How ads are chewing through half of your mobile data

Many people see adverts as the scourge of the internet but they remain the major, and in many cases, only, revenue stream for online media publishers. Another blow has been struck to online advertising recently, however, as a study has revealed how it could constitute for as much as 79 percent of the mobile data consumed by each web page.

An average of 48% of our data is spent on ads

The study, published by media research firm Enders Analysis in late April, suggested that, on average, almost half of the data required to view a web page is consumed by advertising. To test this, Enders used a browser that mimicked an iPhone 6 and accessed a total of eight “popular” news sites (though they didn’t confirm what these were).

Ender‘s published the chart below which shows the data consumed by three web page elements: HTML (blue), Javascript (orange) and ads (green). The columns below correspond to the data (in megabytes) consumed by each of the eight websites. Pages were loaded once in their entirety, once with ads disabled, and once with Javascript and ads disabled to achieve the results.
The conclusion is that the ads accounted for anywhere between 18 and 79 percent of the data transferred while non-essential JavaScript elements added an extra 6 to 68 percent.

“On the basis of this investigation, an estimate that says advertising accounts for half of all data used by publisher pages on iPhones does not look unreasonable,” the report stated.

Oh, so that’s why I run out of data before the end of the month…

Well, not exactly. This was only tested on eight unnamed news sites on a system which represented an iPhone 6: it’s far from comprehensive. That said, it does provide insight into the potential effect that advertising can have on mobile data.

Mobile data is consumed by far more than just webpages: downloads, streaming, messages and apps can all add to how much mobile data your device uses. But mobile browsers like Chrome are often at the top of this list (just check your mobile data page in your Android settings now to see for yourself).

Final thoughts

Solutions to this issue are scarce, but Adblock services do provide one way to reduce this data consumption. This is a controversial subject, though, as ads are often the sole source of a website’s revenue, and cutting this off invariably means cutting funding for that site.

With online ads being so omnipresent – and indeed vital to the survival of most websites – we just hope that they can be made more efficient, and their cost to the mobile data plans of consumers reduced further. For more ideas on this topic, check out our helpful guide to reducing your mobile data consumption.

What is your position on online advertising and mobile data consumption? Let us know in the comments.

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