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Gladly 2016 User Ad Blocking Report

Over the last year, the growth of  ad blocking has been one of the biggest stories across the online world. While there has been considerable discussion of petty disputes, lawsuits, influxes of funding, and the impending online content apocalypse, there has been very little reporting on the people actually driving this phenomenon: ad blocking users.

At Gladly, we believe giving users a strong voice within online advertising is the only way to truly address the issues that have spurred on ad blocking. This is why we built our own ad blocker, Goodblock, which not only blocks ads but also allows users to opt-in to a few enjoyable ads each day. If they do, those ads raise money for charity.

We surveyed Goodblock users to gain a deeper insight into ad blocking users’ behavior and attitude toward online advertising. The result is this year’s User Ad blocking Report.

Key Finding: Most Ad Blocking Users Feel Guilty

How guilty ad blocking users feel

About 80% of Goodblock users reported feeling some level of guilt around blocking ads. This high percentage runs contrary to the stereotypes associated with ad blocking users. To date, the rhetoric around ad blocking suggested that the majority of users either actively did not care about the effect ad blocking had on the sites they visited, or that they didn’t understand that advertising is necessary to fund their content. This story is no longer valid with the vast majority of ad blocking users fully understanding the consequences of ad blocking, and feeling torn about it.

This is backed up by the high proportion of internally conflicted ad blocking users (52%) who dislike advertising, but understand that publishers need the ad revenue. Together, these results show that most ad blocking users are informed and conscious of publishers’ dependence on ad revenue.

Key Finding: Most Ad Blocking Users Selectively Turn Their Ad Blocker Off

Astoundingly, we found that over 77% of Goodblock users have whitelisted (disabled their ad blocker) on at least one website. Furthermore, over 40% of our users have whitelisted more than 5 websites. Both of these numbers are extremely high, and show that users not only feel guilty, but they take action to support publishers they care about.

We also found the most cited reason for downloading an ad blocker was that a few sites had particularly annoying ads, and a common sentiment toward online advertising was that the ads are fine, but there are simply too many of them.

The main reason that users downloaded an ad blocker

Together, these sentiments and high percentage of whitelisting show that users aren’t necessarily against all online ads, they are simply using ad blockers as a tool to improve their user experience.

Key Finding: Appeals to Ad Blocking Users Work

Of the top 20 websites whitelisted by Goodblock users, 8 prevented users from accessing their content unless they turned their ad blocker off and 7 asked users to support their site by turning ad blocking off.

The top 20 whitelisted websites on Goodblock

While both these  approaches succeed in getting users to whitelist their website, there was a large group of users (30%) who expressed anger when the content was completely blocked.

How ad blocking users feel about forced whitelisting

In total, over 20,000 websites have been whitelisted by Goodblock users, illustrating that users are selective about the websites they whitelist, and are not only whitelisting websites that are appealing.

What this all means

From our perspective, this report shows that ad blocking is a much more nuanced phenomenon than many have assumed. The majority of ad blocking users are aware that their decision to remove ads has negative consequences for the content they support, so they will opt back into ads to help the content creators they care about.

Moreover, the majority of ad blocking users are not downloading ad blockers to remove online advertising completely, but rather to fix user-experience problems on a subset of websites with particularly annoying ads. At Gladly, we see this as an extremely positive development in the world of online advertising, as ad blocking has given users a platform to show their displeasure with ubiquitous, obnoxious, and often pointless advertising.

We hope that these conversations around online advertising show the industry that users need to be involved in their advertising experience. In the era of personalization, expectations around the quality of content and website design has increased rapidly, and the ad tech industry has failed to follow along. It is time for online advertising to move the focus from volume of impressions, to the quality of user-interaction — and this can only be done by focusing on the user first.

  • Arthur Arkwright

    Ads on my mobile devices provoke another aspect to the discussion.
    Because I don’t rely on my mobile devices as a social crutch and can
    generally live without an always-on data connection, I simply use a
    basic PAYG and manage with maybe £20 of credit about once a year, paying
    a standard rate for calls, for texts and per meg of data.

    The thing that puzzles me is this: Would anyone accept a reverse
    charge call from a marketing company, just so said marketing company
    could sing their client’s praises? Would anyone pay the postage to
    receive an unfranked advertising mailshot? – I submit no-one would.
    Commentards’ opinions would be welcomed.

    Given that, why the hell should I be expected to pay for the
    “pleasure” of downloading some marketing company’s dross ad content that
    I neither wanted not asked for?