Ad blocking holds fast at 22% of Brits

Internet Advertising Bureau suggests the number of people using ad blockers has flatlined


Some 22% of Brits use ad blockers, but that number hasn't grown over the past year although that's according to an advertising organisation.

Every six months, the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) has surveyed Brits about their ad blocker use, with the latest round of stats suggesting 22% of adults have installed and used the software. 

While more than a fifth of web users dodging ads isn't likely to be happy news to a body such as the IAB, there's been only a 1% year-on-year increase and no ifrom the previous round of research in summer of last year. This is in contrast to a 7% increase between Q1 2015 and Q1 2016, which led to concerns among publishers and advertisers that ad blocking would continue to grow and predictions it would hit 27% of internet users by this year.

"The continued rise in ad blocking that some predicted simply hasn't materialised," said the IAB UK's CEO Jon Mew.

He claimed a key reason for that was publishers blocking access to website visitors with ad blockers enabled. Indeed, of the one in five people who downloaded an ad blocker who stopped using it, a quarter said that was down to blocked content while the same percentage pegged it on switching to a new device.

He claimed the number of people using ad blocking extensions or software may actually be lower than the 22% cited, saying a fifth of those couldn't actually name their ad blocker.

Despite the apparent success in discouraging the use of ad blockers, Mew said the industry should remain vigilant and make less invasive ads. "Despite the stall in ad blocking, it's vital the industry doesn't take its foot off the pedal in working to provide people with a better, lighter and more considerate online advertising experience which will discourage them from blocking ads altogether," said Mew.

IT Pro spoke to developers behind ad blocking tools to find out if the IAB's report rang true. "There are over 100 million active devices running AdBlock Plus, and we haven't seen a dropoff recently," said Ben Williams, spokesperson for Ad Block Plus. "However, on a per-country basis, we've long predicted that numbers would level off between a quarter and 30% usage."

That's mostly desktop users, he noted and mobile use could still be set to rise in local markets. "In the APAC region it's opposite: mobile ad blockers dwarf desktop users," he said. "I would expect this trend to reach Europe and North America as people discover they can block ads on their phones and as the offerings for mobile blocking improve."

Aral Balkan is one of the developers behind Better, a tracking blocker that also knocks out ads. He said the IAB's figures "do not apply to or reflect our experience".

"Better is currently a niche product that you have to pay for and that does exactly what it says on the tin and nothing more," he said, adding sales are up over the past month by 44%.  "We have thousands of people who have purchased better and sales are steadily increasing."

He also cast doubt on the suggestion that users are turning off such blockers. "People who install Better tend to keep it on and use it every day," he said, noting that's from anecdotal information as the company doesn't track customer usage.

That's contrary, he noted, to rivals such as AdBlock Plus and Ghostery, which unlock some approved ads for payment, suggesting anyone looking for a blocker instead opt for his own software or a blocker such as uBlock Origin.

That's worth pointing out as ad blocker Shine, which made waves with a mobile network test over the summer, flipped its business model from a blocker to become an ad platform, rebranding as Rainbow.

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