Mobile adblocking now a growing threat as usage of mobile blockers jumps 90%


Adblocking has fast become one of the most hotly debated issues in the advertising industry. Now, PageFair, the company that advocates better adverts for digital device users, has released a new report which highlights the trend of adblockers shifting to mobile devices.

According to the data, 419m people are now blocking ads on their smartphones. Mobile adblockers have jumped 90% in global growth over the 12 months from January 2015. That means, 22% of global smartphone owners are now blocking ads. So far, iOS content blockers have been downloaded 4.5m times.

PageFair also identified the top mobile adblockers on ISP, in-app, browser and single app in this infographic:

Ad blockers on smartphones



Ad blocking browsers are the most popular way to stop ads from popping up. Alibaba’s own UC Browser has more users than all other ad blockers combined. Indeed, mobile adblocking is now most popular in emerging markets, including China (159m), India (122m), Pakistan (10m) and Indonesia (38m) where 36% of smartphone owners block ads.

PageFair cautions that adblockers pose a serious threat to journalism in emerging markets, because here, people are going online for the first time. In addition, the improvement of page load speeds and the decrease in bandwidth consumption which blockers advocate, are particularly important for users in countries where networks aren’t as well developed yet. Usage across the Western economies is predicted to continue to rise with new blockers on the way and networks such as Three UK testing adblocking at network level.

Adblocking by country

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The Asia Pacific region now has some 55% global smartphone owners. However, 93% of them were blocking ads with browsers.

Asia Pacific with highest adblock usage


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Given that 30m of Firefox for Android users are now blocking ads, as well as 24m Opera Mini and Maxthon users, more browser makers will have to play catch-up and provide their own adblocking solutions.

Adblock browsers are particularly popular in Europe, compared to the US. However, content blocking apps are three times more popular in North America than Europe with 9 users per 1,000 smartphones. Both areas have low in-app adblocking app levels.

North America – Europe ad blocking usage


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Adblockers have now also gone where many thought they wouldn’t reach: Facebook and Instagram.

Johnny Ryan, Head of Ecosystem, PageFair, explains:

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“Ad blocking has driven some publishers to seek refuge by working with walled garden platforms. As this report shows, these closed platforms offer only temporary respite. Until now it has been widely believed that ads and so-called ‘sponsored/suggested’ content on Facebook and Instagram were invulnerable to ad blocking. This is no longer the case. For example, 9.6m people have downloaded a particular app that has the capability of blocking suggested content and ads in [apps such as] Facebook and Instagram.”

It’s apparent that with the majority of ‘next’ internet users coming online using a low bandwidth connection, adblockers will prove a much sought-after tool for them to ensure they’re not wasting their data plans on advertising.

The only way this could be prevented would be to solve the bandwidth cost issues across developing economies.

Ryan adds that the consumer problem has been accepted by the industry. But whilst technologies exist to serve ads that forego blockers, he cautions that the problem has to be addressed at the core level – the advertising ecosystem. That includes showing fewer ads and providing a better consumer experience that respects privacy, guarantees security and offers speed.

Vincent Peyrègne, CEO, World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers, adds:

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“Mobile is now a major channel for news consumption, and is growing rapidly. Adblocking on mobile threatens this growth. We as an industry knowingly allowed bloated ads to run amok on news sites, packed with enough tracking software to annoy readers to ad nauseam, and causing a host of UX problems for users. We have to fix this.”

How exactly publishers, marketers and other content and advertising providers are going to address the issue remains to be seen.