Are Millennials More Likely to Pay for Content vs. Endure Ads?

Netflix effect? Some surprises: what this new data says

Optimal.com partnered with Wells Fargo Securities to survey US smartphone users about their desktop and mobile ad blocking behavior. All the data we released is at adblocksurvey.com (including the XLS revenue model 2016–2020) One cut that yielded widely different results was by age group. While they may have less means than older adults, the data appears to suggest that young adults (18–29 years of age), aka “Millennials” for the purposes of this piece, are far more likely to support content creators via alternative means in an ad-restricted world. **See methodology/links to detailed data at bottom.

Blocking Rates by Age are Similar

Millennials block ads slightly more than do older age-groups, but not a statistically significant difference.

Source: Wells Fargo Securities, Optimal.com (n=1,712) April 2016

Millennials 29x More Aware of Harming Content Creators

The data may indicate that 18–29 year olds are more aware than 60+ users that blocking ads harms content creators (8.8% vs 0.3%). It also shows that a greater portion of this age group doesn’t actually mind the advertising they see vs. older users (21.6% vs 11.7%), and they provide that as the top reason they haven’t installed ad blockers yet. All the age group data is available free with valid email registration at adblocksurvey.com.

Source: Wells Fargo Securities, Optimal.com (n=1320 who don’t block ads) April 2016

Younger Users Annoyed at Mobile Formats

The younger adults we surveyed were far more annoyed with formats like mobile popup ads (52% of 18–29 year-olds saying it was one of the most annoying/intrusive types of ads vs. 39% of 60+ year-olds). The proportional difference was even bigger with mobile video ads: almost 40% of millennials don’t like them compared to 21.5% of 60+ aged users.

Source: Wells Fargo Securities, Optimal.com (n=407 age 18–29, n=368 age 60+) April 2016

What about Paying for Ad-Free Content?

Driven by a greater familiarity with ad-free paid content services like Netflix, millennials appear more open to paying for an advertising-free version of a mobile web experience. The question was asked with a specific price point mentioned ($9.99 per month) which is almost certainly too high for a mainstream product of this nature, and it references carriers specifically as the providers of this service. Young adults were 50% more likely to say they’d consider paying for such a service than the remaining age groups:

Source: Wells Fargo Securities, Optimal.com (n=1712) April 2016

More Trusting Than the Rest of Us?

Finally: age appears to be the biggest determinant in the survey of whether or not a consumer says they would trust an entity to protect their personal information. As seems typical with these types of surveys, companies like Google and Facebook get perennially low marks, and growing groups of consumers indicate they don’t trust any entity whatsoever to protect their information. But as you can see from the following two charts (since it was a check all that apply, the latter counts the number of entities trusted by each group of respondents), there is a gulf in these attitudes between age groups:

Source: Wells Fargo Securities, Optimal.com (n=1712) April 2016
Source: Wells Fargo Securities, Optimal.com (n=1712) April 2016 [mean trusted entities = 1.925]

Marketers and publishers alike would naturally be wise to start understanding the differences in communications and advertising strategies for these different age groups. “The ad blocking toothpaste is not going to go back in the tube,” as I told Forbes’ Rob Hof.

At Optimal.com, we hope to freely share more of this type of data as we further explore this subject.


Methodology:

Note: the 1,712-person survey was conducted among a balanced sample of US smartphone users using the 30mm-person SurveyMonkey Audience Panel (407 respondents were aged 18–29, 483 were 30–44, 454 at 45–59 and 368 were 60 years of age or older). The raw data for the age groups and questions mentioned here is available for free at adblocksurvey.com after email registration.

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