The Future of Mobile Ads

October 07, 2015

Mobile advertising is at a crossroads. Apple has just enabled ad blockers in iOS. And users are realizing how much mobile data is being consumed by ads. Since Apple has little vested interest in web ads and a huge interest in building the best product so that users will shell out a premium for them, ad blocking makes sense in iOS.

Mobile ads can make pages load up to 3 times slower and consume 6 times the bandwidth of the same page without ads. Since the ads don’t have any immediate value for the user, the web is a better experience without the ads. So, from a user’s perspective, “no ads” is better.

Now for the other perspective. I work for a company that makes part of their revenue through mobile advertising. Like most sites in the U.S., a huge percentage of our mobile traffic comes from iOS. Enough has been said about ad blockers causing the potential downfall of the free web. To summarize, the long-term value of ads for the user is that the content can stay free. But instead of rehashing all that, let’s discuss possible solutions. To quickly re-summarize the problem, mobile ads:

  1. cost users real dollars in the form of mobile data
  2. don’t provide any near-term value for users
  3. slow down the web and make for a worse experience

The ultimate solution fixes all three of these. So, let’s serve ads that:

  1. don’t consume much mobile data
  2. provide near-term value for users
  3. load quickly so that the web is still snappy

The obvious solution is to do advertorial content instead of the usual display ads. This is content that is potentially valuable in the near-term for users because it provides useful information while at the same time pitching a product or service. It also doesn’t consume any more mobile data than a normal non-advertorial piece of content. And since there don’t have to be 3rd-party ad networks involved, no extra code needs to be loaded so the site stays snappy. The downside to advertorials is that it takes real work to create them. Someone has to write the content.

Got other ideas? I’d love to discuss.