Ad blockers cost US media owners $12.1 billion in lost display ad revenues over the course of last year.

That’s some $1.4 billion more than the $10.7 billion figure pulled from PageFair’s ‘2015 Ad Blocking Report’ – a study whose broad media coverage was widely considered a “wakeup call” to the online media industry.

The new study, conducted by and Wells Fargo on over 1,700 respondents, confirms the worst, but should come as additional justification that a sea change in publisher monetisation is all but unnavoidable.

Grim picture

While over 90% of ad-blocked impressions derive from desktop, the report warns that the trend towards mobile blocking will “intensify”, with pop-ups on these devices considered 3.7 times “worse” than TV ads by the very people they aim to serve.

Currently, 23% of smartphone users admit to having ad blockers installed.

There are few kernels of comfort in the report. Optimal predicts that over a third (36.6%) of the US online audience – over 102 million users – will be blocking ads “at least monthly” by 2020, which could take a $12.1 billion (24%) chunk out of total ad revenue in the US.

It gets worse…

Of the users that aren’t currently blocking ads, the reason cited among the majority (45.6%) was “not being aware” that they could do so, in front of just 14.8% who “don’t mind ads”. In addition, 13.9% were aware of ad blockers, but didn’t know how to install them.

Of those that are blocking them, nearly half, and the biggest share of users (47.2%), complained that ads slowing down the browsing experience was the chief motivator for blocking them, while 40.6% were worried about malware or viruses.

Furthermore, never clicking on ads (40.3%), and lack of relevance (37%), came ahead of privacy issues, with just 24.5% concerned over ads sharing personal information.

In the publishers’ hands

By now, most publishers and brands are aware that ad blocking represents a “legitimate problem” and have started addressing it as such, commented Antti Pasila, CCO and founder at advertising automation specialist Kiosked, adding that “quick monetisation wins” need to be dropped.

However, the report goes on to state the biggest depressant on ad blocking rates is likely to be individual vendors preventing the use of ad blockers on their sites, as well as first-party ad serving.

An increase in native advertising, legal action against blocking and ‘exemptible types’ of advertising are believed to have a limited impact on stemming its growth, despite others arguing the contrary.

Pasila reminds brands and publishers that instead of focusing on fighting ad blockers, brands need to address the cause of the issue: Why users are turning to ad blockers in the first place.