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Ads dominate data usage on mobile news sites

A study found many news sites use more data to load ads than stories on smartphones.

More than half of the data smartphone owners use when browsing news websites comes from ads, according to an analysis by The New York Times. 

The Times studied the smartphone load times and data usage of the top 50 online news websites and found that most of them eat up more data when loading ads compared to loading the actual news stories. 

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While Boston.com was the worst offender — using about four times more data for ads than editorial content — mobile websites from The Guardian and Yahoo used the least amount of data on ads. 

The issue of mobile ads and software designed to block them has become increasingly debated recently as Apple gave the go-ahead for developers to build ad blockers on its new iPhone operating system. 

That means customers can purchase an app to block ads when browsing Safari, but the software would not block ads inside a news organization’s app. 

The debate has pitted customers against publishers, who rely on ad revenue to provide free content and have warned one of the only current alternatives to an ad model is a paid subscription model. 

As mobile phones have become ubiquitous in the past few years, a growing share of people use their devices to get news, political and otherwise. A recent Pew survey found 55 percent of smartphone users get news on their phone at least once a week, but it is unclear how many use a browser to access news sites compared to those who use an app. 

The Times's study found 28 of the top 50 news sites use as much or more data to load ads than editorial content, and half of the 50 websites use at least 2 megabytes of data to load ads. Each megabyte of data costs about 2 cents. 

And the top five worst offenders were Boston.com, The Blaze, The Daily Beast, the Independent and the Chicago Tribune. 

The sites that used the least amount of data for ads were The Guardian, Yahoo, MSN, USA Today and Engadget.