AAX early spring forecast: Palm Desert –> Berlin –> Dubrovnik –> Santa Monica –> Vail

The days are dark, the streets are icy, and our feet are cold. Winter still is very much a reality.

But it’s hard not to feel the promise of early spring when you’re planning for events in places as diverse and exciting as Palm Desert, California and Dubrovnik, Croatia.

The next few months see the AAX team crossing oceans and continents to talk about restoring the value exchange between publishers and ad blockers…as well as educating ourselves on trends and innovations and sharing insights.

  • Lastly, we’ll be in Vail, Colorado from March 25-27 to attend another Digiday event: the Publishing Summit.

If you’re planning on attending any of these events, we’d love to chat! Reach out: contact us to set up a meeting. We’re available and happy to discuss sustainable publisher monetization options.

And we’re already busy planning our schedule for April and beyond. Stay tuned for what we have planned—follow us on Twitter @AAXMedia.

Why would an ad blocking user agree to see… ads?

The short answer? It’s a way to actively support the free web.

The long answer? That involves the demographics of ad blocking users, their commitment to journalism and publishing, and the types of ads they want to block.

We’re going to tackle all of that.

“A Very Savvy Demographic”

Tim Cronin, AAX VP of Sales, used the opportunity of speaking at Digiday Publishing Summit, Budapest to describe just who ad blocking users are.

“They’re a very savvy demographic,” he said. “They’re younger, they’re well-educated, they’re tech savvy, and they index high for consuming media.”

The numbers prove it: US-American ad blocking users, 64% of whom are under the age of forty-five, are 1.5x more likely than the average American to have a bachelor’s degree. And that number goes up to 3x when only the 18-24 year olds are considered. (Source)

These young, well-educated ad blocking users not only enjoy consuming media, but they have an understanding of the value of media. For example, they’re more likely to pay for online subscriptions to magazines and news services than their non-ad blocking counterparts. (GlobalWebIndex, 2019)

“The Value of a Free Press”

All of the factors that make the ad blocking demographic unique—age, education, and interest in participating in the value exchange of online media—coalesce around the question of publishers.

The desire for content access is matched by a growing understanding that ad revenue helps keep publishers’ lights on. Publishers have become vocal about the fact that ad revenue is what allows them to hire talent, create content, and maintain a high standard of quality.

Websites often suggest that browsers subscribe or donate in order to keep browsing. And this tactic seems to have been moderately successful: 15% of users are willing to either pay for the content they enjoy or donate money directly.

Another tactic is suggesting that users turn off their ad blockers. This is successful approximately one-third of the time: 31% would be fine with seeing ads in order to support websites. This includes writer Mark Wilson, who asserts he doesn’t install an ad blocker because he “cares about the value of a free press.”

The vast majority of users also care about the value of a free press, but they’re still concerned about the nature of ads being served. 68% agree with the statement “I’m fine with seeing ads, but only if they’re not annoying.”

As Tim Cronin puts it, “[Ad blocking users] need their favorite publishers to continue to exist. If they don’t subscribe, they’re willing to receive unobtrusive ads.”

“They Just Hate Certain Types of Ads”

When users were asked which ads they considered annoying, they overwhelmingly spoke of pop-ups and video ads. These are the ones that users “dislike”—according to the 2018 Hubspot Survey “Why People Block Ads, and What It Means For Marketers and Advertisers,” a full 73% of users disapproved of pop-ups.

When this is compared to percentage of users who disliked magazine and print ads (18%) and billboard ads (21%), it becomes apparent that it’s not the fact of the ad itself that’s annoying.

With ads, the medium is the message. A static, text-and-image ad is respectful. A glittery pop-up, however? That’s obnoxious

At Digiday Budapest, Tim Cronin summarized the relationship between ad blocking users and ads: “Ad blocking users don’t hate all ads. They just hate certain types of ads—the ones that feel intrusive.”

What are Acceptable Ads? A crash course

The AAX team attended the Digiday Publishing Summit in Key Biscayne Florida with a particular mission: instead of talking about AAX, we wanted to take a step back and discuss the Acceptable Ads initiative.

But in order to get the full picture, and understand how ad blockers have, over the years, evolved into ad filterers, we need to start at the beginning.

How Did We Get Here?

What are the causes of ad blocking? If you ask an ad blocker, you’ll usually hear something along the lines of “There are too many ads.”

But when you dig deep, exploring the causes of these “too many ads,” you’ll find the culprit is a supply and demand imbalance that has long posed a challenge to premium publishers.

What happens in a marketplace when there’s a supply and demand imbalance is that the seller—in this case, the publisher—finds themselves in a weakened position. That means that the buyer, the advertiser, moves into a position of strength. This has lead to a squeeze on the publisher: the publisher has to serve more ads, bigger ads, and more intrusive ads.

It was exactly this dynamic that lead to a dramatic increase in ad blockers.

Ad blocking is the Biggest Boycott In Human History– Doc Searls

At a conference like Digiday Publishing, ad blocking is always the elephant in the room. And in this case it’s not just a question of standing out. It’s also a question of sheer size: the scope of ad blocking is massive.

  • One billion people worldwide use ad blockers.
  • In the USA, a publisher can expect 15-20% of their visitors to have an ad blocker.
  • In places like Germany and France, the percentage ad blocking visitors reaches 45%.

These numbers are astounding.

But there’s another number to consider: 90% of ad blockers users can receive ads.

Solutions To Ad Blocking and Benefits To Publishers

When an ad blocker is installed, the ad block user is given an option: to opt in and consent to be served acceptable ads. The fact that 90% choose this option speaks to the fact that ad block users don’t hate all ads—just the kind of invasive, flashy ads that prompted the mass boycott of ad blocking.

It also speaks to the particulars of the ad blocking demographic. These users are young, highly educated, tech savvy, and index high for consuming media online. In other words, they understand the balance of the ecosystem relies on advertising, and that a browsing experience can actually be augmented by the presence of respectful, non-intrusive ads—by the presence, in other words, of Acceptable Ads.

The criteria for what determines an Acceptable Ad is defined by the Acceptable Ads Committee, a fully independent third party committee made up of industry insiders, privacy organizations, users, consumers, publishers. The criteria is straightforward: an ad can be deemed Acceptable if it

  • is a static banner instead of an animated banner
  • there is no video present
  • the ads don’t represent more than 15% above the fold…
  • …or 25% below the fold

Ultimately, what the Acceptable Ads initiative—along with AAX, an ad exchange that serves only Acceptable Ads—is committed to is achieving is a balance between consumer experience, browsing experience, and content monetization.

Autumn forecast: NYC –> BUD –> LA –> AZ

The AAX team isn’t getting lulled into the sweater-lined, pumpkin-spice-scented cocoon of autumnal laziness.

Instead, we’re attending events. Over the next month, our team is crossing continents and oceans with the aim of facilitating discussions about restoring the value exchange between publishers and ad blockers…as well as educating ourselves on trends and innovation, sharing insights, and connecting with peers.

  • First, we’re attending Ad Exchanger Programmatic I/O, from October 15-16, in New York City. Come find our booth in the Live Exchange Zone.
  • Then, from October 21-23, we’ll be at Digiday Budapest, where our VP of Sales Tim Cronin will be giving a Dialog Presentation.
  • October 30th finds us at another World Forum Disrupt event: this time, it’s Digipublish Los Angeles.
  • Next we’ll be in Arizona for AdMonsters Scottsdale from November 3-6. Not only will we deliver a keynote lecture, but the AAX team will also participate in the Question the Tech Q & A on the main stage.
  • Reach out; contact us to set up a meeting. We’re available and happy to discuss sustainable publisher monetization options.

We’re already busy planning events in December and beyond. Follow us on Twitter @aaxmedia and stay tuned for what we have planned.