To Block or Not To Block Mobile Phone Adverts?

One of the unfortunate realities of being connected in all aspects of our lives is that we can be and often are reached by adverts that interrupt, distract, and are of little or interest to us. In the age of the smartphone and tablet our mobile devices have become an effective way for advertisers to reach us wherever we are. As an IT Support Company in Hertfordshire we often speak to businesses who are searching for a solution to the large amount of online advertising sent to mobile devices. We were therefore pleased to hear that major Mobile network operator EE (formerly ‘Everything Everywhere) is beginning discussions to allow its 27 million plus customer base to block adverts on their mobile phones. This approach however is one that is not likely to be shared by all IT and communications companies as recent reports about Yahoo show.

Yahoo To Block Blockers?

There have been some news reports recently that Yahoo is running a test among a small number of Yahoo Mail users in the U.S. that could lead to the introduction of a tool that will block free tariff customers’ emails if they’re it detects that they are using an ad blocker.

The Debate - Ads VS Subscriptions

The 2 different approaches help to highlight the debate that has been going on for some time now about online advertising. The current narrative seems to be that even though we don’t like to receive the adverts, we either carry on receiving them, or we accept subscriptions for much of the content that we currently access for free.

“Free” Content Funded By Advertising

The reality is that what we see as free online content is in fact often funded by advertising. A survey by YouGov (commissioned by the Internet Advertising Bureau) for example showed that less than 50% of UK adults know that the majority of free content online from e.g. newspapers, social networks and music streaming sites is actually funded by advertising. The survey also seemed to show that the annoyance of online adverts outweighs any sympathy we may have from knowing this fact as only 10% said they were less likely to block ads after being told.

Web advertisers are obviously keen to remind us that having no adverts would mean that most sites would need to start charging subscriptions instead. IAB chief executive, Guy Phillipson said recently in a Guardian interview “Those unaware that most online services are free – or cost very little – because sites make money from showing visitors ads, could be in for a shock if websites start charging for access because ad blocking reduces their revenue from advertising”.

We May Have To Accept Adverts, But We Don’t Have To Like Them

Even though we may accept the argument that advertising funds a lot of content, it doesn’t mean that we have to like adverts. A recent Broadband Genie survey of 2,501 Internet users for example showed that 64% use ad blockers and that 82% said that they didn’t care about the cost of ad blockers to advertisers. 60% even said they saw ads as a threat to their online security.
It could be argued that adverts are only really annoying when they interrupt us, or when we forced to view them instead of what we wanted to view. For example Adverts regularly appear in the middle of our screens forcing us to search for the cross to close them down, and any YouTube users will be familiar with the frustration of having to watch an advert for a specific time period before you get so see your chosen YouTube video.

The volume of adverts per page online plus the rich media aspect of many of them also seem to make pages take forever to load. EE’s idea is therefore likely to be one that could on the face of it be a popular one with its customers.

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