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February 1, 2017

Use of Ad-Blocking Software Rises by 30% Worldwide

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Facebook has tried to ban it. Google has attempted to outsmart it.

But no matter what these tech giants do, people’s use of software to block digital advertising — often the lifeblood of companies’ online business models — keeps gaining traction worldwide.

In total, roughly 11 percent of internet users globally relied on ad blockers to avoid some form of digital advertising last year when surfing the web. That equates to more than 600 million devices, from smartphones to traditional computers.

The figure represents a 30 percent annual increase, according to a new report published on Wednesday by PageFair, a start-up that helps companies recoup some of this lost advertising revenue, which now totals tens of billions of dollars each year.

By using software to block digital advertising, critics say, users are breaking an unwritten pact with websites and digital publishers, many of which generate the bulk of their revenue from these ads.

Yet industry watchers say such ad-blocking digital tools have garnered a mainstream following, particularly across the developing world where their use in countries like Indonesia has already reached roughly two-thirds of the internet population.

“There’s been a massive surge of mobile ad-blockers in these countries that no one anticipated,” said Sean Blanchfield, chief executive of PageFair. “In the West, I expect the same trend to blindside us in the very near future.”

This rise of ad blockers has not gone unnoticed by the advertising industry.

In August, for instance, Facebook — one of the world’s largest purveyors of online ads — tried to block people from using such software on its social network.

The company’s efforts, though, led to an arms race with tech start-ups offering new ad-blocking tools, as both sides have tried to outmatch each other.

“Ad blocking is a detriment to the entire advertising ecosystem,” Paul Verna, an analyst at the research firm eMarketer, said in a statement. “The best way for the industry to tackle this problem is to deliver compelling ad experiences that consumers won’t want to block.”

Across the developing world, ad-blocking software is primarily used by people to save on often costly data packages by removing video and other data-hungry advertisements from mobile websites.

More than 90 percent of all ad-blocking on mobile devices worldwide still takes place in the Asia-Pacific region, according to the PageFair report. And last year, such software was used on 380 million smartphones and tablets around the globe, a 39 percent yearly increase.

In contrast, the vast majority of ad-blocking on traditional computers, whose use similarly jumped 17 percent last year, to 236 million devices, is still restricted mainly to the United States and Europe. In those regions, people’s efforts to block malware disguised as online advertising has been the main motivation for downloading ad blockers.

“In the U.S., ad-blocking on mobile is slightly immature,” Mr. Blanchfield said. “But there’s no doubt that people’s use of it will skyrocket.”


Copyright 2017 The New York Times Company. All rights reserved. From http://www.nytimes.com. By Mark Scott.
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