So my number one source of info on cool new trends is home from college for the holidays. The other night at dinner she casually mentions that she never listens to ads on Pandora anymore. She does most of her streaming on her laptop, because, you know, college kids are attached to their laptops a lot of the time. As long as you use Chrome, she tells me, you can use the ad-blocker which blocks all the audio ads.
It turns out she’s right. In fact, in the Chrome Web Store, there are several browser extensions that enable the listener to tune out the ads. Available for free. At least one has been around for more than a year. Of course, ad blocking is unethical, but it’s pretty hard to explain that and make it stick when the extension is sitting right there. It all seems pretty legit. I’m sure Pandora is delighted. One of the pitfalls of being the streaming music platform of choice is that the service becomes a target for developers who have the know how to “improve upon it.”
The good news is, audio ad blocking doesn’t seem to affect mobile streaming, and with 70% of Pandora’s listening on mobile devices, that’s a good thing. Advertisers pay by impression, so they aren’t getting hosed by this. But every time someone listens to Pandora and doesn’t listen to ads Pandora loses money, because they pay royalties by the listener. So it’s a bad thing.
I’m completely on board with the notion that ad blocking is unethical. (And believe me, I explained that to my daughter.) But this is not an isolated issue, and it’s not just Pandora’s problem. I had a conversation with a client yesterday who told me that “no one sees ads on the web anymore, everyone uses an ad blocker.” ( Which I know isn’t true, because I do not use an ad blocker myself.) But ad blocking is there, it’s real, and it’s a growing problem. Content platforms need to be aware of it, and develop solutions – better ways to incorporate ads into content, better ways to communicate the importance of ad revenues to their audience, maybe even better ways to deliver ads to their audience.