Ad-blockers on the rise despite efforts of mobile phone firms

In the internet economy, Asia is often a harbinger for new services such as messaging apps or mobile payments. 

It’s now way ahead on another trend — more people in Asia have installed software on their mobile phones to block web advertising than anywhere else in the world.

The upshot for media firms that rely on online advertising: Stop overloading pages with intrusive ads and learn to live with lower revenues while experimenting with new methods on charging for content.

About 21% of the world’s 1.9bn smartphone users have installed an ad blocker, a level that has nearly doubled in the past year, according to a new study from PageFair, a company that works with web publishers to fight ad-blocking software.

It’s most popular in China, India, Pakistan and Indonesia, where many people access the web on their phones and not on computers but is poised to spread to the US and Europe as well.

Somewhat ironically for an e-commerce company that relies on ad revenue itself, China’s Alibaba makes the world’s most popular ad blocking tool -- its UC Browser is used by about 400m people.

Last year, analysts estimated ad blocking had cost web publishers nearly $22bn (€19.7bn) in lost ad sales, compared with $160bn in online ad sales glob ally.

Things could get worse if ad blocking gets integrated with mobile networks.A few telecom operators, like Digicel in the Caribbean, have begun offering it as a service to customers, cutting out pitches before they even reach phones.

Hutchison’s Three plans to trial the technology in Britain in June and may later roll it out to the six other European markets where it operates.

Beyond networks, Germany’s Eyeo, which makes the Adblock Plus software, has teamed up with Asus to manufacture 30m handsets with ad blockers pre-installed.

Media companies have failed to eradicate ad blocking via the courts so far, despite multiple suits brought by Axel Springer, the German publisher, and German broadcasters RTL and ProSieben.


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