Skip to content
Naked Security Naked Security

Adobe and PageFair claim ad blockers will cost business $22 billion in 2015

The rapid growth of people using ad blockers is costly to publishers and advertisers - and the trend looks to only grow worse for website owners as ad blocking comes to mobile devices.

Ad blockingThe rapid growth of people using ad blockers is costly to publishers and advertisers (according to publishers and advertisers). The trend has got the advertising industry rattled and looks set to grow worse as ad blocking comes to mobile devices.

According to a report from Adobe and PageFair, a company that helps website owners counter ad blockers, ad blocking was responsible for $21.8 billion in lost advertising revenue in 2015 alone.

The report doesn’t say how that figure is calculated but it seems highly dubious. A great deal of online advertising is run on a pay-per-click model so an extra $22 billion in revenue would have to come from billions of extra clicks.

The lost clicks would have come from a group of people who find online advertising so unappealing that they’ve chosen to actively shut it out.

The idea that those users would click on adverts if only they could see them seems far fetched to me; those users have seen online advertising, and their reaction was to install an ad blocker!

What isn’t in doubt is that increasing numbers of people are fed up with adverts.

The report claims that the number of monthly active users (MAU) of ad blocking software reached 198 million in June 2015, a growth of 41% since the same period last year.

The growth was highest in the United States (48%) – up to 45 million MAUs – and in Europe the number of ad block users grew 35% to 77 million MAUs.

People who use ad blockers (such as the popular Adblock and Adblock Plus browser extensions offered by the Polish company Eyeo) have some very legitimate reasons for doing so.

Online advertisements can be annoying and distracting, but they can also challenge our privacy – ad networks use cookies to track people as they browse across the web to serve more relevant ads, and online data brokers package and sell profiles of web users to advertisers.

PageFair found in a survey that “misuse of personal data” is the top reason people who don’t use an ad blocker would consider using one.

There’s also a security riskcontent delivery networks that serve ads can be compromised, allowing hackers to inject malicious code on vast numbers of websites (what the internet security industry refers to as malvertising).

And scammers buy thousands of ads on popular sites such as Google and Facebook to offer spammy, illegitimate services like fake technical support.

On the other side of the coin, the content on websites that people want to access without seeing distracting or risky ads costs money and advertising often pays for the content so that users don’t have to.

Ad blocking software isn’t used on mobile devices as much as it is on desktops or laptops but that’s set to change too.

Currently only about 2% of ad blocking takes place on mobile devices, but the release of Apple’s iOS 9 in September 2015 could be a “game changer,” according to PageFair’s ad blocker report, as it will allow users to easily install ad blockers from the App Store.

Android users can already install apps to block ads within the Chrome and Firefox mobile browsers, with 40% of mobile ad blocking coming from Firefox users.

As mobile ad blocking becomes more popular, this trend could threaten the viability of the web as a “free”platform full of content that’s free to consumers, PageFair CEO and co-founder Sean Blanchfield says.

It is tragic that ad block users are inadvertently inflicting multi-billion dollar losses on the very websites they most enjoy. With ad blocking going mobile, there's an eminent threat that the business model that has supported the open web for two decades is going to collapse.

Rather than blaming users for depriving them of imagined revenue, content providers and advertisers might be better off focusing on the reasons why ad blockers are becoming so popular, not least that “misuse of personal data”.

Thankfully some are.

Some, like the popular technology publication Wired, are taking a soft-sell approach, requesting that ad blocker users disable the software when visiting

Other publishers are going after ad blockers in a less enlightened way though.

Two German newspapers, Zeit Online and Handelsblatt, sued ad blocking company Eyeo, contending that the practice was illegal (a German court rejected that claim).

There are services apart from PageFair to counter ad blockers as well.

Sourcepoint is just one of the companies developing technology to “punch through” ad blocking software (as opposed to websites tailoring their ads to meet the ad blockers’ standards, or paying the ad blocking company outright).

And with the use of ad blocking on the rise and an arms race developing between website owners and ad blockers, some websites will look for other ways to make money out of us, a situation that could leave us paying more money for content or greasing the wheels of the “free” web with more of our personal privacy.

Image of girl using smartphone courtesy of Shutterstock.


I, like apparently many people, use an ad blocker. However I disable it for sites I read often… unless I start seeing ads I don’t want, in which case I’ll re-enable it for that site. Sorry, , you had your chance.

What don’t I want in ads?
– Autoplaying audio
– Autoplaying video (this is Australia, and I have to share a 100gb/month download/upload limit between three people – it doesn’t go far)
– Popping over the content
– On that subject, almost any type of ad that include the word “pop”
– Anything that seems scammy
– Ads which fake dialog boxes (I don’t see as many ads as I used to, but those “you’re our 1,000,000th visitor” ones still exist, right?)
– On that subject, basically any of those cheap ones that seem to exist only to get people who don’t know better to download programs they don’t need (registry cleaners, etc.) – I know better, but lots of people don’t
– Etc., etc.

So yeah, I’m probably hard to please. But if everyone was as picky as me and wanted to block only these ads, we might get rid of them, and then people would have much less reason to block ads!


Amen, brother/sister.

Another part of the equation is that ads in the face of people who don’t want them will almost always only ever get clicked by mistake (easy on a mobile).

We’ve all done it – and we all probably just backed out form the ad right away.

But dud clicks of that sort represent a completely wasted cost *to any legitimate company buying ad clicks*.

So you might just as well argue that ad blockers will *save* businesses $Xm during 2016, by helping to protect well-meaning companies from paying for other people’s mistakes.


PageFair CEO, cry me a river! The web advertising industry has brought this upon itself.

The last straw for me was seeing my security suite constantly blocking malvertising domains while browsing quite popular websites.

Once I installed AdBlock Plus in Firefox, the blocking activity dropped to zero, meaning AdBlock was really doing its job.

Apart from the security threats, some websites have gone ad-crazy to an insane degree. I can now surf the NYTimes website without having a Starbucks ad obliterate my screen without warning.


This! I have ad blocking because the companies that sell on line advertising services do not vet their customers. It took just one hi jack virus riding on an ad to hit my home PC (I was running Kasperski at the time) so I converted browsers and now run a host of blocking features. The net has also become such a noisy place I run all my tech with the sound off as default.


these companies have done this to themselves by creating these over the top, in your face, 30 second long advertising schemes that pop up over the top of your content. there is literally not one single page on the internet that I *have* to go to that has these kinds of ads. if i dont block them, i just end up going to another site to get what i want/need without the constant interruption of my browsing. marketing companies, for the most part, have missed the mark badly on internet advertising. anything more than a 15 second ad is too long for 99% of people doing things on the net.


One of several lines by Campbell Foster, Director Product Marketing, Adobe that I feel comes close to an insult is “Advertisers, who have a right to communicate with consumers;” – No, no they don’t.

If I go to a site, I go to engage with that site. I don’t go to this blog for example to engage with other random, non-affiliated, untrusted sites.

If Sophos recommends something, and it looks interesting, sure I’ll look at it – there’s as they are actually recommending something and willing to put their reputation behind that recommendation. It’s not some random “pull out of list” you may be interested in something entirely unrelated garbage.

Random “FLASH YOU WIN CAR” adverts have no value, are distracting and I doubt often go anywhere safe or legit.

Unknown, untrusted Advertisers have no “right” to communicate with me, especially if I don’t already have an existing relationship with that entity.

They don’t respect flags like “Do Not Track”, they don’t respect you clearing cookies by setting unclearable supercookies, and insist on escalating this by pushing back with acts that get closer to malware with each iteration.

If I felt I could trust site or advertising entity, I turn off Adblock. The minute the advertising entity betrays that, it goes back on.

I’m not risking having my machine compromised to soothe some random marketeer because of dodgy ad networks not securing their infrastructure.


I use AdBlock Plus in addition to other tools, I would not use Facebook without it, and before F.B. Purity came out had cancelled my FB account. The first problem with Ad’s are the prevalence, go to some pages and 70% of the content on the page are ads, that’s just annoying. And to the complaint that blocking ads costs money I say, “too bad, anyone that clicks on an ad is begging for trouble anyways. Until companies start heavily screening their ads it’s not worth the trouble.” Here’s an example, the web site Tom’s Hardware some years back had an ad on it’s page that was dropping malware on people’s machines using one of the many IE exploits, I was one of them, after cleaning my machine I removed the Tom’s Hardware link from my browser history and have never gone back to the site, it’s not worth the risk – yes, it’s not their fault but … so what?!

I realize sites are funded by Ads and am OK with that, I can ignore the ads. But there is an increasingly greedy, seedy side to advertising that has made it the main focus of many sites and that I do object to. So, to those advertisers I say, “too bad, so glad … for adBlock Plus!”


Shouting, autoplaying videos, popping a thing OVER the web content I want, which on my mobile I cannot close, because when i try to resize the screen to enlarge the close button ENLARGES THE POPOVER SO THE BUTTON GOES OFF THE SCREEN, flashing and blinking away so that I am constantly distracted from the text I actually want to read…. and then allowing your networks to be subverted by malware authors to distribute their content and force my PC to download it? Then there’s that undeletable cookie you set when i blocked your tracking cookies, and ignoring the handy browser “This user prefers not to be tracked, thanks”

Advertisers are scum. And if I’m blocked by PageFair for not wanting to be subjected to that, it’s fine. I’m usually casually browsing the sites that use that, anyway, so it’s hit the back button and go elsewhere.

If you hadn’t used these tactics over the years since I got onto the internet, you wouldn’t be in this position now. You outdated your own business model. Well Done.


One point largely missed is data usage. Broadband providers have been following the cellular path of data caps to pull in extra money. With the many video ads that are forced upon the user, it costs them their data usage. A website, with animated gif adverts, usually maintained a small size. Now a website page load can reach up to 2 mb or more. Many cellular “data usage calculators” that help you determine which data plans fits your needs, cannot agree on a webpage size. It ranges from 200kb to 700kb. Sorry advertisers… You are going to need to start back with the pay users to view ads model that was attempted years ago.

Since I work some in flex/flash, I run the debugger version of the player. This is where I notice so many poorly coded flash-based ads. These poorly coded ads crash flash player regularly. In the debugger, it alerts me to many missing elements.

The online ad industry has gotten out of hand.


We live in a rural area and satellite connections are our only choice. Our monthly fee is based on the amount of data going back and forth.

I do use Adblock, but wonder just when the ads are blocked. Aren’t they downloaded anyway, and Adblock only prevents them from being rendered?


I agree with above comments here, it isn’t just the misuse of data, but how intrusive websites allow their adverts to become. And I am not just talking about low quality aggregator websites. Mainstream sites, even media outlets, have annoying popups covering content and worst of all, auto-playing videos that load when a website loads.

THIS is what is killing the industry. Visitors don’t think “I wonder if this advert is misusing my personal information”, they think “god this advert is annoying, how do I stop them loading?” – so there is an argument that theses users would click on more conventional CPC adverts if they had not chosen to install an ad-blocker.

It is up to website publishers to ensure their adverts play fair, and this in turn will curb the need for ad-blockers. Sadly some publishers are ruining it for the rest of us, and hurting themselves in the process. It’s greed. Pure and simple. Maximum revenue for their traffic without any real concern to the long term effects.


Before Adblocker and a pop up ad blocker I had the same problems mentioned by so many here. Videos I can’t stop. The need to delete 20 or more ads behind my browser when I to close it. Tracking software in the actual software i’m using. I’ve actually used software to clean out malware in my computer. On one occassion it disabled one of my favorite pieces of software to the point it wouldn’t work. If a vendor needs to put that much tracking software in my software, I don’t want to use it.


I really don’t get why some websites beg their visitor to disable their ad-blockers…
I never ever bought anything on the internet because of an ad. When I buy something it’s because I need it and I always do some researches in order to choose what I think is the best product.

So ads are just a waste of my time, attention, bandwith, CPU/GPU).

Every time I see a “Please disable your ad-blocker” banner I right-click on it and select “Block this ad” in the Adblock sub-menu…


If they mess with add blockers the answer will be to use products like Sophos Firewall to create rules to block domains that push adds. Then we will never see them at all. (what I did prior to using add blockers) People will gladly share there Black list. I block adds at work with the Web filter I manage.
No sympathy for Adobe, they are one of the main reasons billions of dollars are lost/spent removing malware and loss of production from time.


It’s not like I ever have a purpose coming online like catching up with friends or studying something of interest..right? NO NO I’m here to enjoy the impulsive tendencies to buy stuff I don’t need with money I don’t have.
I’m an algorythim. I dropped cable TV for similar reasons. If I have to watch 8 hours (or more) of commercials every week then I should be paid for my time or the service should be heavily diss counted #algorithmiclivesmatter


Adobe indeed! The King of Foistware if ever there was. Here’s looking at you McAfee Security Scan Plus …


Let’s count reasons why I use an ad-blocker (probably the same as above)
– Autoplaying audio
– Autoplaying video
– Bandwidth consumption (I don’t have to pay to receive junk mail. I do however have to pay to receive spam and online ads.)
– Massively slows pages and page loading down
– Ads never look legitimate (“Get [software] free!” “You are the 1000th visitor!” “Click here to download!” Yeah, right. As if.)
– Popups in any form

Go look at Curse’s recent Gamepedia changes…it has ALL of the above. A banner above the content, an ad to the side of the content, a popup over the content and a banner under the content. Oh yeah, and those ads autoplay audio and video, look dodgy and stop the page loading properly.

Frankly, users are sick of ads. They’re pervasive and annoying. Even major applications like Skype now come with intrusive advertising.

You want people to stop blocking ads? Then stop being so intrusive and untrustworthy.


CNN is one of the offenders … whenever I access any of their stories from my Yahoo main page, I get a pop over 30 second video ad that rarely gives me the alternative to squelch it.

Overall, if the ads are not intrusive (flash/delay loading of requested content, etc.) and I felt they could be trusted, they would be easy to live with.

Oh, much the same can be said about “sponsored” or “featured” story offerings at, typically, the bottom of the story I accessed. Clicking on these usually results in more intrusive ads.

Bottom line: if the site publishers validates the authenticity and safety of the presented non-intrusive ads, OK. I almost get the feeling that some sites do not even know what ads are being presented.


I have found it amazing how many less ads I see now that flash is not allowed to autoplay on any page. Yeah I get a lot of grey boxes prompting me to activate flash, nope, not going to happen.

Adobe has made a terrible program for so long I really don’t feel bad not seeing ads the go full screen on mouse over, or stomp on the audio I am actually trying to hear from a different part of the page.

The part that seems a bit silly is sites like and many of the tv news sites that want to show you 1 minute clips, but you get a 30 second ad before every one. 1/3 of your content is ads? You lose the ad revenue because I don’t visit your site, not because I visit it with an ad blocker enabled.


Secondary thought – with the new super cookie thing that serves you ads based on searches you did on shopping sites it kind of silly. Yes I looked a camera lens on amazon or a tv on bestbuy or whatever, yesterday. Why serve me an ad about it today. I did my research and either bought it or moved on.


If ads did not cause so many issues then maybe less people would use ad blockers.

Take arstechnica for example; Almost every time I go there I have to go to task manager and end process for adobe if I dont have the program installed on on.


I block ads from a security perspective. Many times malware is delivered via legitimate ad networks who don’t seem to be able to police their own customers. From that angle alone I feel completely comfortable with blocking potential harm from my computing resources. The annoyance items are certainly valid complaints as well, but I see the security angle as the most important.


Think of how much people who choose sobriety cost alcohol manufacturers! Why, it’s just not fair for people to make a choice about their life that might impact a businesses bottom line. Especially not for health or sanity. Who needs those?

Advertisers need a lesson in consent. I don’t like print ads but I tolerate their existence because I can choose to ignore them and they can’t harm me. Online ads cost me money, dramatically compromise my security, and make it impossible for me to focus on the thing I’m at a website for (should be sued under the ADA). I will not click on those ads. The more a product tries to intrude in my life the more effort I will spend to eliminate it from my life. I’ve met pushy pan handlers with knives that I trust more than online advertizing networks. No pity from me. They need to clean up their filth before I will again consent to letting them into my life.


Sorry advertisers, you don’t have a right to show your ads to me. I am the arbiter of what ads I see, not you. And since iOS and the 3DS don’t yet have an ad blocker, I can use my router’s firewall to block these ads at the source. Works every time.

As for why we block ads, here are a few reasons. Advertisers take note:
-Flashing ads that cause more seizures than that Porygon Pokemon episode.
-Redirects to other sites
-Ads that open the app store (router firewall + guided access kills these ads)
-Ads that play video or sound
-Ads that push or move the content when I am trying to read
-Ads that popup over words
-Ads that have malware

When I am trying to read, I don’t wan’t an ad to push down the content (abc2news Baltimore and Cnet take note!). I don’t trust popups. And I sure as hhell don’t want the app store to open. Just give the user what they want, the content. Keep the ads to the side, static, and relevant to the site and we won’t mind them. If your ads are invasive then they will be blocked. I have a permanent ad embargo on Yahoo because of their repeated malware scandals. Monitor, inspect, or control your ads or you will have to monitor and inspect new ways to come up with revenue for your site. It is that simple. We can also always go to your competitor. Have a cool new story or some strategy for winning Chess? I can find that info on your competitors site. There are no monopolies on information and knowledge.


With the attempt to call Adblock illegal something struck me. Surely SourcePoint trying to punch through ad blockers must be too then. It’s deliberately programmed to circumvent software installed with knowledge and consent by the user to stop adverts and in cases maintain security. Surely a deliberate circumvention of a users settings when it’s against their express wishes must be either at least a PUP or more like malware? I say that on Sophos’ page as I may find ads annoying, but I also block them for security issues. Anything that’s deliberately trying to punch through my security related software to me is malicious. I wonder what Sophos’ thoughts are on Sourcepoint circumventing users security related software is?

From a business model view the advertisers are badly wrong. If we liked ads the way they serve them up now there’d not be any ad blockers. Their business model effectively created ad blockers. They need to rethink their strategy before everyone has ad blockers on every device. The problem is they have tried to make advertising a ‘business’ when it isn’t. If an advert is for a TV and someone buys a TV the business and money is in selling the TV, the advert is just the advert. The problem is businesses run out of things to monetise so they started on the adverts that sell things and it’s gone so far it’s backfired in their face and had the reverse effect.


Adobe and PageFair claim ad blockers will cost business $22 billion in 2015

I’m sorry but this is not true.
Anyone who needs a new car, will buy a new car, and anyone who needs a new TV, will buy a new TV (if they have enough money :)) even with enabled ad block.
So that only one who is at a loss, are advertising agencies. ;)


I record television programmes on a PVR so that I can start watching them late and fast-forward through the adverts. I see no difference between that and using an ad-blocker.
Before PVRs, I used to make a cup of tea or fetch another beer during the adverts. Although I have watched TV since before advertising started, I don’t recall ever buying anything advertised on it that I wouldn’t have bought anyway.
If the advertising trade were to lose £22 billion, that amount would be available to consumers, to spend on more worthwhile goods and services.


Adobe and PageFair are right! This plague will kill most of the websites. But smart asses who just want the content not only for free, but also without ads, are not capable to understand this!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to get the latest updates in your inbox.
Which categories are you interested in?
You’re now subscribed!