In 2016, annoying mobile ads will begin to fade away

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Here’s a hopeful prediction for 2016: It will mark the point at which the sheer quantity of junky adtech encrustations on publishers’ sites will start going down rather than up. To put it another way, we have reached Peak Adtech.


It’s not exactly news that all the random bits of JavaScript junking up the typical publisher’s page make for a horrible user experience. This isn’t just causing more and more people to install ad blockers; it’s also a huge annoyance to Google and Apple, the companies that make most phone operating systems. After all, when pages load slowly, or not at all, people are more likely to blame the phone than they are to blame invisible adtech they can’t see and which they probably don’t even know exists.

2016 is certainly going to smash 2015’s record for the number of news stories read inside of apps which deliver a fast, clean, beautiful experience. Apple News and Facebook Instant Articles and Snapchat Stories are all growing fast, and pretty soon almost everybody with a smartphone will have come across at least one of them at some point. Once the public knows what’s possible, popular patience for the cruddiness of the mobile web will go very quickly from limited to zero.


As a result, publishers will start facing real pressure, for the first time, to clean up their acts, by which I mean their web pages. Doing that is going to be very easy, thanks to Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages protocol. And because it’s so easy, publishers aren’t going to be able to resist a bit of A/B testing.

The results are going to be clear: fast, clean web pages cause people to stick around longer, read more stories, and build up much more loyalty to a site. Sure, they also mean lower marginal ad revenues. But with the costs and benefits easy to see, some publishers (not all) will decide to take the plunge and give readers what they clearly want.

Once readers have a choice, they will flock to the AMP web, rather than the crappy old mobile web we all know and hate. The costs to publishers of giving their readers a dreadful experience will only go up, and, slowly, more and more of them will capitulate. They might not like it, but they will recognize that they have little choice in the matter.

This won’t happen quickly. Ads have been getting increasingly annoying for years; they’re not going to suddenly become demure and well-behaved overnight. But, for the first time since the web was invented, 2016 will be a year when adtech is forced into retreat. It’s going to be great to see it on the back foot for once. The change is going to be wonderful not only for the mobile web, but also—eventually—for creativity in online advertising. When brute force and invasions of privacy don’t work any more, that’s when creatives start to show their value.

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