Google Builds on Industry-Driven Ad Standards to Improve User Experience and Content Creation

Share |

Online advertising is an increasingly important source of revenue for online content creators, who include professional journalists to web developers to bloggers and provide tremendous value to the Internet ecosystem. To remain afloat, these content creators rely on effective online advertising in order to continue to provide their service or business.

Even though the vast majority of advertisements contribute positively to user experience, the intrusive and annoying ads are often what drive people to use ad blockers across all content creators. In fact, ad blocker usage has become far more widespread in the recent past. Ad blocker usage has surged over the past 5 years from 30 million desktop users using ad blockers to 216 million in 2016. Moreover, even when users run into an ad block wall, which requires users to disable the ad blocker to be able to access the website, 75% of those users simply leave the website rather than disable the ad blocker.

Clearly, many users are fed up with intrusive and obnoxious ads, which has larger consequences for online content creators. But the use of ad blockers can be extremely detrimental to any online content creator relying on advertising.  When ad blockers are in use, publishers and content creators forgo the compensation available to them from ads appearing along with their content.  Therefore, the pervasive use of ad blockers presents an untenable situation for sustaining high-quality online content for little or no cost. 

To address this situation, a group of companies and trade associations involved in online media joined together earlier this year to create the Coalition for Better Ads, a campaign to provide clear, public, data-driven guidance for how the industry can improve ads for consumers.  In March, the Coalition published a set of Better Ad Standards for desktop and mobile web that reflect consumer advertising preferences in North American and European markets.  The standards are based on research that identifies the ad experiences that rank lowest across a range of user experience factors, and that are most highly correlated with an increased propensity for consumers to adopt ad blockers.

These ad standards were a great first step, and now it’s up to the online media and advertising industries to adopt them.  Google recently announced a series of tools and initiatives to improve online advertising and Internet-user experience.  In summary, Google has announced three new elements.

First, for publishers, Google offers an Ad Experience Report that “lets developers build applications that query the Google Ad Experience Report. The API gets a list of sites that have ad experiences that might violate the Better Ads Standards, or that have egregious ad experiences. The response also contains a link to the full Ad Experience Report for publishers to get more details.” In other words, Google will audit your site to assess whether or not the ads are compliant with their Better Ad Standards.

Second, to help online content creators continue to leverage advertising to drive their content or to utilize alternative measures to generate ad revenue, Google is providing a Funding Choices Program, a solution intended to help publishers “reclaim revenue lost as a result of users that block advertisements, through detection (identifying users who block ads that visit a publisher’s page); a configurable message wall which notifies users to disable their blocking or purchase an ad-removal pass through Google Contributor (allows users to have an ad-free experience), and reporting.”  With this program, online publishers can either set a number of free articles monthly or setup an “ads-free pass,” a user fee paid through Google that creates a revenue-sharing model with the publisher.

The third initiative is a Chrome filtering tool aimed at improving users experience browsing the internet by filtering out ads on sites that are significantly non-compliant with the Better Ad Standards.  Building on information from their Ad Experience Report to focus on sites with the worst advertising experience, Google “[plans] to have their Chrome browser stop showing ads (including those owned or served by Google) on websites that are not complaint with the Better Ads Standards starting up in early 2018.”

Improving the standards for online advertising and measures to help online content creators provide effective advertisements will better both user experience and ensure that content creators can thrive in the current Internet ecosystem. SIIA supports the work of the Coalition for Better Ads, as well as Google’s efforts to help online content creators and users.  We hope that digital media companies and the advertising industry will collaborate to implement the Better Ad Standards and to build a better web for everyone.  

David David LeDuc is Senior Director, Public Policy at SIIA. He focuses on e-commerce, privacy, cyber security, cloud computing, open standards, e-government and information policy. Follow the SIIA public policy team on Twitter at @SIIAPolicy.