Lean and Mean: Being Better Stewards Of Users’ Mobile Data

Enders Analysis just issued a report documenting the toll on user mobile data plans that is exacted by ads and JavaScript on some news sites .

The study involved a small sample of websites and their pages and can’t be considered indicative of the entire online news industry, but it was certainly instructive, and eye-catching.

In at least one case, the ads and Javascript (used to display ads, but also video and interactive elements) chewed up as much as 79 percent of the data needed to view a page. At the study’s low end, ads and Javascript consumed 18 percent of the data needed to display the page.

To some extent, these data demands are literally the cost of doing business for consumers who are otherwise, in most cases, getting the content on those news sites for free. Advertising is financing what these news sites do, and consumers pay with their attention (and their data plans). As the economics professor likes to say, there is no free lunch; someone is paying somewhere for everything. This is part of their lunch money.

But at the high end of this range, the study suggests some sites have gone too far with their ads. That kind of data drain means they’re either slamming their pages with too many ads, or are using bandwidth-hogging material that isn’t optimized for quick loading (which is a deal-killer for so many impatient mobile users).

Either way, they’re creating a potential major disincentive for visitors to keep returning to their sites, or turning to ad blocker software, browsers or even, as we’re seeing in Europe, entire carrier services.

At Beachfront, we’ve built an entire stack of ad-tech products that are optimized for efficient delivery of video and ads, so we aren’t punishing the user with long load times and yes, an unnecessary drain on their data plans.

Efficient delivery should be a high-priority goal of every publisher, and every advertiser, and certainly of the ad-tech companies that work with both sides. None of us in this industry will win if users get so frustrated that they either dump a site or block the ads.

Done right, mobile ads can be highly targeted, highly valuable and bandwidth conservative. Done right, mobile ads can reduce the user blowback that has fueled the blocker wars and now sees them creeping into mobile just as the platform is becoming the dominant way people consume media of all kinds.