The nation's struggling media, which has gone all-in on digital platforms to stay alive, now faces a new threat, easy-to-install ad blockers that are expected to wipe out $20 billion in all online publishing revenue next year, according to a sobering new report.
The group PageFair, which helps publishers fight ad blocking, revealed that the use of the money-robbing practice has surged in the United States and globally, and is expected to cost U.S. online publishers and advertising-supported sites $10.7 billion in "unrealized revenue" this year. That is expected to double next year.
The report said that ad blocking is hitting all online firms, not just news publishers, and is used especially by online gamers.
It drew the attention Thursday of media analyst Alan D. Mutter who warned that the media is threatened by the explosion of ad blocking. "When blocking technology prevents an ad from being served, however, the publisher doesn't get paid. And that is turning into a growing problem for everyone from gaming-site operators to the news media," he wrote in his blog "Reflections of a Newsosaur."
Unlike other online publishers, the media's business is costly and employs tens of thousands, and as a result needs to see advertising grow. A Brookings Institution report issued this week found that the media has moved to digital platforms because printing on paper is not sustainable.
In the U.S., ad blocking usage grew 48 percent in the past year to 45 million users. In Europe it increased 82 percent.
PageFair said that the search engine Google Chrome is the main driver of ad blocking because it is easiest to install. Globally, some 126 million Google Chrome users block ads. For Firefox it's 48 million and for Safari it's 9 million.
And worse for internet publishers, the use of ad blocking is just starting to take off on mobile devices, where the most growth in usage is occurring.
"The bottom line: As technology develops and ad blocking plug-ins become more commonplace, the growth in ad blocking usage will receive yet another catalyst. This has the potential to challenge the viability of the web as a platform for the distribution of free ad-supported content," said PageFair.
Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.