Will Ad Blocking on iOS 9 Impact Advertisers & Publishers?

If you’re an iPhone user, you may have realized Apple just released its latest system update – iOS 9.

iOS 9

As an iPhone user who just updated their phone, I’m personally pleased by iOS 9. My phone seems all around faster, especially when I’m using Safari and trying to load rich media. App speed seems to be highly improved. And while I haven’t had much opportunity to test this theory out, I’m willing to bet this efficiency contributes to an extended battery life.

Along with overall performance improvements, a number of changes were made to select apps. The Notes app was upgraded to allow for cross-device access through iCloud. A new Transit view was added to Maps, so you can follow better public transport directions and access more detailed information. Apple Pay is now also accessible by double-clicking the Home button, even when your screen is locked.

These updates are fine and dandy, but as a marketer passionate about all things mobile and content – the News app is what immediately caught my eye.

The new News app is essentially a private content feed which sources you articles from both major and indie online publications based on your selected interests. From a mobile content distribution perspective, the News app excites me. As a consumer or user, I’m looking forward to using this app to stay in the loop on current events and pop culture updates. However, after using the app to read just one article, I immediately noticed something:

There aren’t really any ads in this content. There’s also but a limited number of ads when you open up to the full article within the app.

This observation caused me to Google “iPhone ad blocking update”, to quickly discover the iOS 9 update now allows for ad blocking in Safari.

The enabling of ad blocking in Apple’s iOS 9 update has prompted significant backlash. While great for consumers, it’s not so great for online publishers and advertisers. Advertising accounts for a significant amount of online publishing revenue, so blocking ads deprives content fueled websites of income.

As one Wall Street analyst has been quoted saying, “In a worst case scenario, this is Apple against the entire mobile publisher and advertiser ecosystem.”. With Safari accounting for an estimated 25% of all current mobile browsing activity, iPhone ad blocking could start to pose a serious threat to profits.

This bold move by Apple is going to influence the mobile marketing space in a big way. Content publishers will quickly have to find new ways to monetize their websites. I foresee stealth content marketing rapidly increasing in focus, with publishers finding ways to charge CPC or CPM bids for “Recommended Article” placement. This will also ultimately change the approach to writing content, especially for purposes of SEO.

In-app advertising is also going to rapidly take priority over Display Network advertising – at least when targeting iPhone users. Luckily for Google, recent statistics convey there are currently more iPhone users converting to Android than vice versa. Though to play “Devil’s Advocate”, the rate at which Android users are switching to iPhone is higher than ever.

For now, it’s difficult to predict the actual impact this chess play will have on the advertising game. I’ll definitely be monitoring Google Analytics closely to catch any prominent changes regarding Display traffic attribution. I’ll also be keeping my eye out for changes in mobile browsing behavior.

One other important change to Safari within iOS 9 is the ability to easily “Request Desktop Site”. I hope that Google’s cross-device behavior tracking can get ahead of this one, because if not, this is going to create a huge gap in data.

Most marketers, web designers, and web developers have been operating under the notion that mobile users prefer mobile optimized sites. As more iPhone users learn about this new ability to easily use the desktop site, I project the perception of responsive design to change. I also hope the ability to track which version of your website was viewed on which device is in the immediate future. This would offer publishers and advertisers an advantage in being able to better understand what this new mobile ad environment is really going to be like. It would also allow businesses to better answer the question of whether to develop an M-dot website or downloadable application.

 

We’ll be closely following the effects of Apple’s new iOS 9 update with regards to mobile browsing behavior and display traffic over the next few weeks. If you are concerned your website or advertising strategy may be about to take a hit, please contact the team here at Vertical Rail with any questions.

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