Ad Blocking: What’s Next?

We’ve been keeping an eye on all content related to ad blocking the last few months. Here is the latest on what we know:

This Just In!

Popular blog Marketing Profs published an article this morning on the most recent ad blocking developments called “The War Against Ad Blocking: Publishers Fight for Their Livelihood.” As our readership on this blog well knows, publishers have increasingly lost revenue due to the blocking of third party ads on their sites, and ad blocking has become a hot topic especially for smaller publications that rely on this revenue stream so heavily.

Ad blockers have been around for a long time, but have seen a huge increase in use over the last 24 months. About 45 million people use ad blocking programs and apps in the US according to PageFair, and that number is growing quickly due to bulky ads, ads with little relevance to readers, and slow page loading times.  In September, we covered Apple’s allowance of blockers in their fall iOS release and the backlash thereafter. As anticipated, publisher revenues have suffered.

What are the bigger publications doing?
Various larger independent publishers have experimented with ways to avoid using Google and Facebook to run ads, with some success. Quartz, for instance, turns away certain types of advertising traffic in an effort to give their readers the best experience possible. Below is a tweet from the VP of Product at Quartz:

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In January, Digiday held an event called “WTF Ad Blocking” at which reps from Forbes, Slate and the Huffington Post talked about their respective plans to combat ad blocking issues that have effected the up to 80% of their revenue that comes from digital advertising. Here is what some of these larger publishers are doing:

Forbes ran a test in December and learned that about 14% of readers were using ad blocking technology. What did they do? Blocked back, saying that if users wanted to read Forbes content, they had to turn off ad blockers first. 44% complied during the December test, which is over for now but has given them a lot of data to work with.

The Huffington Post is focusing on creating a better ad experience for users.  They are using data from parent company AOL to help control for this as well as allowing people to opt out of a sub-par ad experiences quickly and easily.“Consumers aren’t willing to exchange their data or privacy for a better experience. That’s a little bit of a myth in the ad world,” said Kirsten Cieslar, global senior strategy and development manager at Huffington Post.

Slate said that they’ve seen an 8% decrease in revenue on 15% of readers blocking ads. They have served up messaging to ad blockers asking them to sign up for premium membership which has made a small dent in the lost revenues. “The overall impact of this phenomenon is exaggerated in terms of financial impact. Focus on all these costs of going after these ad blockers and the opportunity cost of focusing on new platforms,” said David Stern, director of product development at Slate.

What about smaller publications?
As Marketing Profs asked: “So, how can publishers combat the rise of ad blockers? Some can follow the footsteps of The Washington Post by prompting users to turn off their ad blockers. Others can implement messaging tactics to urge consumers to subscribe to their publication or to register their email addresses.

But the most important tactic for all is to mirror companies like The Wall Street Journal and USA Today, which are demanding their data back from middlemen and using technology to create personalized user experiences for each customer.”

What about smaller publishers who cannot do this and use the middlemen as a tool? Certainly pushing to understand where, when, and how your readership likes to see ads would be a good place to start. Are you serving the best possible ad experience or do you see ads a simply a way to earn more money? Putting the ad experience on par with the rest of the experience you are creating is critical – it cannot be an afterthought or more and more readers will turn to blockers after subpar ad experiences.

We will continue to update this conversation as it develops.

(Also, here is the image from the top of the Digiday article on their “WTF Ad Blocking” wrap up piece. Agreed.)

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