Founder Problems: Mobile Advertising Is Fundamentally Broken

August 22, 2016 - 2 minutes read

Have you surfed the web on your iPhone or Android without an ad blocker lately? I certainly hope not — it’s a dark, cluttered place. For those not using ad blockers, driving down the Internet superhighway feels more like hitchhiking on a shady dirt road.

iPhone app developers haven’t had to deal with this problem as much as Android, since iOS supports ad blockers while Google — unsurprisingly, since much of their revenue depends on serving ads — does not.

Web apps and cloud tech are quickly becoming key parts of the native app developer arsenal, and that’s pushing user expectations in the direction of a web experience that more closely matches their app experience. In both cases, the verdict is the same: banner ads need to go. For some San Francisco iPhone app developers, this is great news. For others, it’s checkmate.

Companies like Facebook have been engaged in this problem for some time now, actively fighting against ad blockers while trying to win user trust by “building tools like ad preferences to put control in people’s hands.”

Unfortunately for startups, users don’t seem to want control — or even accept the notion that ads are a “necessary evil” needed to keep the free services they use afloat. Amazon and Google, on the other hand, seem to have found ways to make truly integrated ads that don’t rub users the wrong way. Amazon’s “people who bought this item also bought…” and Google’s adwords site recommendations have driven significant revenue for both companies without eroding user trust, since the ads are served based on immediate needs and real-world data.

The question for app developers is: how can we emulate this? Making this model work for small startups and mobile game developers could be incredibly tricky.

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