Adblocking never disappeared, but, thanks to a recent surge in user numbers, the practice has been making headlines. Following a pandemic-era period of decline, Adweek reported that: “The technology benefited from a boost in adoption.”
It’s true that the adblock user demographic—briefly out of the spotlight—is once more the subject of industry-wide curiosity.
There’s a good reason for this: ad blocking rates have risen back to levels not seen since 2018. The recent 5% rise in adblock usage means that 42.7% of internet users worldwide currently use ad blocking software in some form.
Why block ads, anyway?
This rise in adblock usage occurred, at least in part, because during the embattled years of peak COVID-19, “ad prices dipped and publishers started slinging more ads to hit their numbers,” according to AdExchanger.
Faced with a barrage of advertisements, users turned to adblocking. It’s an understandable response, says Blockthrough CEO Marty Krátký-Katz, saying, “If [an] abysmal ad experience makes me turn on an ad blocker, that impacts every publisher.”
The key word here is abysmal. When a sample of US-American adblock users were asked about their reasons for installing an adblocker, the single most popular reason given was “Too many ads are annoying or irrelevant.” The second most common answer? “There are too many ads on the internet.”
Although prolific and intrusive ads send users scrambling to block ads, the attitude of adblock users is far more nuanced, and their ideal solution is far less extreme, than block everything as quickly and completely as possible.
In fact, adblock users tend to accept non-intrusive ads as an integral part of the browsing experience. Research shows that 90% of adblock users don’t hate ads. In fact, 83% are happy to be served ads that are relevant to their needs and interests. (Source)
But what are these needs and interests? To answer that, it’s important to get a snapshot of the adblock user demographic, and when they turn to adblocking.
Where are people blocking ads?
In a word: cities.
The overwhelming majority of adblock users make their homes in urban environments although there’s been a recent shift among some US-American adblock users into suburban areas. The smallest percentage—a mere 10.9%—of adblock users live in rural or wilderness areas. (as per GWI data)
Adblock usage is a global phenomenon, with prominent user bases on every populated continent. When Blockthrough analyzed upwards of ten billion pageviews from nine and a half thousand sites, adblock rates ranged from 8% (in Nigeria) to 55% (in Croatia).
Continent by continent, some trends emerged. North Americans block ads at a consistent rate, with 19% of US-Americans blocking ads compared to 20% of Canadians and 15% of Mexicans. Those rates are similar across Oceania.
Adblock rates among Western European users, on average, are percentage points behind those in Eastern Europe, with 18% of UK users blocking ads compared to 45% of Ukrainian users. There’s a similar level of adblock user diversity in Asian and South American countries: 15% of Bolivian users block ads compared to 34% of Argentinians; 9% of users in Japan block ads compared to 21% in China. Ad block rates are lower overall in Africa, with rates generally lower than 12% although north African countries like Algeria (29%) are a notable exception.
What devices are used when blocking ads?
Desktop adblock usage is up; mobile is down.
For the second consecutive year, desktop adblock usage is rising. After a period of growth leading up to 2016, desktop adblock usage first slowed through 2018, and then experienced a marked decline. Since hitting low numbers in 2020, however, desktop usage has bounced back to 2018 numbers: there are a total of 290 million monthly users of desktop adblocking.
Mobile adblocking, on the other hand, is experiencing a period of decline, after a steady increase in user numbers that started in 2014. This decline, according to the latest Blockthrough Adblock Report, “is almost entirely attributed to India’s ban of UC Browser, which decreased its user count by (approximately) 106M users.”
In terms of numbers, though, mobile adblock usage is approaching twice that of desktop adblock usage. The most recent data shows that there are 530 million mobile adblock users, compared to 290 million desktop adblock users.
Adblocking vs. ad-filtering
Does this mean that engagement with this significant population is off the table? Is the adblock user demographic—and blocked revenue—lost to publishers?
Not at all.
Of these adblock users, 250 million individuals worldwide are termed ad filterers: adblock users who also consent to be served non-intrusive ads. All of these users are eligible to be served Acceptable Ads, which have upwards of a 95% opt-in rate from users of browsers that support it.
The adblock users who consent to be served Acceptable Ads fit a unique profile, one prominently defined by their high levels of online engagement, especially when it comes to brands and products. They’re less likely to suffer from banner blindness than other users, probably a positive effect of browsing experiences that are less hectic, with fewer annoying and irrelevant ads.
And, significantly, they understand the role that advertising plays in ensuring a publication’s existential well-being. In fact, 70% of respondents in a recent poll of US-American adblock users conducted by eyeo, “stated that they understood that publishers rely on advertising to keep their content free.”
How publishers are responding
Contrary to popular belief, engaging with adblock users doesn’t mean battling with a demographic disdainful of publishers and averse to seeing any and all ads.
Instead, it means building a sustainable relationship with a group keenly aware of the value of online publications and the role that ads play in ensuring continuity of service and quality of content.
Of the top 100 US publishers to employ adblock monetization strategies, Acceptable Ads is the most popular. In fact, all but two of adblock-monetizing publishers use Acceptable Ads. This represents a significant rise: the previous year, only 52% of US 100 Comscore publishers monetized via Acceptable Ads.
It’s possible to start recovering adblock-related revenue leakage without making changes to existing tech infrastructure, establish a sustained revenue stream and proactively engage with a responsive demographic that trends younger, affluent, digitally native: ad block users.
For a few examples of real-world publisher engagement success, check out AdExchanger’s story on how AccuWeather ‘shored up revenue by monetizing its ad-blocking audience,’ or this AdWeek piece detailing how ‘CafeMedia recouped millions through adblock recovery.’
While you're here...
Did you know that the average publisher loses 10-40% of their revenue to adblocking? What you may not know is that adblocking has largely shifted to ad-filtering, with over 250M users allowing a safer, less interruptive ad experience to be served to them—in turn supporting their favorite sites and creators.
Blockthrough's award-winning technology plugs into publishers' header bidding wrapper and ad server to scan ad creatives for compliance with the Acceptable Ads Standard to activate this "hidden" audience and generate incremental revenue, while respecting the choice and experience of ad-filtering users.
Want to learn more?