Apple’s new operating system includes tools for app developers to block ads on Safari browser for iOS 9. As technology has made it easier to block ads, cutting contextually relevant content could do harm to not only publishers and advertisers, but also consumers in general.

Ad blocking is not a new challenge, but lately it has become a larger issue for advertisers and publishers.

Online reports show that content blocking software is now at the top of the App Store charts worldwide. Additionally, Apple's new operating system iOS 9 gives app developers more tools to block ads. While ad-blocking software and apps are gaining popularity, Marco Arment, Tumblr co-founder and developer of the most downloaded ad blocker, Peace, decided to remove his app from the App Store. In his personal blog post published last Friday, Arment said that while ad blockers do benefit large amounts of people in major ways, they also hurt some - including those who don't deserve the hit.

"Peace required that all ads be treated the same - all-or-nothing enforcement for decisions that aren't black-and-white," he wrote. "This approach is too blunt. Ghostery and I have both decided that it doesn't serve our goals or beliefs well enough. If we're going to affect positive change overall, a more nuanced, complex approach is required than what I can bring in a simple iOS app."

Arment's post is a wake-up call for the industry: ad blockers are taking away all resources from publishers that are trying to work around ad blocking, by asking readers to either opt-in to relevant ads or pay for content. According to Valerie Davis, vice president of paid search at PM Digital, this approach could be a loss not only for advertisers and publishers, but also for their online communities too. 

"[Peace] (Read more...) stripped all chances for consumers to experience the content they readily enjoy and engage with. [But the app] ultimately did not allow for a system of checks and balances that distinguished the good from the 'bad' content. And for this reason, [Arment] recognized that his system of blocking all ads was inherently a greater wrongdoing than any that could be done by the advertiser or publisher," Davis says.

"In the end, cutting the cord on quality, contextually relevant, native content would be a large detriment to the consumer population. Because if all resources are taken from the publisher, there becomes a complete loss of opportunity to become better and build stronger, more richer experiences," she adds.

As an ad veteran, Richard Guest, president of Tribal Worldwide's North American operations, expresses the same concern that the current ad-blocking software and apps force the consumer "holistically not individually."

"In a sense, this limits consumer choice. But equally important, these software-based ad blockers cripple the established ecosystem," Guest explains. "If agencies or brands cannot win a consumer's attention, regardless of the originality of the work, why purchase an impression? And, if media companies cannot effectively sell impressions, how do they continue to produce non-subscription content?"

An industry research from PageFair and Adobe shows that in the second quarter of 2015, the number of ad blocking software users across the globe grew by 41 percent from last year, and the loss of global revenue due to blocked advertising is estimated to reach $21.8 billion this year.

As more consumers turn to ad blockers, Aaron Goldman, chief marketing officer (CMO) of data science company 4C, provides a few solutions for advertisers and publishers, respectively.

According to Goldman, the best approach for marketers is to weed out low-performing inventory. If a placement doesn't generate the volume or efficiency needed to meet their marketing objectives, whether due to ad blockers or anything else, marketers need to eliminate it from ad buy.

For publishers, if the majority of their inventory is delivered by third-parties in a browser, they are at a higher risk of being impacted by ad blockers and losing revenue. Therefore, the best approach is to create new ad formats that will not be subject to ad blockers, such as native ads, and adhering to new standards, such as in-view.

"In an age of ad blockers, the winners will be those that invest in tools for ad verification, optimization, and attribution," Goldman says.

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