This whitepaper, “The Hidden Cost of Adblock”, presents the primary findings of research by Professor Benjamin Shiller (Brandeis University), Professor Joel Waldfogel (University of Minnesota and the National Bureau of Economic Research), and Dr Johnny Ryan (PageFair).
It reveals that adblock has a hidden cost: it not only reduces small and medium publishers’ revenue, it reduces their traffic too.
- Every 1% increase in adblocked web traffic produced a 0.67% decrease in site traffic for small and medium sites.
- Significant adblock usage by a website’s audience usually causes a temporary boost to its page traffic. This short term effect occurs because adblock users can enjoy the site without advertising.
- Over three years the majority of websites sites with high adblock rates saw their traffic levels significantly decrease relative to other websites.
- Traffic to the 2,574 sites in the study declined by an average of 8% over 35 months due to adblock.
The full academic paper, “Will Ad Blocking Break the Internet”, studies the traffic ranks of 2,574 websites and their changing rate of adblocking over 35 months from April 2013 – June 2016. The full study is available from the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research.
Users install adblocking to protect themselves from the worst advertising on the Web. However, adblock’s impact on publishers’ ability to produce attractive websites and content ultimately devalues the Web for users. This is the “adblocker’s trap”. If it continues then the diversity of the open Web will collapse. Ultimately, every website supported by advertising will lose the ability to invest in content.
To avert this catastrophe we must listen to the user’s legitimate grievances with online ads, fix these problems, and then restore publishers’ revenues. Publishers can show ads on to adblock users provided they use formats that remedy those users’ legitimate grievances – such as the IAB LEAN display formats that adhere to the Better Ads Coalition initial standard – and serve those formats with technology that adblocker companies cannot tamper with.