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Mobile ad blocking worries mount

News, 17 December 2015

NEW YORK: Online gaming publishers, with a tech-savvy readership, report a significant proportion of their audience is using adblockers on desktop and are concerned that this behaviour is about to translate to mobile.

One such publisher, IGN, said that 40% of its 80m monthly users were running ad blocking software, up from 25% a year ago.

"They are definitely tech-savvy," said Todd Northcutt, vice president of production innovation. "We're not the reason that ad block is growing, but we are caught up in that net," he claimed.

His colleague Yael Prough, senior vice president of sales & marketing, had a slightly different take, telling Advertising Age that the website's clients wanted ads that were "impactful, robust and video heavy as much as possible".

"But that can impact users, too, with heavy ad load times and heavy video ad units," she said. And since around half of IGN's traffic comes from people on mobile, that is likely to lead to an increase in users blocking ads on these devices; currently just 2% do.

"Mobile ad blocking is our new worry," Prough said, adding that IGN is planning to run fewer ads on its home page in order to lessen the data load for mobile users.

Other publishers are experimenting with various approaches to the blocking problem, which, so far, remains largely a desktop issue.

Dennis Publishing, for example, is taking an educational route, with messaging that informs users of the value exchange involved, Digiday reported. It is also exploring the option of changing its terms and conditions in order to more tightly control the type of ads it lets through.

In the UK, City AM, a business freesheet, has adopted a more hardline stance, preventing all desktop users with ad-blocking software from accessing any content unless they turn the blocker off or whitelist the site.

In a recent trial, restricted to visitors using the Firefox browser, City AM found that ad blockers were turned off 21% of the time when users were blocked from viewing articles; those users turning blockers off went on to view more pages than the site average.

Data sourced from Advertising Age, Digiday, Campaign; additional content by Warc staff