to its visitor demographics than its site content. In our report next week we will be revealing the results of a survey of 1,600 internet users in the United States, and provide a demographic breakdown of adblock users and attitudes among users.
Our report will also confirm that adblock users dislike some ads a lot more than others. Adblock Plus previously uncovered this when they polled their own users about acceptable advertising, and discovered that a large majority were actually willing to see some (limited) forms of ads.  In April this year we publicly launched PageFair Ads, which is whitelisted by Adblock Plus. We carefully designed the ad format to be as respectful as possible of the end-user experience. It features upvoting/downvoting, clear access to additional information and the privacy policy, plus an opt-out button that allows adblockers to turn off our ads on any given site. The results have been terrific – the opt-out rate has remained low at less than 1%, and the click-through-rate has been healthy (and in some cases terrific). We quickly confirmed our theory that there is no need to shout at adblockers with loud advertising – all you need to do is be polite. In our report next week we’ll reveal more survey information about how user attitudes vary by ad-format, with some surprising findings.
To stay tuned, follow us @pagefair or sign up for a free adblocking audit at www.pagefair.com. If you plan on being at dmexco in Cologne on the 10th & 11th September or at IBC in Amsterdam, drop us a line at [email protected] to let us know. You’ll find our stand at dmexco in Hall 6, number F.023 (near the hall 6 entrance opposite the speaker’s corner).

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