Mobile Network Three’s Plans to Use Network-Based Ad Blocker Worries Digital Content Providers

One of the reasons why we are able to access so much high value content for free is likely to be that many content providers are able to use online advertising for their funding. This is why a recent announcement by the Mobile Network Three that it is to introduce ad-blockers for consumers on its UK and Italian networks has not gone down well with webmasters and digital publishers.

The ad blocker, to be introduced in partnership with Shine, is believed to be able to block 95% of banner and pop-up ads. This combined with the fact that Three has its 8.8 million customers who could choose to use the as blocker has caused a wave of reaction from those whose revenues look likely to be adversely affected by the move.

Protecting Consumers

Three’s stated reason for panning to introduce the network level ad-blocking software is to give customers greater control, choice and greater transparency over what they receive, and to help them to avoid having to pay the extra data charges that they have to pay to download the adverts that they didn’t want to see anyway. Estimates at the amount of a mobile user’s data consumption used up by adverts range from anywhere between 20% and 50%.

It is also hoped that the opt-in ad-blocker could help protect Three’s customers from possible phishing attacks launched via online adverts.

Although the ad blocking software could reduce data charges for the customers who use it, they may have to pay to use the ad blocker (Three had not yet decided whether customers will pay to use it).

Why Network Level?

The decision to use a network-based ad blocker rather than an app is because the network level ad blocker is likely to be more effective, and ad blocking apps are banned from some app stores

Not All Adverts Will Be Blocked

Three has made it clear however that not all adverts will be blocked by the service that is due to be introduced at some point in 2016 on an as yet unspecified date. Relevant and targeted advertising that minimises data use and waste should not be affected, and pre-roll video ads, sponsored articles, and in-feed promotions e.g. within Twitter and Facebook will not be blocked.

Reaction

The reaction from organisations such as the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) has been to point out the potential for the ad blocker to undermine the current arrangement that benefits consumers whereby they can receive content free because publishers fund much of it through online advertising.