Let the iOS 9 ad block wars begin!

20 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Facebook’s ‘Like’ Button Another Casualty of Ad Blockers.

Americans who are plugged into the Web—the target market for Web advertisers—spend an awful lot of time staring at their smartphones and tablets. Just two days after Apple enabled ad-blocking apps through its new mobile operating system, iOS 9, users are embracing the new technology after long complaining that the ads track them, slow down web browsers and are just plain annoying.Apple’s recently released iOS 9 includes an update to WebKit, used by Safari and other applications that use the newly released SFSafariViewController, which enables a limited form of content blocking based on the URL and type.

This wasn’t so much a shot across the bow of the good ship Uncontrollable Slide-Down Ad for HP Servers or Something Else You’ll Never Buy, it was a direct hit amidship. They’re designed to shield users from potentially annoying ads, but also to enhance users’ privacy because many ads include tiny bits of code that allow marketers to track a user’s Web-browsing habits. Its release has caused a significant impact – paid ad blockers now sit in the top of the paid app positions in the iOS app store, despite penetration of iOS 9 being at 25%.

Mary Meeker in her latest Internet Trends report described that discrepancy as a “$25 billion opportunity.” (see below) She sees a land rush coming, and if she’s right, the last relatively uncluttered real estate on the Internet—the smartphone screen—is about to get plastered with billboards, pop-ups, and pre-rolls. He said that approach was “too blunt.” (Video via Apple) This writer at Fortune equates the loss of revenue from iOS ad-blocking with the loss of revenue Apple might experience if he were to, say, steal an iPad. Websites that provide advertising along with their editorials are concerned that this will impact revenue; while users have reported significant gains in battery and network performance by blocking tracking scripts and sites. Some sites — such as CNet — have adjusted their video delivery to determine if a content blocker is being used and then flag up a warning, as reported by LoopInsight.

Anti-adblock interests have dire warnings about the economic impact of ad-blocking: more than $40 billion in lost revenue globally by next year, if we believe their numbers. It’s a dick move designed to starve Google of its primary revenue source, they say, adding that ad blocking deprives publishers of ad income they deserve. There are definitely some small publishers out there that make 50 percent to 75 percent of their revenue from ads, and they have margins of about 10 percent.

But they’ve done the next best (or worst) thing: They’ve given developers easy-to-use tools to build better, faster and more efficient ad blockers. “I suspect there are going to hundreds if not thousands of ad blockers in the App Store from day one,” [said] Marco Arment, developer of Instapaper and Overcast [in a June 24 podcast]. “It’s going to be a massive rush, because they’re just so easy to make.” Advertisements, in case you haven’t noticed, are what make the World Wide Web go round. More from WSJ.D: And make sure to visit WSJ.D for all of our news, personal tech coverage, analysis and more, and add our XML feed to your favorite reader.

Safari’s ad blockers — more correctly called content blockers — are implemented in a way to be performant whilst also separating the blocking script from any visibility from the underlying page. Maybe into more native advertising efforts, where the content itself is sponsored — and won’t get trapped in the ad-blocker filters. (Video via Facebook) There’s a whole lot of tracking and interconnection going on behind the scenes on Web pages, much of it without the user’s knowledge or consent. (Video via Disconnect) And a whole lot of malware.

A recent Cyphort report showed “malvertising” — where hackers insert malicious ads into legit online operations — more than quadrupled in the last year. The content blocker never sees the URLs that the user is requesting; rather, the blocker supplies a list of known bad (or good) sites and then lets Safari handle the filtering.

Some unknown entity was watching you browse around tent websites, figured out that you’re really into tents, then told an advertiser, “Hey, this person is really into tents.” This is how the web’s media companies make money: Tracing your trail across the consumable web as bots follow you and take notes and report back to the advertiser overlords. Google has switched its media players and ad networks to HTML5, Firefox put Flash in quarantine until Adobe fixes all the security holes and Amazon and Facebook have ditched it completely on their ad networks. (Video via Google) Maybe go for a happy medium and set up a whitelist, so the ads you trust from the publishers you enjoy still get through, everyone still gets paid and you still get your cat videos. (Video via The Wildlife Docs)

The next PageFair/Adobe report on the state of ad blocking will show desktop ad blocking up 50% from last year and mobile ad blocking absolutely exploding. Internet advertising is still evolving, but one constant remains: ads specifically targeted to you make more money for publishers, so it is in their interest to fill their sites with those ads. Eyeo had an Adblock Plus browser for iOS 8 set for late summer release, but the new application programming interfaces in iOS 9 have thrown its developers for a bit of a loop. “iOS is a completely new place for us,” says Eyeo’s Ben Williams.

Maybe we’ll see ads in text copy within stories that don’t get blocked. “This story brought to you by our friends at Clio, a leading cloud-based case management solution and host of Clio Cloud Conference in Chicago on October 19 and 20.” (Send me my check Jack) I am optimistic though that something’s going to give and that we’re not going to see the end of mobile publishing, just as we did not see the end of web publishing with ad blocking on desktop browsers years ago. Multiple content blockers can be installed and operational at the same time, and individually disabled on an application level through the Safari settings widget. The common understanding is that the first to speak up will be dead as it will acknowledge that the volume of ads actually delivered can in fact be 30% to 50% smaller than claimed—and invoiced. Publishers fear retaliation from media buying agencies—even though the ad community is quick to forget that it dug its own grave by flooding the web with intolerable amounts of promotional formats.” As someone who follows Apple, I’m fascinated by the chess game Tim Cook is playing with Google. In public he has been playing the “Google sells you” card with variations on the old Internet saw: “If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.” So far it’s just rhetoric and APIs.

But the reason they’re in this mess in the first place is because many of them were unbelievably hostile to the people they were pretending to serve. Meanwhile, the fact that targeted blocks are generally represented as a blacklist means that ad networks will likely keep changing domain names to evade hard-coded filter lists. Cheap rhetoric at that, or what Stratechery’s Ben Thompson would call a strategy credit: “an uncomplicated decision that makes a company look good relative to other companies who face much more significant trade-offs.” Apple sells ads (through iAd) as a hobby; it doesn’t need the money. Pop up ads, pop under ads, flashing ads, auto-playing videos (COUGH), trackers, requests to send you notifications, ads that cover the content, ads that move the content… Point is, the list of atrocities against the good readers of the web is longer than a ZDNet slide show of the ways Apple is doomed.

After all, the publishing landscape has been infected by a striking sameness: the news breaks, and everyone scrambles to cover it within 10 minutes in almost the same way. It’s self-serving of the Macalope to say yes—and we can argue all day about how much the content is really worth—but the horny one is still gonna go ahead and say yes. Before you start downloading, there is one very important thing to understand: By blocking ads, you are depriving content publishers (like us, hello!) of advertising income and insights into what readers want. To better understand the flow of money and information between readers and publishers, check out WIRED’s cover story on the economics of online publishing.

Using Buzzfeed as an example, the story breaks down the profit margins of display ads, explains native ads, and explains the many tools, from headline optimizers and social prediction technologies, publishers use to attract your attention. Also bad, however, are some of the tactics used by sites (including this one) that make it obvious that their customers are not the readers but advertisers. Content providers like WIRED are businesses, after all, and if you aren’t going to pay for the content directly through, say, a subscription, we’ve gotta pay the bills somehow. Whereas mass media is about collecting traffic wherever they are found and getting as many dollars as possible from a wide swath of readers, niche media is about building a destination with features that serve a particular community especially well, maximizing a customer’s lifetime value.

Tech in Asia too is built in this vein, with three conferences financing our operations, plus features like a startup and investor database where users can research the tech industry. GigaOm would have prospered, if not for the pressures of venture capital funding which pushed it into an unsustainable growth mode in which it took on debt but struggled to pay it back. So, should ad blocker adoption continue to rise, these analytics tools might become useless because they’d no longer accurately reflect actual visitor numbers. If you have a terrible connection, you can use Blockr to opt only for the bare minimum, stripping a page of any media files that might be dragging things along. Peace is included here because if you’ve already bought it, there are two things to know: It will keep working even though it won’t be updated, and you can request a refund if you’d like.

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