Desktop ad-blocking has been a major trend for some time now, with the US ahead of most other countries for adopting this behaviour. However, with our research showing that 36% of US internet users now think that their smartphone is their most important device (up from 20% in late 2015), it’s inevitable that a growing number of these digital consumers will want to exert more control over their mobile browsing experiences in the months and years ahead. As that happens, the desire to use mobile ad-blockers is likely to grow too.
According to our recent research, mobile ad-blocking remains a fringe behaviour in the US, with just 15% of US internet users currently doing this. Nevertheless, there’s a pronounced underlying demand for a more user-friendly browsing experience on their connected devices: when current ad-blockers are asked about their main reasons for using these tools, across the board it’s ad-frustration which arises as the core motivation. Complaints about ad-overload, irrelevant content, intrusive formats and slow page-load speeds are the main drivers. All of these problems are ones which are exacerbated when browsing on a mobile rather than a desktop or laptop.
Following Apple’s announcement in 2015 that iOS 9 would allow users to download ad-blocking extensions through the mobile Safari browser, many predicted the proliferation of mobile ad-blocking tools in the West. For the most part, however, it has remained strong in Asia Pacific and not made the jump to markets like the UK or USA. Our study confirms this, with the rates for mobile ad-blocking in the US lagging significantly behind those seen for desktops or laptops (22% of American ad-blockers say they done so on a mobile in the last month, compared to 68% on a laptop and 51% on a desktop PC).
These figures become all the more striking when you consider that ownership of mobiles vs desktops/laptops is pretty equal (78% of US ad-blockers have a mobile vs 81% who have a laptop). So, why such a huge disparity? Awareness seems to be key here. In our research, more than 6 in 10 of those who have blocked ads on a desktop/laptop but not via their mobile stated that they did not know that it was possible to block ads on a smartphone. Unsurprisingly, there’s a direct correlation with age here – the older someone is, the less likely they are to be aware of mobile ad-blocking. What’s more, even among those who have used a mobile ad-blocker in the past month, just 1 in 2 were able to name the brand of ad-blocker they were utilising.
As it stands, those wanting to block ads on their mobile need to download an ad-blocker extension on a mobile browser (which many browsers are yet to support), or download an entirely new mobile browser with in-built content-blocking capabilities. Currently, the latter is being impeded because most mobile users don’t tend to make use of multiple browsers, and our research shows that most will only consider doing so if they are familiar with the browser in question and see clear benefits in using it.
Of course, changing mobile behaviours is far from easy. But with US consumers spending more and more time on their smartphones and with ad-frustration being the primary motivator behind turning to blockers, it’s not hard to see how growing awareness of mobile ad-blocking capabilities (and the brands providing them) could see uptake levels increasing. In short, the current lack of awareness can be overcome much more easily than the ongoing trend in some parts of the ad-industry towards publishing irresponsible or intrusive ads.
With 1 in 5 of the US device owners we surveyed saying that they don’t mind seeing ads on their mobile if they are respectful (and a similar number stating they would donate an amount of money that they think is fair to support websites and the content they produce), there is room for optimism. Certainly, converting these expressed intentions into actual behaviours is easier said than done, but ultimately it boils down to the value exchange between the publisher and consumer – unless irresponsible ads are tackled, uptake of mobile ad-blocking tools in the US will increase.
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