Anyone who makes money from advertising should be worried. Very worried.
The next version of Apple's (AAPL) - Get Report mobile software will allow users to install ad-blocking apps for use on their mobile browser pages. Apple's decision to allow such features to be a part of its operating system threatens to upend the very workings of the media business.
The technology known as iOS 9 is coming next month to owners of Apple's mobile devices. The ad-blocking feature will allow users to opt out of ads appearing on web pages as well as prevent those same advertisers and their partners from tracking which sites those users visited. Tracking helps advertisers determine which ads to show them in the future.
Users will be rewarded with much faster page loading times and cleaner looking pages, which may be especially appealing given that smart phone offer much smaller screens than those on a desktop computer. If Apple's ad-blocking is widely embraced- and it appears that Apple will aggressively promote it -- the ramifications for marketers and advertising agencies could be enormous.
Chief among them is Google(GOOGL) - Get Report which generates virtually all of its profits from advertising. Not only could Apple's ad-blocking put a major dent into Google's revenue, it could forever alter what users expect the mobile Web. If Apple users can suddenly enjoy much faster loading times compared to Android users, will Android users put up with that for long? Will they ask for something similar from Android - or stop using Android altogether?
Apple clearly hopes the ad-blocking feature proves to be a competitive differentiator for its operating system while encouraging users to reject ads outright. Unlike Google and most every media company selling television or video programming, Apple relies very little on advertising sales.
Ad networks and ad placement companies are also likely to be hurt. Companies such as Criteo(CRTO) - Get Report , The Rubicon Project(RUBI) - Get Report , TubeMogul (TUBE) and Millennial Media (MM) are automated advertising platforms largely focused on selling mobile ads. Ad-blocking could spell their demise.
Longer term, this feature tweak will drive these and other companies dependent on mobile ads to more heavily push native ads that are not impacted by this change. Facebook(FB) - Get Report has native mobile ads. So does Twitter(TWTR) - Get Report . Others will look to back these kinds of in stream ads.
As with any new change to how ads are presented, armies of people will emerge to try and help advertisers (for a fee) game the new system.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.