How Overturning Net Neutrality Impacts Digital Advertising & Publishing
With the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) recent decision to overturn a set of regulations that kept the web neutral, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are now able to control the online content users can access. In turn, this impacts online viewership and presence for businesses, advertisers, and publishers alike.1
Here’s what this means for digital publishers and advertisers.
What is Net Neutrality?
Net neutrality is the principle that access to all internet data is treated equally.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), this “prohibits the owner of a network … from discriminating against information by halting, slowing, or otherwise tampering with the transfer of any data (except for legitimate network management purposes such as easing congestion or blocking spam).”2
Last December, the FCC voted to overturn regulations that kept net neutrality in place, creating an altered online environment for publishers and advertisers.
Changes to Publisher and Brand Website User Experience
Previously, ISPs could not charge additional fees to online users, or discriminate against any content, website, platform, application, attachment or communication method.3 With the recent overturn of the policy, ISPs can now block apps, slow down website loading time and charge fees to control what users see or do online.4
Net neutrality required all ISPs to allow equal loading times for all content including publisher sites and advertisements. “In an environment where net neutrality is absent, an ad being served on a website might not load at a reasonable speed for a consumer,” said Adweek technology writer Marty Swant.5
With this added control over user experience, ISPs can more easily make preferences to certain businesses.6
“With the rules removed, carriers would be free to adopt more punitive forms of favoritism, like tacking on extra fees for some content or indirectly raising the cost to customers by charging the fees to the content providers,” said Aaron Pressman, Senior Reporter on Technology at Fortune Magazine.7
Prioritizing access to websites that pay premiums to ISPs could eliminate competition between publisher brands.
“User experience and online accessibility are a top priority for many brands, creating a barrier where some larger brands can afford top speeds and others can’t could create even more barriers for challenger brands or startups to compete,” Swant said.8
Overturning net neutrality could result in slower speeds for smaller publishers. “Rolling back net neutrality would relegate independent publishers to the slow lane of the internet because they’d be unable to afford access to high speeds … large publishers with more cash can overcome this obstacle,” said Digiday reporter Ross Benes.9
Ultimately, the websites that will have higher levels of viewership and engagement will be those that are able to pay premiums, or are loyal to ISPs to increase website accessibility.10
Reevaluating Advertising after Net Neutrality
If certain publisher sites can be viewed from the net neutrality overturn, then for advertisers, metrics to gauge ad effectiveness could change. According to Chitra Iyer, editor-in-chief of MarTech Advisor, “since the playing field is not level, it will be hard to trust the numbers and measure in a comparable way … there will be other variables impacting performance at play that may be outside the marketers control.”11
With the potential of slower-loading webpages, the delivery of ads to consumers could change. Without net neutrality, “an ad being served on a website might not load at a reasonable speed for a consumer, prompting them to skip ahead and therefore (mess) up a campaign’s metrics,” said Joshua Lowcock, U.S. EVP and chief digital and innovation officer at UM.12
For example, frustrated consumers may be more likely to abandon a webpage while waiting for content to buffer.13 Slower loading speeds for websites could lead to higher bounce rates. Impatient site visitors could revisit search results and try to find another website with similar information, increasing a site’s bounce rate.14
Slower loading webpages could impact attention-based metrics, generating potential leads, ad effectivity, bounce rate and session duration, especially for publishers and businesses that don’t pay premium fees to ISPs.15
“It’s going to fundamentally change the way (marketers) can approach digital media, the ROI they can extract for it and even what partners they should be looking to and considering,” Lowcock added.16
The solution to these potential changes? Advertisers and brands have to be willing to pay more, or strategically choose the websites on which they want to host their content. “Brands might have to start paying a premium for quality bandwidth or be pressured to go with one media company owned by an ISP versus another that isn’t,” Swant added.17
In other words, brands looking to advertise their content may have to consider partnerships with publishers that have good relationships with ISPs, to ensure their content will be visible.
1 Kang, Cecilia. “F.C.C. Repeals Net Neutrality Rules.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 14 Dec. 2017.
2 Kang, Cecilia. “F.C.C. Repeals Net Neutrality Rules.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 14 Dec. 2017.
3 Wattles, Jackie. “Net Neutrality: Facebook, Amazon, Netflix React to FCC’s Vote.”CNNMoney, Cable News Network, 14 Dec. 2017
5 Wattles, Jackie. “Net Neutrality: Facebook, Amazon, Netflix React to FCC’s Vote.”CNNMoney, Cable News Network, 14 Dec. 2017
6 Odegard, Jenny. “What Net Neutrality Changes Could Mean For Your Small Business.”Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 5 Dec. 2017.
7 Pressman, Aaron. “Eliminating Net Neutrality Rules Will Favor Carriers Over Internet Content Providers.” Fortune, 21 Nov. 2017.
8 Swant, Marty. “Marketers Fear the FCC’s Plan to Kill Net Neutrality Could Increase Advertising Prices.” – Adweek, Adweek, 22 Nov. 2017.
9 Benes, Ross. “Surprise, Small Publishers Screwed the Most by Net-Neutrality Rules.” Digiday, 12 Apr. 2017.
10 Fishkin, Rand. “Why Net Neutrality Matters for SEO and Web Marketing.” Moz, Moz, 20 Apr. 2017.
11 Iyer, Chitra. “The Net Neutrality Vote: 10 Ways It Will Impact Marketers and Advertisers.”MarTech Advisor, 20 Dec. 2017.
12 Swant, Marty. “Marketers Fear the FCC’s Plan to Kill Net Neutrality Could Increase Advertising Prices.” – Adweek, Adweek, 22 Nov. 2017.
13 Iyer, Chitra. “The Net Neutrality Vote: 10 Ways It Will Impact Marketers and Advertisers.”MarTech Advisor, 20 Dec. 2017.
14 Hiers, Mary. “How the FCC Net Neutrality Ruling Can Hurt Advertising for Publishers.”RealMatch, 23 June 2014.
16 Johnson, Lauren. “The FCC Is Ending Net Neutrality Laws, Presenting New Concerns for Brands and Tech Companies.” Adweek, Adweek, 14 Dec. 2017.
17 Swant, Marty. “Marketers Fear the FCC’s Plan to Kill Net Neutrality Could Increase Advertising Prices.” – Adweek, Adweek, 22 Nov. 2017.