Digital marketing and public relations industry press has been alive with discussions surrounding news that Apple’s impending iOS9 – that’s the new operating system being launched for iPhones and iPads- will come with ad blocking software embedded.
In many ways this has been a long time coming. Back in 2013 Forbes reported on a study that found nearly a quarter (23%) of all internet users were using some form of advertising-blocking software to make sure they were no longer driven to distraction by irrelevant, invasive pop-ups and unsightly banners. According to statistics available online, that figure has almost doubled in the last two years.
Put simply, people are getting irritated by the level of commercial interference the average web browse comes with. Just the other week, Radio 4 broadcast an insightful discussion on this very subject; the conclusion was the immediate future would see a growing rejection of digital advertising as we know it today.
Interestingly, a key reason for this was the attitudes of digital natives- those born into a world of on-demand, streams and mobile tech, who are not used to being forced to watch/read/take in adverts in the same way the previous generation was in the old realm of ‘standard television’. In those days, it wasn’t possible to fast forward a commercial break. Now we can just move on somewhere else when advertising disrupts our space.
There’s an issue with Apple’s decision to roll out blockers, though, that goes beyond the obvious one. Publishers are right to be concerned their main source of income- advertising- may be rendered invisible on devices used by 14% of mobile internet users (i.e. iOS). The obvious solution to this is adopting a more app-focussed approach to attracting public attention. Apps will not be effected by the new ad blockers for obvious reasons (they are stand alone, self-contained programmes). But, unfortunately, the solution is more complex given upcoming changes to Google’s ‘mobile friendly test’.
As we have written before, this is basically a series of hoops websites have to jump through in order to win at the search results rankings game. Websites are now marked down if they are deemed not to be mobile friendly- for example if they are unresponsive to the type of device they are viewed on. However, as of 1st November- as we reported in The Blagger’s Blog 4th September 2015– there’s a new hoop coming into play. Any website that aggressively promotes you to download an app in order to get a good mobile experience will also be filed under ‘Mobile Unfriendly’.
So what does this mean if we read between the lines? Well, for starters, anyone with a website that hosts adverts needs to be aware the potential to rake in money from this source is set to be threatened to some extent. Advertisers are already aware of Apple’s move, and will know this could significantly deplete the number of eyes that see their adverts. The result being the space will be worth less. Secondly, although building an app is often a good idea, brands must be very, very careful in ensuring they have both a quality mobile friendly website and a worthwhile app, and be mindful not to promote the latter over the former, instead allowing people to choose between the two based on personal preference.
From a more neutral perspective, you can’t help but notice how this is another example of digital businesses being caught in the crossfire between the world’s two biggest tech companies. Google remains the search engine of choice for iOS users. Google makes a lot of money from the type of advertising the new iOS9 will begin to block. Apple, although a slightly different type of firm, has long been a rival of Google. Without those advertising revenues Google will potentially have significantly less cash coming in.
Take note now, then, as times they are most definitely changing.