Though the technology has not yet become ubiquitous in the United States, ad-blocking software is already costing media and other online advertising purveyors billions of dollars in Asia and other “emerging” markets.
The New York Times published a story Monday discussing something that has certainly been — or should be — on the radar for any business that counts on online advertising to keep the trains running. Right now, it says, one in five cell phone users — 420 million people worldwide — are blocking advertising on their cellular devices. The Times quotes information pulled from a study conducted by digital advertising company PageFair, and Priori Data, a company that tracks smartphone applications.
While only 4.3 million Americans — just 2.2 percent of smartphone users — currently engage ad blockers, the numbers are much larger overseas. Right now, according to the study, 36 percent of smartphone users in the Asia-Pacific region have ad blockers on their phones. In India and Indonesia, 66 percent of people use them.
This also doesn’t count another 200 million people worldwide who have added ad-blocking software to their desktop computers.
The article attributes the much higher percentage of ad-blocker usage in other parts of the world to the fact that in those markets people tend to use phones as their primary access to the web. As more and more Americans follow suit, experts expect the use of ad blockers to rise. Last year the number of people using the technology worldwide almost doubled.
It should be pretty obvious why such technology presents a real danger to media companies, the vast majority of which are still trying desperately to find ways to make the effort put into their websites produce the kind of revenue they got from their original platforms.
A University of Texas at Austin research paper earlier this year already has shown that the efforts of many of the country’s daily newspapers to “go digital” over the past decade has fallen flat in many regards, and that’s without having to deal with ad blockers.
The UTA study found that while print has declined among 51 of the country’s largest daily newspapers, it is still by far the more dominant generator of revenue and readership for those newspapers. So yes, even 20 years into the digital revolution, the study showed readers of these newspapers, at every age group, still overwhelmingly read the print version versus digital.
From 2010 to 2014, digital newspaper advertising in this country only rose from $3 billion to $3.5 billion. Even though print revenue dropped precipitously from $22.8 billion in 2010, it was still $16.4 billion four years later — almost five times as much as digital — and generated about 80 percent of total ad revenue.
When the chief executive of PageFair declares it’s “only a matter of time until mobile blocking comes to the West,” it’s not hard to imagine a looming problem for companies that have put all or most of their eggs in the digital basket. A couple of international cellphone companies are already toying with the idea of offering ad-blocking packages to consumers, something that, if it proves popular, could even trigger lawsuits over “net neutrality” issues.
The bottom line, it seems, is that many people still don’t like digital advertising, find it obtrusive and realize it makes load times longer for those websites you just absolutely need to see right now. In this instant-gratification world, a few seconds is all it takes for people to be turned off.
But consumers have to realize that if ad blockers become the norm, their favorite news sites will eventually have to go behind a paywall to survive. And that presents a whole other issue.
Cuts at The Press-Register
Insiders are telling us that last week as much as half of the local circulation staff still remaining at The Press-Register was terminated.
One of those laid off tells Lagniappe management from the New Orleans office showed up and commenced the firings. When asked how the paper’s circulation issues would be handled with such a large decrease in staff, the former employee said the P-R’s circulation has sunk so low that even with half the staff it would be no problem.
Lagniappe was unable to get comment from anyone with Alabama Media Group. The Press-Register, as well as The Huntsville Times and Birmingham News, are all currently run by AMG. However, it has been announced the Southeast Regional Media Group will launch later this year and take in all of the Newhouse-owned newspapers and websites in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi.
Former P-R publisher Ricky Mathews — who currently oversees Louisiana for the company — will be in charge of the SRMG.
Eli returning to Alabama
Former FOX10 sports anchor/reporter Simone Eli is headed back to ‘Bama after a two-year stint at KPRC-TV in Houston.
Eli says the move is more personal than business, which is why she’s leaving one of the nation’s largest markets to head back to the Birmingham/Tuscaloosa area.
“I’ve loved my time here and have created amazing relationships with folks at KPRC, but I am moving to be happier personally and continue my sports broadcasting career in Alabama [Birmingham/Tuscaloosa area],” Eli told a Houston media blogger last week.
Eli worked at WALA for a year before abruptly leaving the station in June 2014. Prior to that she worked at Buckeye Cable Sports Network.
While she has not yet announced a new position, Eli told other Houston media she had received “a few job offers in the Birmingham-Tuscaloosa area” and is excited to be closer to friends and family.