Canadian publishers are ready for new Chrome blockers

Google says sites seem prepared to make experiences better for readers, not just to get a passing grade.

Google Chrome’s new ad blockers go live Thursday, and it looks like Canadian publishers are more than ready for the change.

A Chrome browser update that goes live tomorrow should bar a series of ad formats that block or interrupt content on websites, bringing a huge chunk of the browser market in line with standards established by the Coalition for Better Ads (focusing on twelve desktop and mobile formats that surveyed users deemed the most annoying and intrusive, see graphic below).

Google says just under 1% of the more than 100,000 North American websites it studied in the lead-up to tomorrow’s launch earned a “failing” grade on ads that would get blocked.

“I’m actually encouraged by the Canadian willingness to embrace the initiative,” said Kelsey LeBeau, partnerships lead, ecosystem health at Google. “Of the conversations I’ve had, Canadian publishers seem keen to understand the research behind this and how they can improve their experiences… They’re more focused on that than asking what they can do to pass a compliance report.”

Google’s new ad blocking approach evaluates sites by sampling a number of their pages and tallying up the number of ads that don’t pass muster, giving the site an overall “passing,” “warning” or “fail” score. Those sites that fail have thirty days from their most recent Google Ad Experience Report evaluation to bring their site up to par with the Coalition’s standards.

However, those that fail this review stand to lose Chrome’s considerable ad audience, as consistent evaluation failures will see Chrome block all ads on the offending site.

Those ads the Coalition has targetted as being rating most-annoying by users.

Those ads the Coalition has targetted as being rating most-annoying by users.

“While the result of this action is that Chrome users will not see ads on sites that consistently violate the Better Ads Standards, our goal is not to filter any ads at all but to improve the experience for all web users,” said Chris Bentzel, engineering manager at Google, in a blog post. “As of February 12, 42% of sites which were failing the Better Ads Standards have resolved their issues and are now passing. This is the outcome we are were hoping for.”

Of the 12 ad formats Chrome’s blocker specifically targets, LeBaue says pop-ups are the ones Google is seeing most frequently on publisher sites, driving the bulk of the questions she’s answering. When asked for alternatives to the format, LeBeau says publishers need to consider what they like about that format.

“If it’s a large canvass that advertisers are asking for, I’m seeing a lot of publishers migrate to full-screen in-line. Users can still navigate through without being interrupted. But I think there’s an opportunity for the industry to identify even better experiences, so I’m excited to see where we take it. But for now, [the full-screen in-line] seems to be the next alternative.”

The ad blocking update was announced in June 2016, initially causing concern among publishers because of Chrome’s prevalence in the market. Reports vary on how much market share the browser has: StatCounter puts it at 56% in January 2018, and NetMarketShare measures its mobile market penetration at 62%.

The Coalition for Better Ads is made up of industry bodies including the Association of National Advertisers, the World Federation of Advertisers and the Interactive Advertising Bureau, as well as private companies such as Google, Unilever, Facebook and Microsoft.