June 02, 2016

Mobile Ad Blocking Grew 90% In 2015. Maybe.

An article in The Verge earlier this week reported on a study by PageFair showing that usage of mobile ad blockers grew 90% last year. According to the article there are now over 400 million people worldwide using ad blockers on mobile devices.

Several months ago, PageFair put the number of users at about 200 million worldwide.

They claim that in 2015, online publishers lost over 20 billion dollars in revenue due to ad blocking.

We have no way to know how seriously to take these numbers, but I am officially skeptical.

PageFair's business is helping marketers get around ad blockers. They have a vested interest in a high incidence of blocker usage. I never trust the research of a company that has an interest in an outcome.

The good news for US online publishers is that according to PageFair only 2% of American mobile phone owners use ad blockers on their devices. Of course, like all online ad data this number is completely unreliable.

Just nine months ago, the IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau) reported that 34% of US adults were using ad blockers. Obviously, one is measuring "mobile phone users" and one is measuring "adults" so there is some room for variance, but nowhere near the difference between 2% and 34%. Someone's either very wrong or full of shit.

As is always the case in online ad-related numbers, games are being played and we are left to try to figure out what the hell is gong on.

For some very plain spoken but highly entertaining and informative comments on the numbers games played by the online ad industry, I highly recommend this talk by the great Prof. Mark Ritson.

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