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Ad-blockers wildly popular and cost advertisers billions, study says

Caroline Leopold, @caroline815
08.10.15
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Ad blockers are more popular than ever, but publishers are losing precious dollars that they use to pay what the public gets for free or a reduced cost. Who will pay for that content users love?

PageFair, a company that tracks use of adblocking software, released a study this week saying use of such ad-blocking applications are growing.

More than 198 million people are using adblockers, a growth from the year before. Sites with tech-savvy users may have as many half of its users running apps that slay ads. Advertisers are expected to lose over $21 billion in 2015, according to the report.

The familiar argument for ad blocking software is that online advertisements, especially on mobile eat up data plans and make content hard to read. The rebuttal is that adblockers are taking income away from online publishers who rely on this income to pay staff and run servers.

Sites catering to tech savvy users often post polite messages asking the user to turn off the blocker; in other words, put the site on a "whitelist." When users volunteer to comply, websites also try to make sure that ads are separated from content and do not detract from user experience.

Some users may be taking a principled stand with publishers and turn off their blockers sometimes, the blocker is still letting users browse less popular sites without giving anything in return. Bypassing ads altogether is tempting and users have come to enjoy an ad-free web.

Another direction for advertising is to post more natural content, such as an article or sponsored post. Called native advertising, this type of promotion is becoming more popular. When a company posts on Instagram and Twitter or sponsors a blog post, that is content that is more likely to be appreciated and shared. Education, events and conferences are other ways that companies are trying to generate awareness and goodwill among potential customers.

Despite these advances, advertisers and publishers say display ads generate income. Yet, display ads don't generate clicks even when seen, according to inbound marketing company Hubspot. Users almost never click banner ads. Also, there is user blindness where users simply don't register or "see" any of the hundreds of ads displayed to them each month.

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