Why fight Adblock? Ask Facebook.

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Last week Facebook announced a blow-out quarter, raking in a whopping $7.01B in revenue. Facebook now has an incredible 1.66 billion monthly active users (or roughly 21% of the Earth’s population… every month).

To some, Facebook’s soaring earnings came as a surprise. It was only two quarters ago that some analysts were pointing to the dark clouds of adblocking growth and predicting a near-term slowdown. For Facebook and other ad-revenue dependent companies, ad-blockers pose a potentially existential threat. So why didn’t Facebook’s revenue hit the skids?

Answer: Facebook fought back.

Facebook weighed several solutions and ultimately opted for a solution that serves ads “past” adblockers. Facebook’s ads are almost impossible to differentiate from the rest of its page-content, making the job of detecting and blocking advertisements extremely difficult — although not impossible. Out of the gate, Adblock Plus fired back a successful salvo and temporarily resumed blocking ads, but Facebook corrected the issue and to-date, Facebook is successfully serving ads past Adblock Plus.

The upshot

On last week’s earning’s call, Facebook announced it’s quarterly ad revenue had grown an impressive 18% year-over-year vs. just 9% on previous quarters. It’s quarterly revenue is now $1.1 billion. In short, Facebook destroyed analysts’ estimates. Mission accomplished. For those who worry that fighting back against adblockers may have negative revenue consequences, Facebook’s data would seem to say otherwise.

"Payments and other fees": Not so much

“Payments and Other fees”: Not so much

David Wehner, Facebook’s CEO attributed the soaring earnings largely to the company’s anti-adblock measures:

On ad blocking, in terms of the impact I would just point out that this quarter we had 18 percent year-over-year desktop revenue growth. If you look at recent quarters, it was about half of that growth rate on a year-over-year basis. So that increment, that acceleration in desktop revenue growth is largely due to our efforts on reducing the impact of ad blocking. So that’s what led to the acceleration of desktop revenue growth

There are some takeaways from Facebook’s approach that are worth noting. Facebook concerned itself with two common user complaints about digital advertising.

  1. Web ads are disruptive.
  2. Web ads slow down the browsing experience.

By serving lightweight HTML ads, Facebook not only was able to evade adblockers, but preserve a non-interruptive browsing experience.

So where to from here?

As we all know, the game continues. Will Adblock’s filters adapt to Facebook’s latest strategy? Probably.

But for now Facebook’s efforts to counter adblocking have certainly paid off.

 

 

 

  • Name

    Fortunately I am able to bypass BlockADBlock, even on mobile browser

  • Romain

    I will be blocking and fighting ads for as long as I will use the web.
    Ads have made the web unbrowsable for way to long. Full screen overlays, pop-ups, forever loading time, click bait…
    Page loading time is greatly impacted by ads: http://rigor.com/blog/2015/06/ads-increase-latency-by-40-percent

    MY internet is an internet where the content is put first. Yes I am supporting websites and creators through Patreon because I choose to do it. And if a content I wish to access is conditioned by disabling my ad blocker, then I’ll go find this content elsewhere. Loose-loose situation.

    By the way, I’m not only using AdBlock, but network ad blocking techniques, such as a DNS server with this Hosts file: http://winhelp2002.mvps.org/hosts.htm
    Hey the web! It’s time to enter 2016!

    • Sarah G

      Your Internet?

      That’s pretty cool. How’d you get all those millions of people to work for you?

      You read this article. Did you donate to the company that wrote it? Or do you believe in a world where you should be able to consume food and pay for it only when it tastes good?

      • Romain

        That’s straw man and I won’t fall to this level. Instead, I believe in a web where ads are used with respect to the user, don’t invade the content and bring added value to both the content provider and the user. Flash ads, tracking and everything I previously described are practices of the past. This anti-adblock campaign will bring nothing to the web, because it doesn’t solve the root problem.
        PS: didn’t read the article. Why should you get paid then?

      • If the article is a video, the ads that pay for it can be a video. But if the article isn’t animated, the ads shouldn’t be animated either.

        I’m also willing to look at ads that don’t track me across otherwise completely unrelated websites. I buy something on Amazon, and other sites keep advertising the same thing thinking I’ll buy it again.

  • “Disruptive” and “slow” are two common criticisms of web ads. Making ads less disruptive is also what Eyeo’s ABP tried to do with “Acceptable Ads”, but the opinion of this blog has been that “Acceptable Ads” is sleazy.

    “Invasion of privacy” is a third. Many analytics companies track visitors’ viewing habits across websites, building a dossier that a prosecutor or plaintiff could subpoena in a fishing expedition. So privacy-conscious users use tools such as Firefox Tracking Protection, Disconnect, or Ghostery to block requests to these analytics companies. But popular ad networks incorporate similar analytics and offer no alternative that doesn’t track viewing habits. For this reason, tracking blockers block ads as a side effect, causing anti-adblock solutions to misdetect tracking blockers as ad blockers. But then Facebook tracks users as its primary functionality, which is why some users of tracking blockers block Facebook in the first place.

  • Alex M

    The author of this site is probably the biggest asshole no one’s ever met.