Top Startups You Need on Your Fantasy Team

It’s that time of year folks. A time where friends are lost and enemies are made. I’m talking about the Dungeons and Dragons for jocks. Fantasy football. Here at Track5, we’ve decided to do things a little differently. Since some of us aren’t the biggest of football fans, we’ve created our own fantasy league, the SFL. The Startup Fantasy League is comprised of the most promising startups of the past few years. Things got very heated during the draft, but here are a few highlights, and key startups for you to keep an eye on in the near future.

Medium

A consensus first round pick, Medium is looking to rival WordPress to become the go-to publishing website. Hell-bent on changing the way people communicate, Medium has become a free-reign outlet for anyone to use including celebrities, athletes, and of course, you and me. The company is so highly touted because of its versatility. Is it a news source? Is it a social media platform? Is it a creative writing forum? The answer is yes – and as more and more creative minds continue to flock to the website, expect Medium to grow larger and larger in the near future.

theSkimm

Created by two former NBC News producers, theSkimm has gone from just another email newsletter, to the main source of news for nearly 2 million subscribers and a top startup. Designed for those who need to consume their news on-the-go, theSkimm summarizes articles from major news outlets and gives the option to read the entire article if the reader chooses to. Known for their satirical humor, theSkimm has been popular among college students looking to stay up on current events in between classes. It’s no surprise theSkimm easily cracked the top ten in our Startup Fantasy League.

TheSkimm quickly rose up our draft board as a top startup

TheSkimm quickly rose up our draft board as a top startup

OTTO

One of the biggest gambles in this year’s draft was the selection of OTTO, a tech company intent on bringing driverless vehicles into the trucking industry. One of the youngest companies in the draft, OTTO’s inexperience might actually be a blessing in the disguise. Founded by former Google employees, the product was actually introduced on Medium this past January. OTTO states, “At the heart of our vision is the belief that self-driving tech is the key for creating a more sustainable, productive — and above all, safer — transportation future.” This young and ambitious company could either be a draft bust, or one of the most innovative startups in the past decade.

Product Hunt

One of the most talked about companies to crack our top startups list, Product Hunt is a paradise for nerds. According to the company, “It’s a place for product-loving enthusiasts to share and geek out about the latest mobile apps, websites, hardware projects, and tech creations. The site allows tech lovers to discuss, browse, and purchase their favorite tech products as Product hunt curates a feed designed specifically for you. Will this draft darling live up to the hype as one of the top startups? Only time will tell.

Product Hunt has quickly become the darling of the draft

Product Hunt has quickly become the darling of the draft

Truebill

Arguably the biggest “sleeper” in the draft, Truebill is looking to help you keep track of those pesky subscriptions and other reoccurring charges. One of our top startups, the company uses data mining to figure out which subscriptions and reoccurring charges deemed unnecessary. Still getting charged or the Amazon Prime account you never use? Truebill will catch it. This top startup could save you hundreds, snagging those unwanted charges.

Diving into Virtual Reality

Believe it or not, virtual reality (VR) has been around for quite a few years. So why are we only hearing about it now? It’s as simple as timing. Consumers are finally ready to give it a try, and oh boy are they ready. You may be aware that these past few years a variety of companies have been experimenting with VR with much success, but none like Niantic’s. No one expected the mind-blowing success of PokemonGo, which has become somewhat a way of life. Now that millions of consumers around the world have accepted and integrated VR in their everyday life, what’s next?

Marketing

With the right execution, VR can be an incredibly powerful marketing tool. Not only is it increasingly more difficult to grab the attention of consumers, and thanks to their ever-shrinking attention spans it is also a struggle to retain it as well. But with VR, you get to have the rare gift of a consumer’s undivided attention as they are fully immersed into another reality, and amazingly not checking to see if they got any new notifications.

As their senses are being stimulated and emotions running high, they are much more likely to remember their experience if done right, hopefully with fondness. A good experience is practically the keystone of marketing, and an impactful experience, like VR, almost always inspires brand loyalty.

Should you use VR?

Sure, marketing that triggers emotions is the most effective, and brand loyalty is the best, but is VR appropriate for your target market? Having a solid list of pros, it raises the question of whether it outweighs the cons?

At the moment the most concerning cons of using VR is cost and accessibility. Depending on the execution, VR can easily exclude those who do not have access to the required technology. And as you can imagine, the technology that goes into creating a virtual reality does not come cheap. However, many technology experts believe there is good news on the horizon. They believe that as VR becomes more mainstream, the costs of it will come down, making it affordable for companies and consumers alike.

Virtual Reality Trailblazers

As companies are starting to experiment in the world of VR, we naturally notice a few trends. It seems that those who saw the most success were marketing campaigns that used VR to persuade consumers to try a product or service. The Thomas Cook travel agency in the U.K. experienced increased travel revenue of 190% when they used VR to promote trips to New York via helicopter rides. Not too shabby.

Volvo also experienced a similar success when they launched Volvo Reality, the first ever VR test drive. By placing consumers in the driver’s seat of the coveted Volvo XC90, Volvo Reality reached an impressive 238 million media impressions.

Helicopter and new car rides sound great, but trial runs aren’t the only VR campaigns that are making an impact. Companies like Hugo Boss and Absolut Vodka are creating a lot of buzz by giving people the opportunity to attend real world events virtually. And most recently, fans of the Olympics games that can’t afford the money or time to travel Rio have the chance to experience the games, VR headset required.

Ranking the Top Five Presidential Mobile-Games on the Market

“As the…interesting (train wreck) of a presidential race continues to dominate our living rooms, timelines and radio stations, Marketers and Developers have identified an opportunity, leading to a unique new trend in the application world.” While the current race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump seems like another installment of the SAW movie franchise, some app-developers are choosing to turn this cringe worthy competition into a profitable product.

A recent article posted by The Ringer detailed a variety of satirical games featuring our two, very polarizing candidates. In the article, 46-year-old app developer Kevin Colligan was hit with inspiration as he watched the Clinton email scandal unfold.

“I thought, oh, this could be a perfect, kind of humorous thing for a game,” Colligan said. “There’s definitely tons of material there.”

The Perfect Storm 

            It’s interesting to think about exactly what had to transpire for the satirical-app industry to have a sudden boom. While our last candidates in 2012 (Obama, Romney) were not immune to a comedic volley of arrows (ex: any Jason Sudekis’ Saturday Night Live portrayals) the amount of material provided was nothing close to this years’ race.

In one corner, we have Donald Trump, who seems to be better equipped to be a WWE superstar. His bravado, mildly (extremely) racist comments, and his willingness to go toe-to-toe with any feud, make him a cross between Hulk Hogan and The Rock.

In the other corner, we had what appeared to be the more reliable option, until the email scandal broke. When it was uncovered that Clinton had a secret email housing some very damning information, many questioned her integrity, leaving us with two candidates that were easy targets for many.

Now that we’ve looked at how this market has grown, it’s time to break down some of the actual games.

Hillary’s Email Adventure

            The game opens up with a text conversation between you (Hillary Clinton) and now-resigned Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz essentially letting you know, “Hey, the bad guys are trying to wipe out the emails.” From here, the game turns into part PACMAN part Angry Birds in which miniature Hillary hops across a circuit board, trying to collect as many emails as she can.

The Verdict: I like that we’re at least given some backstory, and the recent resignation of Wasserman Schultz makes the timing even better, so I’ll give it 8 hacked emails out of 10. 

Trump Dump

            This game is essentially a poorly executed version of Flappy Bird, and in fact, I still don’t fully understand the premise of including a poo-shaped caricature of Trump that pops up every now and then during the game.

The Verdict: With an unoriginal premise and a very…distasteful image of Trump, I’ll give this one 3 hairpieces out of 10.

One of the many presidential mobile games

Satire at its finest

Whack Hillary

            Similar to the carnival game whack-a-mole, players must whack down the image of Clinton as she appears on the screen. The game has a variety of versions including Mash Marco, Thump the Trump, Squish Bush, and Hit Mitt.

The Verdict: I like the simplicity of the game and the ability to tailor it to your favorite candidate, so I’ll give it a solid 7 awkward Hillary dances out of 10.

Floppy Candidate

Even The Washington Post — the Pulitzer Prize–winning legacy newspaper that broke Watergate — has entered the mobile-game business with this Flappy Bird knockoff. The caricatures are spot on and the gameplay is a lot better than most of its competitors.

The Verdict: I just enjoy the fact that one of the countries biggest news conglomerates has become “hip” to the app game, and I’ll give their first attempt a solid 9 spray-tans out of 10.

Presidential candidates take to the sky

Bernie is in no shape to fly this frequently

Great Wall of America

            This stacker game forces players to stack now-defunct Republican Candidates like Ben Carson and Ted Cruz in hopes of creating a high enough wall to keep out illegal immigrants. Probably the most unique of the mobile-apps, it even features prominent Trump enemies Megyn Kelly and Vicente Fox.

The Verdict: I’ll have to choose this one as my favorite simply because I could play it for longer than 20 minutes. I’ll give this one 10 baby hands out of 10.

How can Trump look more like a cartoon, than his actual cartoon?

Multicultural Marketing: Closing Digital Divides

Despite the constant refreshing of strategy, one trend is poised to grow for much of the foreseeable future, and that is multicultural marketing.

For marketers, the pursuit is always that of finding fresh, yet reliable groups of consumers and clients to keep the world spinning. Strategies emerge by sifting through research, trends, and the latest in digital techniques – only to continue evolving with the customer.

Propelled by U.S. population growth and expanding buying power of people of many cultural heritages, marketing will need to continue relying on diversity as a means of connecting with audiences.

To get a grip on just how significant this multicultural influx really is, consider that U.S. multicultural buying power has increased from $661 billion in 1990, to nearly $3.4 trillion as of 2014.

Multicultural marketing is becoming more important than ever before.

Multicultural marketing is becoming more important than ever before.

Understanding the many multicultural essences that drive consumer behavior today is not only an advantage, but also a necessity in order to forge long-term relationships with these dynamic and growing consumer segments of the economy.

So far, we know that multicultural consumers are increasingly media-savvy and socially empowered – combine that with the fact that many belong to the millennial generation, and you’ve got a potent market indeed.

Multicultural Marketing for International Reach

In many ways, multicultural populations represent the proverbial “fountain of youth,” connecting international markets to those of corresponding cultures in the U.S. What’s more is the trend-setting potential multicultural marketing has for the rest of the American population.

For such examples, look no further than the rise of foods featuring Sriracha, cilantro, agave, cardamom, and dulce de leche – all well loved ethnic and international flavors currently thriving in the American market.

Finally, marketing is breaking away from strategies that assume ethnicity and race will just magically dissolve into a homogenous “general market.” Instead, we’re looking at a much-needed diversification of what it means to cater to our domestic, yet multicultural consumers.

This gets really interesting when we consider just how tech-savvy multicultural consumers in the U.S. actually are:

With the digital divide between Latinos and whites at its most narrow point since 2009, Spanish speakers and immigrants are becoming more connected than ever before.

Digital divides in the U.S. are narrowing now more than ever.

Digital divides in the U.S. are narrowing now more than ever.

Pew Research found that the amount of Latino adults who report using the internet increased from 64% to 84%, while Spanish-dominant Hispanics internet use more than doubled from 34% to 74%.

Essentially, Hispanic/Latino population growth in the U.S. means more multicultural consumer identities than ever before – a relative gold mine for marketers and a mounting challenge for SEOs.

Now instead of struggling to create a high ranking a website for English speakers (a full time job as is), the industry may soon have to come to its senses and optimize its strategies in Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Hindi and so on! It’s seems that marketing will have as many opportunities to evolve as there are cultures in the U.S. – arguably a true sign of a vibrant future.

Authentic Communication Makes Authentic Brands

As with most marketing campaigns and advertising, consumers want to identify with the values of brands they perceive to be authentic. Most people, regardless of their cultural identity, place a huge importance on family values, heritage, and empowering themselves and their communities.

Marketing across language barriers and cultural preferences is more than a full-time pursuit.

Marketing across language barriers and cultural preferences is more than a full-time pursuit.

In the same way that traditional marketing and digital marketing must be linked to provide an omnichannel experience, multiculturalism and a company’s core strategies are increasingly inseparable.

Again, as both U.S. consumers and marketers themselves become more diverse, the potential to reach more international markets increases as well. Multicultural marketing is something we can all expect to explore in times to come, and is in many ways long overdue.

How Other Companies can Benefit From Chatbots

Global dough-slingers Pizza Hut have recently stepped up their “conversational ordering” game with the debut of a new social media chatbot. Until now, Pizza Hut lagged behind other chains like Dominos and Papa Johns when it came to implementing tech into their marketing scheme, despite being the largest pizza chain in the world. Finally, the pie peddlers are striking back with a new, interactive way to order your favorite pie.

At the recent MobileBeat 2016 expo, Chief Digital Officer Baron Concors demonstrated how Pizza Hut’s chatbot would improve the customer experience.

“The new Pizza Hut social ordering platform is another example of making it easy for our customer to order their favorites from Pizza Hut,” said Concors. “We are constantly pursuing ways to simplify our ordering experience. This platform allows our consumers to quickly order or get information where they are already spending a great deal of their time.”

This chatbot got me thinking about some of the other companies that could benefit from a chatbot. Not only is a chatbot fun to interact with, they actually can help streamline various tasks for a quicker, more efficient experience.

Tinder

            It’s always an awkward conversation when you’re messaging a complete stranger using a dating app. Do you keep it simple with “hey”? No, that’s too boring. “Howdy?” No, you’re not John Wayne. See, even the intro is hard. A chatbot could become a mediator, finding out what you and your match have in common and introducing you both through a similar topic. Your tinder chatbot could become your wingman/woman to help step up your game. Plus, there’s no chance it will steal your match…well at least I hope not.

Urbanspoon

            I don’t know how many times I’ve been sucked into the endless wormhole that is, “trying to find a place to eat that you and your significant other agree on.” The back and forth tennis rally of “I don’t knows” and “It’s up to you’s” can be exhausting. A chatbot could suggest places to eat based on food preferences and pass dining experiences. When one of your friends suggests a new restaurant to try, we almost always take their word. A chatbot can do the same thing while also providing a menu, directions, reservation details, and other dining needs.

Any Phone or Cable Provider

            Please…if I hear one more “please select 1 for….” I don’t think I can handle it. I understand that it’s just not economical to hire more people to answer calls instantly, but at least let me go through the hell of discussing my phone bill via text instead of sitting on the phone for a few years. A chatbot could answer some simple questions that aren’t worth the hour-long wait. For more difficult questions, they could transfer you or provide a number to the exact department you desire. We live in the age of texting, so why not take advantage of it and make things easier for everyone.

Really Any Customer Service

            Although it might not be the best customer service option, chatbots should at least be available for the majority of companies. Those who have hearing issues need a better option when it comes to customer service. In an age where texting has become the optimal form of communications, chatbots can help make the service industry run smoothly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Millennial Marketing 101

 

It’s no secret that the digital natives of the millennial generation (people born from the 80’s to 2000) are vastly influential when it comes to how certain brands display themselves in today’s markets.

Among the misconceptions and wishful overstatements of their character, millennials represent approximately 80 million people in their prime consumer years. This means they comprise nearly 21% of consumer discretionary purchases – an estimated $1 trillion in direct buying power.

As a generation focused on authenticity, value, and transparency – all things which many brands strive for – there are a few techniques marketers focused on millennials are using to their advantage… and similarly their public demise.

 

So Who Are the Millennial Generation… I Mean Really?

Many people in Gen Y have heard the same rhetoric on repeat from older generations, something to the effect of “you’re entitled, disconnected by your social networking, and bound to rent apartments for the rest of your hedonically-trendy existence, you starry-eyed artisanal-coffee drinking yuppie!”

Are millennials an elusive audience, or actually the most straightforward?

Are millennials an elusive audience, or actually the most straightforward?

 

Maybe I embellished a bit there, but you get the point!

With such a significant share of the future workforce (75% by 2025) it’s clear why everyone is scrambling to get Gen Y on their side. The millennial generation has a number of differentiating factors that make them one of the most elusive, yet reliable consumers once marketers have found a way to capture their attention.

 

What Do They Want?

 

Despite being a generation born and raised on all things digital, a majority of millennials have reacted by choosing brands that 1) entertain them 2) allow the co-creation of content and 3) respond or interact with them via social media.

That being said, 70% of millennials feel a responsibility to share their feedback of good and bad company experiences – something that can have a profound effect on one’s brand, almost irreparably at times!

Being native to the digital age, millennials excel on the web.

Being native to the digital age, millennials excel on the web.

Gen Y’s social media-savvy can often create PR disasters with no recovery in sight… just like #AskSeaWorld #McDStories or even #MyNYPD, all of which had been hijacked and used to expose more horror stories and social commentary than valuable brand exposure.

 

This hints at the fact that nearly 50% of millennials prefer to make purchases that support transparent causes, with 37% admitting they would pay more just to further a purposeful brand.

These characteristics leave marketers with a few distinct talking points to start with:

  1. Be honest with your content or products:

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Believe me, millennials will absolutely do their research instead of blindly hurling cash at your product or service. Most reported they already view advertisements as all-spin and no authenticity, so it’s hard to hide the your hot-dog of a brand as anything more than pink slime in the eyes of Generation Y. Remember, “no comment” is often no better than a lie when it comes to a PR crisis.

  1. Take time to read and respond to your reviews:
Millennials are much more likely to write reviews.

Millennials are much more likely to write reviews.

Not only are your reviews valuable reservoirs of market research, they’re also an avenue to securing customers and improving your brand’s overall image. More times than not, millennials value written reviews via blogs, comment sections, or forums just as much (if not more) than word of mouth recommendations.

Social media’s pull is perhaps one of the most key ingredients to staying vital, and all it takes is the right viral post or authentic gesture to supplant your brand in today’s digital collective-consciousness. Take these for example.

  1. Don’t try too hard…

Yes, memes and copypasta culture is vastly entertaining – but that doesn’t make it your fast-pass to the minds of millennials. In fact, it’s more likely that you’ll shatter whatever chance you had with Generation Y in one, not-so-dank image or video.

millennial marketing

On the rare occasion that your meme actually works, don’t expect an evergreen campaign. These images have an intentionally short life span, so you’ll probably be back on Reddit before you can even cash the check.

 

Despite an undying pessimism (and legitimate economic factors), the millennial generation continues to sway the way many brands are interacting with their publics through any number of strategies. We can make a case for why the future workforce won’t ever live up to the Babyboomers or Generation X, while in the same breath trying to crack the code to their hearts.

 

 

3 Lessons Social Media Marketers Can Learn From “Game of Thrones”

If you haven’t seen Game of Thrones let’s assume you’re a Neanderthal that’s recently been thawed by scientists and you’ve just now discovered what a computer is. If that doesn’t fit your description, then I’m let’s assume you’ve at least heard of arguably the most talked about show on television. Not only has Game of Thrones taught me life lessons like “never hold the door” or “brace yourself, winter is coming” but it’s also taught me a few things about social media marketing. Below are just a few pieces of advice that can be gleaned from the show.

  1. Less is More

SPOILER ALERT! This past weekend marked the death of one of the most beloved characters on Game of Thrones, the giant, yet innocent, Hodor. Why was he such a fan favorite? Not because he cracked numerous jokes and witty quips. Not because he weaved elegant tales either. Hodor repeated one line throughout the shows five seasons, “Hodor.” Not the most talkative fellow, Hodor captured the hearts of his audience members, just like you need to capture the attention of your social media audience. There’s no need for embellished words or exaggerated statements. Keep things simple. Not only will they appreciate the fact that you’re speaking to them as a peer, it will be easier to get your point across. Social media is about being concise while still being able to capture the attention of your audience. Use short phrases, eye-catching pictures or videos, and keywords that will resonate with your readers.

  1. Keep Them Coming Back

It’s no coincidence that Game of Thrones has lasted six seasons and has garnered almost 200 industry awards. Game of Thrones has changed the way we view Sundays. Instead of dwelling on impending doom that we call Monday, we’re dwelling on the impending doom of our favorite character. Fans expect to be left wanting more after every episode, and you must do the same with your social media posts. Weekly columns or series’ will help gain a steady following to your page. Link backs to other social media outlets or even your home website will also drive traffic towards your brand. Not only do you want to catch the eye of your audience, but you also want to keep them coming back. Make sure to also post frequently, but not so much that it becomes an annoyance to your audience. Game of Thrones is great to watch weekly, but marathons everyday would get out of hand and diminish the quality of the show.

  1. Create and Grow Your Community and Brandb7735d69ece7b1202835d403a539430f

One of the most exciting things about Game of Thrones is the community the rabid GoT fans have created. Whether it’s viewing parties, themed dinners, or costume contests, Game of Thrones is no longer a book series or TV show, it’s a brand. Clothing, video games, glassware, are just a few of the Game of Thrones branded products that have invaded stores everywhere. Online communities have contributed fan theories, fan fiction, and other forms of content. The writers of the show regularly hold Q&A sessions via Twitter and Facebook as well to make Game of Thrones an inclusive experience. To grow your brand you need to show your audience why they should want to pay attention to you. You can start this by engaging your audience and interacting with your readers. Reach out to get their opinions and feedback, thank those with compliments, and acknowledge complaints voiced by others. Transparency is important, you want to show your audience that you’re not out to deceive or trick them. Having a strong online community behind your brand can take it to the next level.

 

 

SEO Strategies that are Killing your Rankings

Most marketers know the benefits of successful search engine optimization strategies, but every now and then, you’ll come across an individual that that claims “SEO is dead”. While not dead, staying up to date with the newest ways to build website rankings can be a difficult feat. Nonetheless, those that claim that this process is dead are probably referring to the old, spammy, and essentially aggressive SEO strategies.

These strategies are called Black Hat SEO. Back in the day (like five or so years ago), what we now refer to as black hat SEO was the quickest and easiest way to boost your website rankings. In 2012, Google threw everyone through a loop and starting penalizing a lot of websites that were using these strategies. Shockingly enough, many people are still using some of them today.

Here’s a list of SEO strategies that are probably killing your website rankings:

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Spam Comments: Do you ever drop your link into the comment section of blogs, news articles or anything else with an area for comments?

Key Word Overload: We understand that you’re trying to rank for a specific word or words, but throwing that word into every sentence multiple times looks and sounds incredibly awkward.

Bulk Directory Linking: Submitting your site to hundreds of irrelevant link directories, and depending on the directory, your website rankings can be negatively affected.

Exact Match Domain: While this doesn’t negatively impact your website’s rankings, it’s really no longer deemed important that your key word is located in your site’s domain name.

Invisible Key Words: Let’s say your website background is white, so you throw your key word up there hundreds of times in white, so that Google sees it, but those visiting your website don’t. Google was not happy about this one, and penalized most sites that were using this practice.

Link Networks: This is a domain or multiple domains and their only purpose is to provide a different domain with backlinks. These are typically owned by the same individual or company.

Buying Links: Some sites will offer to provide links for an amount of money, but this is pretty risky business. More often than not, these are sketchy sites that will actually hurt your SEO.

Use of Irrelevant Key Words: Don’t publish irrelevant content on your site. If you’re trying to rank for words like “hotels”, don’t be post things that don’t have anything to do with hotels or the hospitality industry.

Cloaking: This is presenting the website user with completely different content that is shown to the search engines that are crawling the site, and is considered a “deceptive SEO strategy”.

So when, Google caught on, most of us became aware that these strategies could be the death of our website rankings. But, if you’ve been in a cave the past four years, and are still posting invisible key words all over your site, please STOP – your website rankings will thank you.

 

The Great Impression: Rise of the Ad Blocker (Part II)

This is part 2 of a 3-part blog series regarding the ad tech industry and the fight that has ensued between two sides: consumer, and publisher/advertiser. If you haven’t already, you should read part 1 first. We are all affected by the amount of ads we see on the web, so whether you are a consumer, publisher, or advertiser, please feel free to join the discussion, share your online ad experiences, and offer insight as to how you think the ad blocking war can end with a win for both sides.

The first part of this blog series set the scene of the digital ad war, looked at the rise of online ad blocking, and the financial implications for publishers. This second installment focuses solely on the arguments of online content consumers.

Consumers are fed up
The internet is less like a newspaper, magazine or TV. It's more like a car. You can customize your car any way you want to. -Ben Williams
It’s true, and the nearly 200 million people using ad block plugins on their desktop browsers are evidence of that. Shouldn’t consumers have the right to choose what their web experience is like? Ben Williams, communications and operation manager at Eyeo, the company responsible for Adblock Plus, seems to think so. At the Ad Age Digital conference earlier this month, he made an excellent point on consumer choice stating, “The Internet is less like a newspaper, magazine or TV. It’s more like a car. You can customize your car any way you want to.”

Consumers are tired of annoying, intrusive ads. In fact, to find out why people are employing ad blockers, Teads.tv did a global study sampling 9 global markets with over 9,000 respondents who use, or are aware of ad blockers. They found that intrusive ad formats encourage ad blocker usage with 69 percent of respondents motivated to use ad blockers due to annoying or interruptive ads. Not only do consumers not like ads interrupting their content, 66 percent of respondents use ad blockers because of the negative impact on site performance, and 60 percent use them because they feel that ads are too excessive.

Malvertisements
In a survey taken in Q1 2016, globalwebindex.net asked over 22,400 ad blocker users aged 16-64 to tell them the main reason for blocking ads. A stunning 50 percent of blockers said that ads were annoying or irrelevant. Around 30 percent of people were concerned about online ads compromising their online privacy—and they should be. According to a malvertising report by Cyphort Labs, during 2014, there was a staggering 325 percent rise in malvertising.

ad block motivators chart

2016, GlobalWebIndex

Like other content providers, Forbes decided they were going to block the ad-blockers from viewing any content on their site. The site forced users to disable the ad blocker in order to view the content, however when they did, users were served malware. What you are reading is correct: Forbes forced readers to disable their ad blocking software to access content, and then when the users complied, they were immediately served a malvertisement in the form of a new tab that seemed to be a Java update. Users who clicked ‘OK’ to the “recommended update” found themselves and their computer systems vulnerable to malware.325% increase in malvertisements in 2014

While the malware itself wasn’t necessarily the fault of Forbes, it greatly exemplified the reason that users are unwilling to turn off their ad blockers and willing to go find content from somewhere else. If publishers cannot be trusted to fully vet their third-party advertisers, then why should users disable ad blockers for them?

This isn’t the only time we have seen large companies that publish content subject to attack, and the computers of their millions of users, endangered. In 2015, we saw the following large companies affected by malvertisements:

  • Yahoo network (6.9 billion monthly visitors)
  • Google’s AdSense platform (responsible for about a quarter of Google’s revenue)
  • DoubleClick (another ad network owned by Google)
  • Far reaching UK tabloid, The Daily Mail (156 million monthly users)
  • The Huffington Post (79 million monthly visitors)

And these certainly aren’t the only sites that were subject to attacks, but with networks like Yahoo and data giant Google affected, how are users to trust any other content publishing source?

In 2015, University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab found that about half of the world’s top 100 news sites do not deliver their ads using encrypted HTTPS (secure) connections, which help prevent these attacks from happening. Nearly half. Since many publishers are not willing to encrypt and authenticate all traffic between the site’s server and visitors, including the third-party ads, they either choose to eliminate ads or transmit all traffic unencrypted.

Unfortunately, we know what a significant number of ad publishers are choosing to do.

Conserving data usagemobile data ad usage
More than just their security, users are protecting their mobile data plans. Users with mobile ad blockers see significant data savings on their mobile plans. What some users may not realize (until they find they have gone over on their monthly mobile data allotment), is that the process of loading advertisements uses a significant amount of data. When ad blockers stop ads from showing, they also eliminate using the extra data to load them.

Using a number of popular publishers, Enders Analysis conducted an experiment to compare data usage when an entire page loads without an ad blocker, with an ad blocker, and with an ad blocker and JavaScript disabled. What their study found is that between 18 and 79 percent of mobile data transferred is used by publishers for ads. In the Enders study, they stated, “publisher mobile pages are bloated and advertising is an enormous part of that.” All those ads that have to load also drastically slow page load time.

These are the reasons that publishers are now offering different options to share content that give the user a better “bloat-free” experience while still generating revenue. Google AMP, Apple News, and Facebook Instant Articles are examples of these types of content publishing platforms.

More than just numbers
The thing that publishers need to think about when they look at numbers like this is that these are loyal consumers that want to view your content. Even after employing ad blockers, they are still returning to your sites, though eventually, this might not be the case with 71 percent of mobile ad blocker users less likely to return to a site with intrusive ads. That number is slightly higher for desktop users at 75 percent.

Market Research Team Around Statistics at a Meeting

The industry is talking about data and analytics constantly, but what they need to remember that on the other side of those KPIs, impressions, and conversions, there are actual people, and those people want to have a positive user experience while they’re on the web.

What are your thoughts on the use of ad blockers? If you are an ad block user, what are your personal reasons for using them? What would it take for you to reconsider using your ad blocker? Check back soon so you don’t miss part 3, which will explore how the digital ad industry has gotten to this juncture, and what steps it will take to fix it.

The Great Impression: Rise of the Ad Blocker (Part I)

This is the first of a 3-part blog series regarding the ad tech industry and the fight that has ensued between two sides: consumer, and publisher/advertiser. We are all affected by the amount of ads we see on the web, so whether you are a consumer, publisher, or advertiser, please feel free to join the discussion, share your online ad experiences, and offer insight as to how you think the ad blocking war can end with a win for both sides.

man annoyed looking at his computer screen

The face you make when you can’t skip the ad

We’ve all been there: you’re trying to view web content, usually an article, and after what seems to be a lifetime, the page finally loads. You think you’ve lucked out because there’s not a pop up in sight. You smile slyly, thinking you have defeated the ads until you attempt to scroll past the catchy headline that caught your attention in the first place and BOOM. It’s an ads-travaganza! What looked to be your average static banner ad at the top of the page has morphed into a full-page, irrelevant, floating video ad that you must watch to gain access to your content.

After that ad finally goes away, you continue to scroll to the beginning of your content, only to be caught by a mouse-over land mine ad. You have no idea how you got into this ad-minesweeper encounter, but you are now in an ad battle, fervently trying to click that ‘x’ button as quickly as possible so you can get back to your content.198M internet users using ad block plugins

You finally get to read your content, and besides an auto-play video, one of those old school, flashing, “reduce your mortgage” pop-ups, and a couple of expanding ads smack dab in the middle of the content you’re reading, you come out of your digital content battle, unscathed for the most part. But you’re tired and you don’t know if you can fight anymore. So you decide to implement something so sinister, publishers’ and advertisers’ heads will roll. It’s your secret weapon: an ad blocker.

With the rise of annoying, intrusive, malware-filled ads laying the groundwork for ad blocking software, consumers and publishers alike, find themselves victims of a digital ad war. Wake up people! This is NOT a drill! We are in an ad tech arms race, and it seems more and more, that if nothing is done to correct the problem, there will be no victors of this war, but rather the decline of an entire industry as we know it.

Why the rise of digital ad blocking?
An ad blocking report from comScore and Sourcepoint tell us that ad-blocking software is now being used by 10% of United States desktop internet users. According to PageFair and Adobe’s 2015 Ad Blocking Report, global ad blockage has grown by 41% between Q2 2014 and Q2 2015. As of June 2015, there were approximately 198 million internet users actively using ad block plugins when online on a desktop.

PageFair Adobe global ad blocking chart

2015, PageFair and Adobe

With desktop ad block usage more than doubling (124 percent increase) between January 2013 and January 2014, and increasing another 49.5 percent increase between January 2014 and January 2015, this leaves the question of why?

Why has our digital landscape become a war zone where a growing number of internet users are employing ad-blocking software and publishers are now blocking users using blockers? Not only is that a mouthful, but it almost seems silly considering the actual problem is not really advertisements themselves, but rather the users’ experience on a publisher’s site trying to access content.

Publisher woes
But to publishers, there’s nothing silly about it. Especially because in 2014, internet advertising revenues experienced a 16% increase over 2013 to reach a record-breaking $49.5 billion. Also, for publishers, ad blocking is an expensive business. The report from PageFair and Adobe estimated that in 2014, ad blockage resulted in $5.8 billion in blocked revenue in the United State alone. Globally, that figure is a staggering $21 billion, or 14 percent of global ad spend.

2014 global blocked ad revenue

This lost ad revenue is especially daunting for publishers that can’t afford to produce free content without ad revenue, and this jeopardizes the relationship between these publishers and their readers. In this ad blocking war, publishers feel they are fighting for not only their careers but for the future of the entire industry.

Rob Haralson, executive director of TrustInAds.org and partner at Franklin Square group, recently wrote a post for The Huffington Post about ad blocking programs in which he says that “ad blocking programs discriminate against good content publishers and legitimate advertisers.”

And he isn’t wrong.

While that is certainly true, the fact remains that ads should never overpower the user experience on the site. Yes, consumers need to understand that advertisers pay for their “free” access to this content, but does that mean consumers should have to come to terms with a frustrating experience every time they want to simply read an article?

What are your thoughts? Should consumers just get used to a life online filled with annoying advertisements? Does the act of publishers “blocking the blockers” fix the problem? What are the reasons users are using ad blockers? Check back soon so you don’t miss part 2, which will focus on why consumers are over intrusive ads!