First, the good:
Ad blocking users are technophiles—connected individuals whose appetite and curiosity for all things internet is healthy and expanding.
The internet is where curious ad blocking users turn: 79.8% agree with the statement "When I need information, the first place I look is the internet." Not only that, but 63% of ad blocking users admit to being "constantly connected online" and agree that "[t]he internet makes me feel closer to people."
From these findings, we can rightly conclude that this dynamic demographic, filled with early adapters and tech pioneers, feels at home online.
In other words, these findings support the statements of AAX VP of Sales, who summarized ad blocking users by saying, "They're younger, they're well-educated, they're tech savvy, and they index high for consuming media."
But what about the concerns that ad blocking users have?
The bad = the stressful:
66.2% of ad blocking users agree that there's a recurring issue with their online experience: there's simply too much out there.
When 2/3 of a demographic agree with the statement "There is too much choice online," it's clear that there's an issue of choice overload at work. Often dismissed as the embodiment of first world problems, researchers have found that being inundated with choices online can be overwhelming and paralyzing.
In a recent article titled "How choice overload is stressing us out and making us less confident," Thomas Saltsman examines what really happens to humans when we're presented with an abundance of choice—when we're browsing thousands of streaming options or potential dates, for example.
Saltsman is the Senior Lab Director at the Social Psychophysiology Laboratory at the University of Buffalo, The State University of New York and his research led him to examine the heart rates and blood vessel dilation of study participants.
His findings were surprising:
We found that when the participants chose from many options, they felt more invested in the decision: Their hearts beat harder and faster. But their arteries also constricted – a sign that they also felt less confident about their decision.
[…] The cardiovascular system responds the same way when we take an important exam feeling hopelessly unprepared, or commute to an interview for a dream job lacking the right qualifications.
No wonder the majority of ad blocking users lament having so many choices online: the experience of deliberating over too many choices is quite literally the stuff of recurring nightmares.
The privacy concerns
Although ad blocking users don't cite privacy concerns as one of the primary reasons they use ad blockers, issues concerning privacy are still very much on their collective mind.
65.9% of ad blocking users agree with the statement "I worry about how my personal data is being used by companies."
This may seem like a large percentage, but it actually represents a lower number than average. The Pew Research Center finds that a full 79% of Americans respond as either very or somewhat concerned over how companies use personal data.
There are several hypotheses as to why the ad blocking demographic is statistically less concerned about privacy than the average American. One reason is that ad blocking demographic tends to skew younger, and Pew finds that older Americans feel less in control, and also more wary, of data collection.
Americans ages 65 and older are less likely than those ages 18 to 29 to feel they have control over who can access things like their physical location, purchases made both online and offline and their private conversations. At the same time, older Americans are less likely to think they benefit from data collection.
Since ad blockers are younger, more fluent when it comes to technology, and more comprehensive in their understanding of data collection and usage, it stands to reason that they would be less nervous about privacy issues.
To say that the team at AAX is interested in ad blocking users is an understatement. We're fascinated.
So we decided to consult the mass trove of data that GlobalWebIndex (GWI) keeps about internet behavior in order to tease out some of the particularities of the group. We took our findings and compiled "10 Things You Didn't Know About Ad Blocking Users," a study that peers into everything from their attitudes towards technology and the internet (which is what you just read about) to preferences for digital content purchasing and love of motorsports.
The study will be published on January 16, 2020.