Nearly 8 in 10 Consumers Would Rather Receive More Ads Than Pay for Digital Content and Services, According to IAB Research


Gen Z values the ad-supported internet nearly twice as much as Boomers

New York – January 29, 2024 –Today IAB, the digital media and marketing trade association, released its first-ever, comprehensive Consumer Privacy Study titled “The Free and Open Ad-Supported Internet: Consumers, Content, and Assessing the Data Value Exchange.” 

The research aimed to gain insights into consumer thoughts, preferences, and concerns regarding their personal data and digital advertising overall.

Consumers Agree a ‘Free And Open’ Internet Is Important To Democracy And Free Speech

The study found that 80% of consumers agree the free and open internet is a social good; 79% feel that it would be unfair to lower-income consumers if websites/apps were not “free and open.”

Consumers Understand the Internet Is Ad-Supported and Are Willing to Watch More Ads for More Free Services

  • A significant majority (80%) of consumers agree that websites/apps are free because of advertising.
  • Almost 70% agree that it’s fair to receive ads in exchange for free services.
  • Nearly 80% of consumers would prefer to get more ads in turn for having to pay nothing for websites/apps.
  • Nearly all (91%) of consumers would react negatively, including being frustrated, disappointed, angry, confused, or sad if they had to start paying for the websites/apps they currently use for free. When it comes to personalized ads, the study found that almost 90% of consumers prefer them and 87% are more likely to click on ads for products they’re interested in or shopping for.

Although Laws Exist to Protect Consumers Around Sharing Their Data, Most Are Unaware of Them

While about 85% feel it’s important when websites/apps tell them the specific data they share, allow them to see and delete that data, and provide choices regarding the types and levels of tracking they will allow, few realize that most of those protections already exist in some form or other. The study found that 74% of consumers are unaware of data privacy laws in some of the U.S. states (California, Connecticut, Colorado, Virginia, Utah and others) and Europe (GDPR).

“Contrary to what some believe, this research unequivocally shows that consumers are aware of the value exchange between their data and personalized content and ad experiences.” said David Cohen, CEO, IAB.  “The ad-supported internet is good for consumers, it’s good for society, and it democratizes access to information and entertainment.”

Still, nearly half (49%) think websites/apps do not give enough information regarding how their data is used. “The ad industry must reinforce to consumers that sharing their data is both safe and beneficial to them”, continued Cohen, “including the fact that by default, advertising is not selling consumers’ data”.

Gen Z Values The Ad-Supported Internet Nearly Twice as Highly as Boomers

Overall, when asked what someone would have to pay them to stop using it, consumers said they value the total internet at $38,000 a year: for perspective, that’s more than half of the real median U.S. household income.

But while Boomers value the internet at $29,000/year, the value to Gen Z was nearly double, at $54,000 a year.

“As an industry, we need to speak together with one voice,” continued Cohen. “We need to make it clear that consumers — especially Gen Z — understand the value of the ad-supported internet and wouldn’t want to live without it. We’re committed to giving consumers the free and open internet experiences they want while protecting their privacy.”

The Ad-Supported Free and Open Internet: Consumers, Content, and Assessing the Data Value Exchange report can be downloaded here.

About IAB
The Interactive Advertising Bureaue mpowers the media and marketing industries to thrive in the digital economy. Its membership comprises more than 700 leading media companies, brands, agencies, and the technology firms responsible for selling, delivering, and optimizing digital ad marketing campaigns. The trade group fields critical research on interactive advertising, while also educating brands, agencies, and the wider business community on the importance of digital marketing. In affiliation with the IAB Tech Lab, IAB develops technical standards and solutions. IAB is committed to professional development and elevating the knowledge, skills, expertise, and diversity of the workforce across the industry. Through the work of its public policy office in Washington, D.C., the trade association advocates for its members and promotes the value of the interactive advertising industry to legislators and policymakers. Founded in 1996, IAB is headquartered in New York City.

IAB Media Contacts
Brittany Tibaldi / Michael Vaughan
347-487-6794 / 813-210-1706
[email protected]/[email protected]



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