Let’s stack up the evidence…
- Grumbles about site load speeds on news sites are getting louder, thanks in no small part to often bulky ad downloads.
- The shift to native ads is accelerating, coupled with an increased diversification in income streams among at least some publishers (click the arrow top-left on our site and see the different products we offer, for example, even if display ads are still an important part of the mix right now).
- Use of adblockers is on the rise and growing on mobile, with Safari on iOS 9 set to support content blocking.
The logical endpoint? Someone is going to be first to drop display ads entirely and focus on other revenue streams. Heck, BuzzFeed never had display ads in the first place. Monetizing off-site traffic via the likes of Facebook Instant Articles and Apple News will help. And all it takes is a few of the old guard to shift and maybe we’ll see an exodus.
The numbers won’t stack up to justify most publishers getting rid of display ads quite yet, but the status quo isn’t a sustainable situation. Even if most site visitors don’t care that much, the growing grumbles of a vocal minority of influencers are hard to ignore, and I can’t see them going away. Adblockers starting to ‘go mainstream’ only adds to the heated debates inside publishing companies.
The question is, who will be first to jump, and how will the advertising industry react?