Mobile ad blocking up 90% Y/Y; most of consumers who know what ad blocking is use it

More bad news for publishers – ad blocking is spreading like a virus among consumers.

The latest study, the 2016 Mobile Ad-blocking Report, from analyst firm PageFair show that the number of mobile devices that have ad-blocking technology has grown some 90% in the past year to 419 million devices – about 22% of the world’s smartphone users – and more than twice the estimated installations on desktop and laptop computers.

On a far more positive note, PageFair said that there were just 14 million monthly active users of mobile ad-blocking browsers in North America and Europe, with the largest application being in China (159 million), India (122 million) and Indonesia (38 million). But, the company notes, the problem is growing in North America and Europe.

Ad blocking on mobile devices are more prevalent in APAC because they improve page loading speed and reduce data usage, which have greater impact in regions where networks are less robust and data more expensive.

A year ago, PageFair estimated nearly 200 million users had ad-blocking technology active on their computers, a 41% increase Y/Y, with the highest penetration in North America, Europe and Australia. Ad blocking in the United Kingdom was up 82% to 123 million users and 48% in the United States to 45 million active users.

But, the industry agrees, consumers aren’t the only ones to blame.

“The public is not inherently hostile to advertising. There are magazines (like Vogue) and TV programs (like the Super Bowl), where people’s primary interest is the ads. What people hate are bad ads,” David Chavern, CEO, Newspaper Association of America, told PageFair. “Digital advertising is still in still too derivative of print and TV advertising. We have no ad vocabulary that is optimized to the digital environment experience. People love Vine videos — so why are there no 7 second ads? We also measure digital ads by a metric — “impressions” — that has no real meaning or value. If we don’t fix these problems, and we allow ad blockers to take over, then we will be left with small, subscription models that will exclude large portions of the public. Not being able to afford HBO is one thing. Not being able to afford quality news would be a much more serious problem.”

Consumers who are aware of ad blocking are using it

In another report released this week, from Midia Research, less than half (41%) of respondents from the U.S., U.K., Brazil, Australia, Sweden and France knew what ad blocking was. But 80% of that group used ad blocking on their computers and 46% blocked ads on their smartphones.

The survey, from Decoding The Ad-blocking Consumer, also found that if they were blocked from the site because they employed an ad blocker, they’d stop visiting it.

“Whether one should or should not use the outright ban tactics will vary based on the size and characteristics of publishers’ audiences, their share of ad-blocking users, the loyalty of its audience as well as their ability to successfully deploy alternative revenue streams,” said Karol Severin, a Midia Research analyst.

Stay tuned.

Jim O’Neill is Editor of Videomind and Principal Analyst at Brightcove. You can follow him on Twitter @JimONeillMedia and on LinkedIn