I downloaded Ghostery today to see what’s really slowing down the web pages of my favorite publishers. I did it because tomorrow Apple’s going to release IOS9 with its built-in hooks for blocking ads. I wanted to see how ads slow page loads, since one of the biggest reasons given by consumers for blocking ads is a disappointing web experience due to takeovers and slow page load times. The second reason was lack of relevance in the ads they were being asked to see.
Let’s see how this all works.
Today the New York Times home page had 11 trackers. Of those eleven, three had to do directly with the serving of the ads: Doubleclick, Dynamic Yield, and Facebook Custom Audience (because the Times is a FB partner for in-stream native content). The rest were either analytics, site optimization, or beacons. Those are all third party trackers. And we don’t know whether they are companies the Times has asked to track its users, or whether they are sent by some other party gathering information.
Now look at a page from Ad Age. On this page, there were 18 trackers, only four of which were for the advertising. The rest are for the targeting. What can we learn from this? Well, in our own case (although we weren’t serving an ad on this page in this case), the ZEDO ad server delivers asynchronous tags, so we’re not the influence on page load times. Doubleclick for publishers allows a choice of synchronous or asynchronous. So the publisher has a choice whether to risk a slower load time.
But then we have those trackers. From our vantage point, it looks like the amount of tracking that’s being done is, indeed slowing down page load times and making privacy-minded consumers angry in the process.
Worse yet, if the number one or two complaint by consumers is that the ads they are receiving aren’t relevant to them, what’s the good of all that tracking anyway?
We are going to have to re-think the way we collect and use data if we are going to save mobile advertising as a viable form on monetization for publishers. The first step, we would assume, would be for publishers and advertisers to examine the number of vendors they use and move as quickly as possible to an end-to-end solution like ours. That would entail re-educating media planners, who do not consider these issues in buying campaigns although their bosses probably do.
If publishers and advertisers simply cut the number of vendors they use and stick with their own customer data, we can preserve free content on the mobile web.