We are three clicks away from an “oh shit” moment for the web.

We could be one minute away from deletion of the dominant monetization currency of the web: advertising. If this happens, over $50,000,000,000 advertising dollars in the US will vanish. This has repercussions on me, you, and every other person in this world who is on the Internet. Is this a bad thing? I’m not sure yet, but lets explore this.

It feels that now more than ever, there is a tension between advertising and users. Maybe this is a false statement and I was oblivious before, but it’s my opinion. What I do know is that Internet users have a myriad of easy-to-use tools to block ads. Users are installing anti-advertising add-ons at a high rate. I’ve seen numbers from industry participants stating that ad blocking is growing at 43% per year.

What other content mediums exist where users can skip ads? TV.

I did some easy digging to find out how many people skip ads on television. I found some research which states viewers of Mad Men skipped 73% of ads where as 66% were skipped during The Walking Dead. This data comes from a 2014 study done in the US by TiVo which may not be representative of the broader viewing audience, since TiVo owners are perhaps more likely to record and watch later. Even if this data is 50% inaccurate, we still confirm that users are skipping ads.

So what is the impact?

When comparing digital advertising versus tv advertising budgets in the US, digital budgets are currently 49% less. If we look at how tv ads sell, they take ad skipping into account in the sale price. Ads are bought and sold on the audience levels for the commercials, not the programs. The measurement takes into account live viewership and viewership up to three days after initial broadcast (although some ad deals are up to seven days after broadcast).

There are many ways to buy advertising in digital media. Digital media buy models (CPM, CPE, CPC, CPA, CPL, etc) price in the loss of impressions through ad blocking.

It is interesting to me that we could be less than one minute away of there being no/few ads online. If this happens, we need to figure out a sustainable model for large and small content creators and publishers.

So what do we do about this?

> Do we technically block the ad blockers?
> Do we [top down] legislatively block the ad blockers?
> Do we collude as an industry to not do this? [1]
> Do we push brands and their agencies to do “better” ads?
> Do we push publishers and ad-tech to make less-intrusive ads?
> Do we move away from advertising as a whole and onto another monetization model?
> Do we take half a percent of every ad budget in 2016 and do a PSA campaign to educate users about the content they consume?

I don’t have an answer yet. I can argue both sides to this issue.

I guess the easy and true answer is that we need to figure out *something*, as the web’s economy is being threatened, at least in the short term. Maybe this will rebalance itself out in the future but we need to take this seriously.

[1] Collusion is illegal and not something I’d advocate for.

This post is written by Darren Herman, the VP of Content Services at Mozilla. While not skiing with his family or on cross-country flights to Mountain View (CA), Herman thinks about the future of content and it’s convergence with Madison Avenue. This post is his thinking and not one that is reflective of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @dherman76.

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