Google’s ad penalties are more significant than Apple’s ad blocker

“Highly unlikely” would probably be how you’d have responded a year ago to someone telling you two of the largest tech companies in the world — Apple and Google — would both try to fix mobile advertising by blocking ads, but that’s currently the case.
For instance, much has been made of a new feature allowing iPhone and iPad owners to block advertisements in Safari when iOS 9 debuts –with the rationale that it will enhance web browsing. But Google’s recent decision to start penalizing websites featuring app install ads –intrusive ad units that slow page load times and engulf the entire screen — might be a more significant way to improve the browsing experience.
Now, there are some clear benefits to the ad-blocking tool coming in iOS 9. The browsing experience is improved when a website isn’t cluttered with obnoxious advertisements, both because it makes things easier to read and because nixing the ads makes the websites load quicker, as others have already demonstrated.
Blocking those advertisements, however, isn’t a permanent solution. The measure doesn’t help people who never install the utilities Apple will allow onto the App Store, nor does it help those who browse the mobile web from a device that wasn’t “Designed by Apple in California.” That’s where Google comes in.
Google’s search tool is more popular than Apple’s iOS products. ComScore says some 64 percent of searches are run through Google. The iPhone, on the other hand, has 43 percent of the American smartphone market. Any changes to the former are bound to affect more people than any changes made to the latter.
This means Google has a little more power over websites than Apple does. Its decision to punish websites for bombarding people with annoying ads will probably do more than Safari’s new ad-blocking — especially since changes to Google’s search results take effect without any effort on the consumer’s part.
“Most blocking solutions discussed in the media are fairly esoteric and technical, so they won’t be widespread in adoption. Internet users still have to take several steps to enable ad blocking on their browsers or devices,” says PubMatic president Kirk McDonald.” As it always has, advertising will change and adapt — it will get faster, evolve to new formats, gain advancements in measurement and tracking, and find a way to reach the consumer.”
Having to respond to Google’s whims could have more of an effect than ad-blocking for another reason: It encourages websites to serve advertisements that don’t make people want to throw their phones against the wall instead of trying to find ways to sneak their existing advertisements onto people’s phones.
The arrangement also works for website owners that depend on ad revenues, and for Google, which is probably also making money off those advertisements. Consumers are happy, website owners are happy, and Google is happy. The only ones upset by this change should be people who profit off accidental clicks.
Besides, as much as the web’s dependence on advertisements is worrisome — it erodes privacy, compromises user experience, and has other drawbacks — that’s not going to change any time soon. Websites need to serve ads, and anyone who wants to view those sites without paying for the privilege has to accept them.
Provided they want those sites to stick around, that is. Otherwise they can install an ad-blocker (if they use iOS devices) and immediately benefit. Who doesn’t want a better reading experience and faster load times? Unless online businesses find other ways to sustain themselves, though, that’s not going to be a long-term solution. Finding a way to live with ads just might be.

Here’s the strategy behind Airbnb’s mobile web redesign

Airbnb has redesigned its mobile web experience, bringing it into responsive union with its desktop website. The two applications will now work in sync, so changes made and features added to one will also appear on the other.

The shift highlights the growing importance of the mobile web and how to tackle its design structure. Airbnb has taken the stance that the mobile web is a funnel for people who are new to the Airbnb experience. They end up there by clicking links shared by friends or other media. They haven’t yet downloaded the app, but they want to be able to explore what Airbnb is about.

Therefore Airbnb wanted its mobile web homepage, unlike its mobile app, to look more like a landing page for newcomers. The mobile web became its own distinct experience, instead of a copy cat of either the mobile or desktop app.

It entices them with visuals and a search bar. “We needed to create an opportunity to learn about Airbnb without feeling like you’ve got to download the app,” Justin Santamaria, mobile product lead, told me. Like most other web properties, Airbnb has seen a huge shift to usage on mobile. One fifth of its users come through the mobile web specifically.

Because it’s a responsive design, features added to the desktop web will automatically translate to the mobile web too. That shift will also allow Airbnb to do more with its team of engineers, instead of having to devote clusters of people to mobile web changes and others to desktop. The design will allow for screen size flexibility. For example, the number of options shown in the “weekend getaways” feature could be six on mobile and twelve on desktop.

You can see the differences between the two mobile web home screens here (before: left; after: right). Instead of hammering people with listings, they’re prompted as to Airbnb’s purpose and given a search bar to peruse their own interests.

Old Airbnb mobile web home screen (left); New Airbnb mobile web home screen (right)

Old Airbnb mobile web home screen (left), new Airbnb mobile web home screen (right)

Netbiscuits replaces CEO as it prepares for new product launch

Netbiscuits, the Germany-based provider of analytics tools for the mobile web, has appointed a new CEO. Daniel Weisbeck, the company’s COO and CMO, is taking over the top spot from Michael Neidhoefer, who will “pursue other entrepreneurial activities” while staying on the Netbiscuits board of directors as non-executive chairman. The company has spent the last couple years widening its focus from helping developers to providing analytics and device detection for big brands. Weisbeck has apparently been the driving force behind a new product launch that’s pegged for October, so the shift is well timed.

If you think “mobile first,” you might be doing it wrong

The term “mobile first” has become something of a mantra for publishers who were often too slow to capitalize on the growth of mobile apps and web sites. But those publishers and their advertising partners need to start taking a broader view of how to present — and monetize — content across devices.

Hey, retailers, mobile marketing isn’t that scary

A recent survey indicates while some retailers are increasing their mobile marketing spends, many others are staying on the sidelines as the market evolves. That’s a shame because some basic mobile marketing strategies can be both affordable and simple.