Tools & Tech

Wading into the Blocked Web

wknapp // February 1, 2017

surfer on the rocks

If you think this is just about Ad Blocking, you’re missing the point

Through time, and across cultures, stories are the glue that inspires, informs, and entertains. Storytellers capture our attention and compel our engagement. They aid in our decision making and they influence our perspective of the world.

Every so often we’ve invented ways to reduce the friction of storytelling and improve distribution: from the printing press, through recording & distributing of sound, to the advent of motion pictures. The internet, blogging, and now, social networking is the latest and perhaps most powerful of these friction-reducers.

The Takeaway

Consumers have taken matters into their own hands. Today, the majority of online advertising rewards interruption and ignores attention, interest, and intent. We’re hoping to help change that by measuring, testing, and finding answers.
We’re helping publishers: Measure, Understand, and Respond to Ad Blocking.

At Sovrn we believe in a more free, more open, and more connected world that thrives on the freedom of stories. We believe in the people that create, curate, and get these stories into our lives. Our fate is inextricably tied to that of the storyteller. Whether the tellers of these stories choose text, audio, photos or videos as their medium – our mission is to serve and support these creators.

As the fate of the content creator goes…so goes the fate of Sovrn

Sovrn helps content creators do three immensely important things:

  1. Create, promote, and distribute their content
  2. Understand the people who are engaging and interacting with their content
  3. Make money from their content

The steady rise of ad blocking:
We’ve been thinking a great deal about the nature of ad blocking and specifically, how does it impact our mission to help creators and publishers succeed? We’ve explored the motivations, the demographics of people that install ad blockers, the growth rate of ad blocking, and of course the impacts and implications to content creators and publishers.

Major takeaways from our analysis:
  • Ad blocker use among consumers in the U.S. is roughly 20%, and much higher in certain EU countries
  • Most content creators and publishers are either unaware of the specific uptake with their visitors, or they simply don’t know what to do about it
  • The most common motivation to install an ad blocker is interruptive and/or obnoxious ads that invade or block the content experience.
  • Ad blocking in the U.S. and Europe affects desktop browsing more so than mobile
  • Mobile ad blocking is now growing faster than desktop

Who uses ad blockers?

Use of ad blocking spans all demographics; with a skew to younger, higher educated and more technically savvy consumers.

Once installed, an ad blocker does not discriminate between good and bad websites. Publishers that are respectful of their audience and those that are not are treated on equal terms.

Publishers are starting to pay attention:

The dominant compensation mechanism for publishers has been one where the content is available largely for free, underwritten by advertisers “borrowing” some of the audience’s time and attention in exchange for access to content. This arrangement works well when there is a balanced relationship between the advertiser, the publisher, and the consumer. When this balance is out of whack, and the consumer suffers, and bad things happen. Unfortunately, this has become the case with much of online advertising.
For a person suffering from obnoxious or interruptive ads, or having their behavioral data collected without their knowledge or consent, ad blocking seems like a reasonable and appropriate remedy. When the data load of ads on a page surpasses the weight of the content, there’s a problem. Implementing an ad blocker simply makes the experience better in far too many cases. As a remedy, it’s catastrophic to well-meaning and well-deserving creators and Publishers by depriving them the source of compensation for their work.

Given this backdrop, we decided to wade into the ad block waters. Sovrn is making significant investments, including an important acquisition of Optimal, to measure and understand blocking behaviors. Our aim is to help content creators and publishers better understand what is truly happening and deliver a better experience to consumers.

A few specifics for publishers:

The first step is to Measure & Understand

  • We’ve released a measurement solution that will show you exactly how many of your visitors are running an ad blocker. Including their geography and other important details.

The next step is to offer Options

  • We’re releasing tools and techniques to give your ad blocking visitors options; then help you learn through real-world usage. The resulting data will help you understand how best to engage, learn, and recover value from those visitors.

Recommendations and Best Practices:

  • Through the above, we aim to uncover what works and what doesn’t so we can offer publishers recommendations, based on content-type, traffic sources, and visitor geographies for example, and how best to respond to these important consumer concerns.

Consumers have taken matters into their own hands. Today, the majority of online advertising rewards interruption and ignores attention, interest, and intent. We’re hoping to help change that by measuring, testing, and finding answers.

  • Will consumers turn off their ad blocker if they receive a more respectful and more limited advertising experience?
  • Can we meet or exceed the publisher’s current revenues with fewer ads?
  • Will advertisers get more value with greater attention access?
  • Will consumers pay for an ad-free option?
  • Should publishers just refuse to show content to an ad blocked visitor?
  • Is there a measurable trade-off between repeat visits and incremental distribution from ad blocked visitors vs. reduced ad revenue?

Helping to answer these questions and more will inevitably create stronger relationships between publisher and audience.

To all the readers & consumers out there we say:

We hear you loud and clear. We understand, and we intend to help the sites you love to find new ways to fund the content you enjoy while respecting your time and attention and limiting the collection of data to what is useful for a publisher to provide you with a better experience.

This quote sticks with me: “Every interesting company solves an important problem for someone else.”

At Sovrn we’ve made investment after investment with the singular goal of providing remarkable value to content creators and publishers; so they can do more of what they love and thrive.

A massive data collective that benefits content creators in a myriad of ways forms the foundation of nearly everything we do.  It provides surprising insights into the consumption of their content, who makes up their audience, how they compare to their peer content creators, and of course, monetization and yield optimization benefits that are unparalleled.

Sovrn’s state of the art advertising options span all ad formats and geographies, with a heavy emphasis on high-viewability advertisements placed to actively engaged consumers.  Our goal is to reduce the sheer number of ads people are exposed to while instead delivering more impactful experiences for both the advertiser and the viewer.

We believe that content creators deserve better advertising yields, and have long suffered due to fraudulent behavior. For years Sovrn has led the fight against fraud in online advertising.  We co-chaired the groundbreaking IAB Online Ad Fraud Committee.  We’ve consistently ranked at the very top of 3rd party quality rankings. And we recently were one of only two supply platforms to undergo a rigorous independent 3rd party audit of our anti-fraud and anti-privacy practices.

We’re extremely proud of the network of content creators and publishers that have chosen to work with us. This network includes more than 80,000 websites, collectively reaches 100 million unique users across nearly 3 billion page views every day. On a monthly basis, this is 1 billion people and nearly a third of the entire online population.

Our work to empower publishers is far from complete.  We continue to look for new and innovative ways to support the people creating the content that engages and inspires us.

Want to learn more?

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