What Harvard Business School says about Sizmek and the future of ad tech

In March 2020, three scholars at Harvard Business School—Professor Ayelet Israeli, case researcher Sarah Gulick (Case Research & Writing Group), and independent researcher Danilo Tauro (industry expert)— prepared “Sizmek Chapter 11: Surviving Walled Gardens in Their Ad Tech Empire.

The result is a profoundly insightful look into the ad tech industry in general and the Sizmek story in particular. We wanted to tease a few of the main discussion points in the case—while noting, of course, that we’re omitting a number of important, vital ideas and conclusions. Think of this post as a conversation starter, rather than a conversation summary.

The scope of “Sizmek Chapter 11: Surviving Walled Gardens in Their Ad Tech Empire” is vast, covering years of ad tech history, but we’re taking a particular look at what it says about the events of three generalized time frames…and what the Sizmek bankruptcy means for the ad tech industry at large.

The Past: Rise of the Walled Gardens & GDPR

In considering the rise and fall of Sizmek it’s important to go back and look at two issues that the ad tech industry knows well as massive, seismic shifts: the rise of the walled gardens (this case study is looking primarily at Google and Facebook) and GDPR.

This study examines how the two issues go hand in hand, paving the way for the bankruptcy of Sizmek and questions about the future of ad tech.

The term “walled garden” could easily be “fortress,” because of how strong the barriers are. Most media platforms allowed the ad tech ecosystem as a whole to access data concerning advertising, but the walled gardens didn’t. This had the effect of “making it difficult for third-party advertisers to collect their own data or leverage any types of data outside the walled garden.” (“Sizmek Chapter 11: Surviving Walled Gardens in Their Ad Tech Empire.”)

Not only that, but the walled gardens withheld user identification cookies, which adds an additional layer of brick between what was being used inside the walled gardens and what was being used everywhere else.

This already fraught environment was then intensified thanks to the General Data Protection Regulation. As Markus Plattner, Sizmek’s Chief Technology Officer, explains:

GDPR was meant in part to stop big companies from having access to everyone’s data, but it turns out that big companies are usually the only ones who can afford to comply with the regulation […] What happened instead was that data stopped being shared, so the walled garden companies had user data and could sell advertisements based on it, cutting out everyone else.

Sizmek  aimed, according to Sizmek CEO Mark Grether, to compete with the walled gardens by focusing on exemplary customer service and international knowledge. Sizmek’s range of services appealed to clients looking for piecemeal and bespoke projects, adding up to what Paul Wright, Sizmek’s general manager for Europe,  the Middle East, and Africa, called “a more personalized version of ad tech.”

The Present: Spring 2019 to Summer 2020

But by 2019, Sizmek still wasn’t profitable. And due to the fact that a personalized approach to ad tech had become significantly harder to achieve, faith that profitability could be achieved in a timely manner was shaken.

A main reason for this, according to “Sizmek Chapter 11: Surviving Walled Gardens in Their Ad Tech Empire,” is because, while “several years earlier, a DSP could earn a margin of 50% to 60% […] by spring 2019, DSP margins were often between 8% and 15%.”

When reflecting on Sizmek’s bankruptcy and what could have been done differently, a variety of opinions come forth. One probable issue is timing: many believe Sizmek could have become profitable if given a further six months.  Another potential hiccup could have been the slow pace of consolidation; if things had come together more quickly it’s possible that Sizmek could have picked up more smaller clients.

Peter Hunter, general manager of Sizmek in Asia, also suggested the issue was sticker shock, saying that there “was no way we were able to compete with [walled gardens] on that initial price—and there’s a constant pressure on price.”

Other possible reasons include user and viewing data, the DSP question, the focus of the business, and “Sizmek Chapter 11: Surviving Walled Gardens in Their Ad Tech Empire” investigates all these and more in great detail.

The Future: “The Evolution Of Our Industry Will Continue”

Sizmek filing for bankruptcy sent shock waves through the industry. As the case study puts it, “other small ad tech companies were disappointed in Sizmek’s bankruptcy, with the CTO of a rival company pointing out that the fall of Sizmek would further increase the industry share of walled garden companies.”

The general consensus pointed to a large-scale consolidation inside the industry, which creates after-shocks of pessimism. Some industry insiders suggested that independent ad tech would disappear entirely and the “big players” would be confronted, time and again, with privacy issues.

But others have significant optimism. According to Grether and Hunter, it’s still a vastly exciting time to be in ad tech, with the model set to be changed entirely by emerging technologies like the Internet of Things and driverless cars.

Grenther in particular believes we’re just getting started, saying, “In the future, consumers will have more marketable touchpoints. That’s not going to simplify advertising, it’s going to make it more complex […] as a result of that, some ad tech companies and agencies will survive, new ones will be created, and the evolution of our industry will continue.”


We wanted to recap some of the points from this important and fascinating case study, but there’s still a lot more to discover in “Sizmek Chapter 11: Surviving Walled Gardens in Their Ad Tech Empire.”

To get a copy, contact customerservice@harvardbusiness.org

What a new study from the New Jersey Institute Of Technology says about the engagement of ad blocking users

To Be Or Not To Be…Tough or Soft

Ad blockers: the large, unmissable, revenue-depleting elephant in the room. Already pervasive globally, the use of ad blockers just keeps growing—resulting in the growing concern and financial pinch of ad-supported websites.

And by pinch we mean vice grip: one estimate places the “doomsday scenario” losses at $35 billion USD worldwide.

Right now, there are two main ways to tackle the issue of ad blockers. These popular counter-ad-blocking measures are what a new study, authored by scholars at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, refers to as “tough” and “soft.”

The “tough” strategy to combat ad blockers is also known as the “whitelist-or-leave” or “Wall” strategy. This involves a publisher website notifying ad blocking users that they need to either a) disable their ad blockers and whitelist the page or—and this is where the “whitelist-or-leave” moniker makes sense— b) the ad blocking user is forbidden from accessing the page.

And the “soft” strategy? To quote “To Be Tough Or Soft: Measuring The Impact of Counter-Ad-Blocking Strategies on User Engagement,” this involves:

“[…] show[ing] users acceptable ads, agreed upon with the ad blocking companies, which appear in the page even when an ad blocker is active. Acceptable ads are generally less annoying ads, such as text ads instead of video ads, and also fewer in number.”

But how do the tough and soft counter-ad blocking measures impact user behaviors? This is exactly what the scholars at NJIT, with the cooperation of Forbes Media, set out to observe.

“A Randomized Field Experiment”

This study is a first: although there have been other studies looking at the phenomenon of ad blocking, academic work has looked primarily on how to counter ad blockers, rather than the effect of countering ad blocking on the users themselves. The lone study that peered into the effects on ad blocking users weighed to the benefits of the “whitelist or leave” measures against…going ad free.

And that option is utopian, but hardly realistic.

So the trio of New Jersey Institute of Technology-based scholars (Shuai Zhao, Christian Borcea, and Yi Chen), along with Achir Kalra of Forbes Media set out to answer the following questions:

  • What are the overall effects of the “soft” strategy compared to the “tough” or “Wall” strategy? And what happens if the user decides to comply with the “tough/Wall” strategy and whitelist?
  • What happens when the user groups have different characteristics?
  • What are the long-term and short-term effects of the “tough” or “Wall” strategy?

The results create a composite that’s a useful, illuminating look into both counter- ad blocking strategies and the psychology of ad blocking users.

A Question of Overall Engagement

The study, which contained a dataset with 40,000 ad blocking users, varied across traffic, operating system, geographic area and other factors, led to one significant conclusion:

“Our study shows that the Wall strategy has an overall negative impact on user engagements.”

The “overall negative impact” is qualified, however. It’s true that extraordinarily loyal, highly engaged users aren’t as impacted by the Wall strategy because, in general, these users do whatever it takes to view page content. This is why the study goes on to say “we do not recommend the Wall [white-listing] strategy to publishers unless they have a large portion of loyal users.”

Which leads to another problem: very few publishers that have that “large portion of loyal users.” In fact, it’s a rarity.

Different Characteristics; Different Results

Unless the user base of the publisher is extraordinarily highly-engaged, and the content provided is unique and highly sticky, a publisher generally won’t get the kind of users that the New Jersey institute of Technology and Forbes deem sufficiency loyal.

According to “To Be Tough or Soft,”

“For low-engaged users, the Wall strategy has a large negative effect on pageviews […] since the majority of users are low-engaged users, the revenue of the publisher is expected to suffer a lot when using the Wall strategy.”

And it’s matter of reality that most publishers attract users that fall into the category of low-engagement<: the exact kind of users that the time-consuming process of whitelisting process works to deter.

And what about “middle-engaged users”? It turns out that they’re also deterred by the Wall strategy…not so much by the labor-intensive process of white listing, but by the presence of annoying ads after the white-listing process is complete.

(These annoying ads are notably absence from the “acceptable ads” experience. This is because the criteria that determine whether an ad is “acceptable,” as set forth by the independent Acceptable Ads Committee, are designed to make sure ads are “respectful, nonintrusive, and relevant.”)

Long-Term Vs. Short Term

If the deterrence of low-engagement users is significant in the short term, it becomes even more striking over a period of time. According to the study,

Quantitatively, we find that the Wall strategy causes a 20.5% increase of the visit duration gap. The reason is probably that the ad-blocker users feel disturbed when facing the Wall strategy, and they are less willing to come back.

Although loyal users faced with the Wall strategy are “likelier to whitelist gradually over time,” it becomes apparent that “the ad-blocker users who refuse to whitelist previously would probably not come back.”

In other words, the silence left in the wake of ad blocking user abandonment when faced with a whitelisting solution grows even more deafening over time…unless you’re one of the slim percentage of publishers to attract the kind of loyalty that can withstand an “all or nothing” Wall approach.

The Way Forward

For publishers that make up the percentage of the population that can honestly claim to have the kind of super-loyalty and tremendously sticky content that would motivate users to navigate a Wall strategy; if you’re not a member of this (small) club, a Wall strategy is going to create additional work.

Publishers will be forced to ponder the following question, posed in the final “Discussions” section of “To Be Tough Or Soft: Measuring The Impact of Counter-Ad-Blocking Strategies on User Engagement:”

If a publisher indeed wants to adopt the Wall strategy, the problem is how to convert casual users to high-engaged users, since casual users are more likely to leave forever when facing the Wall strategy.

There were no such questions, and no sort of additional problems, that arose in response “soft” solution created by the acceptable ads strategy. Low-engaged and medium-engaged users alike—the vast majority of ad blocking users across the globe—fare better with acceptable ads. These users are neither deterred by the labor-intensive process of white-listing or the intrusive ads that show up after the white-listing process.

So: to be tough, or to be soft? It turns out that a softer option is broadly effective, and that success via the “tough” white-listing strategy is…significantly tougher.

What are some challenges facing the international ad market?

On February 19th, the larger digital advertising world converged in Berlin. The occasion: the Adzine Adtrader Conference, an event that, for the last decade, acts as a platform for discourse on the most pertinent issues of the day, from transparency to privacy and everything in between.

The AAX Team was in attendance, spending the day listening, absorbing and contemplating the insights gleaned from prominent speakers.

The tone of the event was set early on, when Dennis Buchheim, Executive Vice President and General Manager of IAB Tech Lab gave his keynote lecture, titled “Current Challenges of the International Ad Market.”

Since the contents of this lecture informed so much of the discussions that took place during the rest of the Adzine Adtrader Conference, we wanted to encapsulate the main points of Dennis Buchheim’s talk.

“The amount of growth and innovation and growth we’ve seen in the digital media industry is pretty astounding, when you look at how much has changed in the last twenty-six years since the first ad was served, how much innovation has happened,” said Buchheim. But, he added, “with that has come some challenges.”

There are a number of issues to contend with, states Buchheim. He expands, saying that the aim of IAB Tech lab is to bring together participants on a global basis, to tackle a number of issues that, despite being challenging, also create their own opportunity.

The issues to be solved include:

  • Identity, data, and privacy
  • Brand safety and ad fraud
  • Ad experience and measurement
  • Programmatic effectiveness

But the #1 issue, the one weighing heavily on minds around the globe? That, asserts Buchheim, is privacy.

Buchheim suggests that there are three trends coming together in the issue of privacy. It’s not just an issue of consumer trends, although that’s certainly an issue. And it’s not just a matter of the political and legislative environment, although, as Buchheim says, that “really set a tone, we’re not in the good graces.” For Buchheim, the key new privacy challenge comes from browser and device developers. This is the center of much of the privacy-centered change now emerging.

And, according to Buchheim, it had “just a pervasive impact on what we do.”

The IAB Tech Lab, continues Buchheim, partnered with IAB Europe to grapple with one of the most pertinent issues in recent technological history: GDPR compliance. Creating the Transparency and Consent Framework enabled companies to become GDPR compliant—and, what’s more, facilitated dialogue including both political and tech voices.

This mission turned out to be broadly useful, says Buchheim. It was possible to take what was learned by partnering with IAB Europe and work with IAB US to grapple with the newly-created CCPA.

The Technology and Consent Framework issues a roadmap, titled “CCPA and Beyond,” that outlines three generalized steps in the process towards solution-finding: legal interpretation, policy requirements, and technical solutions.

It’s also imperative to grapple with browsers making changes and, more broadly, competing in the name of privacy. The impacts of these privacy-related changes include, according to Buchheim, ad relevance, measurements, attribution, and fraud.
So where do solutions and opportunity lie? For Buchheim, authenticated (or authenticated light) is the name of the game. This tops the continuum of addressability: executing an advertising use case with a consumer login or explicit ID is ideal.

In other words, Buchheim says, “That’s the realm of explicitly saying ‘This is who I am. I expect you to personalize for me. I expect you to do certain things with my data. I have agreed to that.”

“This is how we get from where we are to a better architecture for advertising,” continues Buchheim.

Of course, he says, this should all be extraordinarily privacy-sensitive. There should be clear practices laid out across different processes. Not only that, Buchheim says, “there should be a compliance program and an audit across those practices.”

And, naturally, transparency plays a key role in all of this. The future of digital media is bright, but it relies on an understanding of transparency as, to quote Buchheim, “a tool that enables verification, that leads to trust, that leads to better practices…that ultimately leads to better outcomes.”

Behind the decision-making power of ad blocking users

This demographic has some serious clout when it comes to choosing the rules of the game.

Ad blocking users are independent thinkers. They don’t shy away from making decisions, from the decision to use an ad blocker in the first place, to the decision to enthusiastically purchase digital content, or even to the decision to opt for Red Bull rather than red wine.

Our study “10 Things You Didn’t Know About Ad Blocking Users,” gleaned from consulting the data treasure trove at the GlobalWebIndex (GWI), touches upon all of these and more. ( The study is currently available for free download.)

But there was some data that simply couldn’t fit into the study, including a illuminating glimpse into the roles ad blocking users choose to fill in the workplace.

And—no surprises here—those roles tend to be heavily associated with decision-making.

Ad Blocking Users At Work

When the GWI polled various ad blocking users about their career profile,56% described themselves as “purchasers.”

Although purchasers exist in myriad fields—science, art, education, business—the foundation of purchasing remains similar. This is a demanding, intellectually stimulating job requiring both leadership capability and strong autonomy…as well as the ability to make well-informed, forward-thinking decisions.

Or, as one description puts it, purchasing “is a glamorous, powerful job in many respects. But the glitter and glitz cloud the hard work and keen intellect required to make it in this competitive field.” ( Source)

Professional Decision-Makers

How important is decision-making in the professional life of an ad blocking user?

So important that 53% of ad blocking users use the term “decision-maker” to summarize their job description…and 54.9% use the term “senior decision-maker.”

These positions have a definite and invaluable part in crafting the course of the organization. From strategy to research to review, decision-makers lead through a combination of hard work and rigorous thought.

Studies show that the process that leads to a decision is as valuable and integral to organizational health as the decision itself. As Ann Latham writes inForbes,“Because there are so many decisions and because they are literal forks in the road with dramatic impact on results, costs, time, feelings, and relationships, how you make decisions is extremely important.”

This underlines the fact that decision-making is a process rather than an event, and decision-makers and senior decision-makers alike confront systems and projects rather than single executive acts.

In other words? Decision-making is a marathon, not a 100-yard dash.

Operating Model

The last segment of polled ad blocking users? The54% that define their job as “operations.”

But don’t let the absence of “decision” in the title fool you: people who work in operations are busy making decisions about everything from improving customer relations to resolving inefficiency.

People who work in operations are in charge of making sure the ecosystem of a business place not only runs smoothly, but also…runs. Period. It’s a job that requires taking on an extremely heavy decision-making load, and then proceeding with approximately one million discrete tasks at once without breaking a sweat.

The Upshot

During the project of compiling and analyzing the data from GlobalWebIndex, we’ve stumbled upon some surprising facts about ad blocking users. (Did you know they have a thing for motorsports?)

But we have to say, learning that ad blocking users gravitate towards demanding, decision-intense jobs isn’t so much of a shock. After all, we already knew this demographic is youthful, ambitious, well-educated, tech savvy… and generally fascinating.

That’s why we compiled an entire study on them.

How to capture the interest of ad blocking users

Ad blocking users are considered one of the keys in strengthening and revitalizing the ad ecosystem. After all, this is a group that bends the rules of brand discovery, prioritizes being well-informed, and understands the issues surrounding privacy.

Our study “10 Things You Didn’t Know About Ad Blocking Users,” gleaned from consulting the data treasure trove at the GlobalWebIndex (GWI), touches upon all of these and more—you can check out the study, which is available for free download.

We limited the scope of our study to touch upon some of the most pertinent, surprising, and weird facts about ad blocking users (did you know they have a thing for energy drinks and motorsports?) but there was some fascinating data that simply couldn’t make it’s way into our report.

That’s why we wanted to talk about that extra data now.

An Overwhelmingly Curious Demographic

One of the fascinating extra categories that ad blocking users were queried on has to do with how they relate to the wider world. And, unsurprisingly for an overwhelmingly curious demographic, the respondents were eager to learn and experience.

For example, 76.6% agreed with the statement “It is important to stay in touch with what is going on in the world.”

In other words, more than three out of four ad blocking users keep up with current events. They take the time to find out what’s happening in the world—a habit that can have major benefits.

Jeff Wilser reports that a healthy pattern of checking the news can enhance everything from your social life to your bank balance, writing “Guys who excel at work generally have an excellent grasp of current events,” says executive coach Bruce Tulgan, of RainmakerThinking—i.e., a smart company will promote an informed, intellectually curious employee over a clueless dullard any day.”

Unsurprisingly, the ad blocking demographic also overwhelmingly agrees with the statement “I am interested in other cultures and countries.” This interest also has noted benefits, both personally and economically. The 72.2% that claim interest in other cultures and countries are probably more likely to land a good job, especially if they begin cross-cultural encounters early.

According to the The Guardian:

Global awareness and international collaboration during the formative years results in more rounded individuals, encouraging our pupils to see things from different perspectives and helping them to make informed decisions, acquiring transferable skills that will be useful to them and will remain with them for life. According to the Association of Graduate Recruiters companies cannot find enough applicants with the requisite skills to operate in an international market place, indicating that greater efforts by schools in fostering global awareness and international collaboration are needed to best prepare our students – and ourselves – for life in the 21st century. (Source)

Ad blocking users aren’t just armchair explorers satisfying their curiosity at the click of a cursor, however. They also like to live in highly stimulating environments that push them to learn and grow.

  • 72.1% agree with the statement “I like to be surrounded by different people, cultures, ideas, and lifestyles”
  • 70.6% agree with the statement “I like to explore the world around me”

If the advantages to curiosity about current events and other cultures is notable, then the benefits of existing in a multicultural, exploratory environment are newsworthy—especially when it comes to careers and business.

Forbes reports that multicultural, diverse businesses produce 19% more revenue. The reasons for this revenue boost are myriad.

[…] diversity is not just a metric to be strived for, it is actually an integral part of a successful revenue generating business. Of course, this makes sense because diversity means diversity of minds, ideas, and approaches — which allows teams to find a solution that takes into account multiple angles the problem, thus making the solution stronger, well rounded and optimized. Therefore, diversity is key for company’s bottom line.

Ad blocking users exist within the arena of diversity—their day-to-day embraces the “diversity of minds, ideas, and approaches” that it takes to augment that bottom line.

It seems like this dynamic demographic, with its curiosity, diversity, and approach to staying well-informed, might just have figured out the roadmap to success.

Why is this demographic the key to a healthy ad ecosystem?

When it comes to strengthening the ad ecosystem, there’s one group of individuals that makes all the difference

We’re talking about ad blocking users, defined by the GlobalWebIndex (GWI) as those people who have an ad blocker installed on their device.This is a demographic that leads the pack in terms of early adoption, curiosity, and digital fluency

The AAX team combed through the treasure trove of data that the GWI keeps on internet behavior, looking to discover what makes the ad blocking demographic so special

And we learned a lot.Enough to build into a comprehensive report that covers everything from ad blocking users’ privacy concerns to brand discovery to favorite beverage.

If you’re curious about ad blocking users and how they’re shaping the future of the ad ecosystem, check out our free report, titled “10 Things You Didn’t Know About Ad Blocking Users.”

10 facts about ad blocking users, Question #10: How do ad blocking users really feel about technology and the internet?

First, the good:

Ad blocking users are technophiles—connected individuals whose appetite and curiosity for all things internet is healthy and expanding.

The internet is where curious ad blocking users turn: 79.8% agree with the statement “When I need information, the first place I look is the internet.” Not only that, but 63% of ad blocking users admit to being “constantly connected online” and agree that “[t]he internet makes me feel closer to people.”

From these findings, we can rightly conclude that this dynamic demographic, filled with early adapters and tech pioneers, feels at home online.

In other words, these findings support the statements of AAX VP of Sales, who summarized ad blocking users by saying, “They’re younger, they’re well-educated, they’re tech savvy, and they index high for consuming media.”

But what about the concerns that ad blocking users have?

The bad = the stressful:

66.2% of ad blocking users agree that there’s a recurring issue with their online experience: there’s simply too much out there.

When 2/3 of a demographic agree with the statement “There is too much choice online,” it’s clear that there’s an issue of choice overload at work. Often dismissed as the embodiment of first world problems, researchers have found that being inundated with choices online can be overwhelming and paralyzing.

In a recent article titled “How choice overload is stressing us out and making us less confident,” Thomas Saltsman examines what really happens to humans when we’re presented with an abundance of choice—when we’re browsing thousands of streaming options or potential dates, for example.

Saltsman is the Senior Lab Director at the Social Psychophysiology Laboratory at the University of Buffalo, The State University of New York and his research led him to examine the heart rates and blood vessel dilation of study participants.

His findings were surprising:

We found that when the participants chose from many options, they felt more invested in the decision: Their hearts beat harder and faster. But their arteries also constricted – a sign that they also felt less confident about their decision.

[…] The cardiovascular system responds the same way when we take an important exam feeling hopelessly unprepared, or commute to an interview for a dream job lacking the right qualifications.

No wonder the majority of ad blocking users lament having so many choices online: the experience of deliberating over too many choices is quite literally the stuff of recurring nightmares.

The privacy concerns

Although ad blocking users don’t cite privacy concerns as one of the primary reasons they use ad blockers, issues concerning privacy are still very much on their collective mind.

65.9% of ad blocking users agree with the statement “I worry about how my personal data is being used by companies.”

This may seem like a large percentage, but it actually represents a lower number than average. The Pew Research Center finds that a full 79% of Americans respond as either very or somewhat concerned over how companies use personal data.

There are several hypotheses as to why the ad blocking demographic is statistically less concerned about privacy than the average American. One reason is that ad blocking demographic tends to skew younger, and Pew finds that older Americans feel less in control, and also more wary, of data collection.

Americans ages 65 and older are less likely than those ages 18 to 29 to feel they have control over who can access things like their physical location, purchases made both online and offline and their private conversations. At the same time, older Americans are less likely to think they benefit from data collection.

Since ad blockers are younger, more fluent when it comes to technology, and more comprehensive in their understanding of data collection and usage, it stands to reason that they would be less nervous about privacy issues.

To say that the team at AAX is interested in ad blocking users is an understatement. We’re fascinated.

So we decided to consult the mass trove of data that GlobalWebIndex (GWI) keeps about internet behavior in order to tease out some of the particularities of the group. We took our findings and compiled “10 Things You Didn’t Know About Ad Blocking Users,” a study that peers into everything from their attitudes towards technology and the internet (which is what you just read about) to preferences for digital content purchasing and love of motorsports.

The study will be published on January 16, 2020.

10 facts about ad blocking users – Question #9: What do ad blocking users prioritize?

For Harriet Swain, one of the most beneficial effects of a solid, comprehensive education is simply being well-informed.

That’s why she penned an article called The Art of Being Well-Informed for The Guardian‘s “How To Be A Student” series, which touches upon everything student-centric, from making decisions to finding your learning style.

Being well-informed, Swain explains, is basically the exact opposite of being a know-it-all. While a know-it-all—basically the archetype of the stuffy, pretentious college snob—has a narrow scope of knowledge and prioritizes lecturing other people over absorbing and interacting knowledge, a well-informed person soaks up information like a sponge.

In order to become well-informed (and to avoid becoming an arrogant university cliché) Swain gives the following advice:

So, one of the things to remember if you want to be well-informed is to be broad in your interests. Don’t spend every waking minute in libraries and lectures.

We know. This sounds oddly slacker-friendly for a student advice column.

Swain goes on, however, to explain that you should spend some time in lectures and libraries, but your eye should be open for the knowledge lurking everywhere: documentaries and museums, conversations with strangers and Twitter threads, late nights with friends and personal meetings with professors.

A well-informed person, then, is someone who is not only omnivorous when it comes to knowledge…but also always hungry for the next brain snack.

Well informed, equality-minded, and ambitious: the ad blocking user

Ad blocking users, as it turns out, prioritize being well-informed. 79.2% agreed with the statement “It is important to be well-informed about things.”

But being informed wasn’t the only other statement ad blocking user prioritized. Only slightly less important was the statement “I think we should all strive for equality”—75.9% agreed. More than 70% of ad blocking users also agreed with the statement “I like to challenge and push myself to be the best I can be in life.”

Other high priority items:

  • 64% of ad blocking users agreed with the statement “I would consider myself to be a creative person.”
  • 63.8% agreed with the statement “I try to buy natural/organic products.”
  • 62.7% agreed with the statement “I like to pursue a life of challenge, novelty and change.”

The statements that ad blocking users feel best describe their priorities highlight some of ad blocking users most prominent character traits: social awareness, ecological-mindedness, a desire for self improvement, and a need to keep up with social and technological changes.

To say that the team at AAX is interested in ad blocking users is an understatement. We’re fascinated.

So we decided to consult the mass trove of data that GlobalWebIndex (GWI) keeps about internet behavior in order to tease out some of the particularities of the group. We took our findings and compiled “10 Things You Didn’t Know About Ad Blocking Users,” a study that peers into everything from their priorities (which is what you just read about) to preferences for digital content purchasing and love of motorsports.

The study will be published on January 16, 2020.

10 facts about ad blocking users – Question #8: What kinds of exercise do ad blocking users engage in?

Ad blocking users like endorphins.

They’re a fairly fit bunch, with more than 70% reporting engaging in physical activity 2-3 times a week and 81% reporting weekly sweat sessions.

But although they’re committed to raising their heart rates, ad blocking users can’t be classified as gym rats. Their favorite regimes don’t take place within the confines of a traditional fitness center. Rather than opting for the elliptical or treadmill, ad blocking users prefer running or jogging. They’re also fans of non-gym exercise, a category that encompasses everything from Frisbee golf to parkour.

Since this demographic spends its exercise time in the park or nature preserve rather than inside Planet Fitness, we decided to look into what makes outdoor exertion unique.

Here are five key ways the decision to jog around the block or through the local park can impact your life.

  1. It boosts your mood. According to a study from Nature, time spent in outdoor spaces—especially green ones—can greatly reduce the prevalence of depression.
  2. It helps you exceed goals. Working out in the great outdoors can help you overcome fitness plateaus and achieve greater results in a shorter amount of time. One study states that if you take your workout into the fresh air, you’re likely to add 30 minutes or more of exercise time per week.
  3. It enhances memory. Psychologists at the University of Michigan have found that time spent outside—rather than, say, riding on a stationary bike watching a simulation of moving through a wooded landscape—is linked to improved memory function and attention.
  4. It can bolster well-being. The BBC reports that just five minutes spent in the “green spaces” where outdoor sports usually take place can have a massive, positive impact on self-esteem, mental-health, and feelings of contentment.
  5. It’s anti-carcinogenic. Exposure to trees can work to combat cancer, due to the fact that inhaling forest air means inhaling phytoncides. As the Department of Conservation explains:

[…] phytoncides [are] airborne chemicals that plants give off to protect themselves from insects. Phytoncides have antibacterial and antifungal qualities which help plants fight disease. When people breathe in these chemicals, our bodies respond by increasing the number and activity of a type of white blood cell called natural killer cells or NK. These cells kill tumor- and virus-infected cells in our bodies.

In today’s overworked, sedentary, and car-reliant world, a commitment to physical fitness is a statement. And that statement is compounded when the physical fitness in question is taking place outside.

We can’t say for sure what prompts ad blocking users to leave the studio for the park and the gym for the nature trail…but we can say with confidence that that decision leads to greater health and well-being.

To say that the team at AAX is interested in ad blocking users is an understatement. We’re fascinated.

So we decided to consult the mass trove of data that GlobalWebIndex (GWI) keeps about internet behavior in order to tease out some of the particularities of the group. We took our findings and compiled “10 Things You Didn’t Know About Ad Blocking Users,” a study that peers into everything from what kinds of exercise they enjoy (which is what you just read about) to preferences for digital content purchasing and love of motorsports.

The study will be published on January 16, 2020.

10 facts about ad blocking users – Fact #7: Ad blocking users = motorsports fans

Ad blocking users feel the need for speed.

They’re fans of motorsports in general but, when asked what sports they following and regularly watch, 19% of ad blocking users named Formula 1 and 11.4% of ad blocking users brought up MotorGP. These proved more popular than competitors like NASCAR or IndyCar.

So: ad blocking users like watching fast cars careening around a track. That much is clear. But what might this interest say about their general personalities, likes, dislikes, and quirks?

No one has done a psychological deep dive into the world of motorsports enthusiasts. But plenty of motorsports enthusiasts have written extensively about what their passion means for them…and why they think other people should adopt their favorite hobby.

A Wired article that affectionately calls Formula 1 “the geekiest sport this side of the Quiddich Cup,” suggests that crucial reasons for watching motorsports include the facts that the engineering is as vital as the athletics and that stunning science and cutting-edge tech is on display.

The unapologetic fans over at The Bleacher Report cite the sport’s “incredibly deep, strong pool of talent” as a reason for tuning in, are thrilled that “every single one of the cars is a masterpiece,” and claim that it’s one of the few sporting events where the gimmicks add to, rather than detract from, the overall spectacle.

And, of course, the Verge’s article “In Formula 1, You Have To Be Amazing Just To Be Average,” doubles down on the fact that some jaw-dropping action occurs on the track.

And, while there’s no directly mapping the correlation between motorsports enthusiasm and personality traits, we can make a few inferences.

Motorsports fans are connoisseurs. They appreciate the fact that there’s no average— only amazing—in the world of Formula 1. They clearly respect the presence of that “deep pool of talent,” which means that everyone, from the engineers to the drivers, are on the top of their respective games.

Motorsports fans like the details. Sure, you can call this geekiness (like Wired does) but we prefer to read motorsports fans’ attention to every aspect of the event as exhibiting keen-eyed, comprehensive curiosity.

Motorsports fans are tech savvy. You don’t fall in love with Formula 1, it seems, unless you enjoy learning about the engineering, science, and mind-bogglingly nuanced tech that crafts the sport.

In fact, this list supports a few things we know about the ad blocking user demographic: a population of engaged, educated, professional thinkers who tend to spend a healthy amount of their time engaging with technology.

To say that the team at AAX is interested in ad blocking users is an understatement. We’re fascinated.

So we decided to consult the mass trove of data that GlobalWebIndex (GWI) keeps about internet behavior in order to tease out some of the particularities of the group. We took our findings and compiled “10 Things You Didn’t Know About Ad Blocking Users,” a study that peers into everything from what motorsports they enjoy (which is what you just read about) to preferences for digital content purchasing and frequency of exercise.

The study will be published on January 16, 2020.