Publishers Watch Closely as Adoption of Ad Blocking Tech Grows

IAB Says It Is a Growing Problem

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Ad blocking technology presents a growing threat to digital publishers and ad-tech companies -- and they're starting to pay close attention.

Ad blocking technology removes ads from the internet via a browser extension. There are a number of such extensions -- the two most notable being Adblock and Adblock Plus -- and they are being installed in droves.

Adblock Plus, for instance, recently surpassed 300 million installs, according to spokesman Mark Addison, who said it stood at 200 million roughly a year ago. Mozilla has seen more than 200,000 downloads of Adblock Plus nearly every day since Sept. 1. Mr. Addison attributed the extension's popularity primarily to the fact that it is now available on every browser.

Israeli startup ClarityRay, acquired by Yahoo in August, studied 100 million impressions on top tier websites and found 9% were blocked.

It's a topic that was top of mind for many at the IAB Annual Leadership Meeting. Chairman David Morris told members ad blocking is "a growing problem that needs to be addressed," and the group held a closed breakfast to discuss the issue.

"We all talk about viewability, ad fraud. I think ad blocking is the next on that list," said IAB exec VP-public policy and general counsel Mike Zaneis. Ad blocking is becoming a critical issue because of its increasing adoption rate, Mr. Zaneis said, and because publishers are being more aggressively approached by ad blockers who are asking them to pay a fee in order to exempt their sites from blocking.

"The blockers themselves have changed their practices," Mr. Zaneis said. "Companies that had been whitelisted for years and haven't changed their business practices one iota are suddenly being threatened with being blocked."

Google, Microsoft and Amazon were recently cited in news reports as companies making payments to Adblock Plus in order to bypass it.

"Ad blocking has become a big part of the conversation and it's happened very quickly," said Undertone co-founder and IAB board member Eric Franchi. "People are talking about it now and they weren't talking about it a few months ago."

"It's coming up in every client conversation," said comScore CEO Serge Matta.

Mark Howard, chief revenue officer at Forbes, said viewability standards are partially responsible for the increased focus on ad blocking. "You're already dealing with a decreasing supply pool in terms of how you manage your inventory because of viewability, and then you layer on top of that some percentage of your traffic is using ad blockers," he said.

Forbes, he said, is in the discovery phase. "We're paying a lot of attention to it right now," he said of ad blocking. "It's something that we've got programmers all the way out to our CTO really focused on at the moment."

AdBlock Plus's Mr. Addison, who was in attendance at the IAB meeting, said the company was founded as "an earnest attempt by some people to clean up the most egregious examples of internet advertising." The company wants "to let the economics of the internet still work," he said. "We're proactively encouraging publishers to go to the forum and proactively apply for whitelisting. It's all done in an open forum. There are no secrets here."

Mr. Addison added, "Save one or two conversations, everybody here has been actually pretty open minded and pretty open to talk and pretty open to what we're trying to do."

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