Ad blockers are every online publisher’s worst nightmare. While Web and mobile users may dislike seeing ads on their favorite sites, they should also remember the value they are receiving as a result.
After all, advertising is what pays for much of the free content online. And as the number of people using various ad blockers continues to increase, the challenges increase for publishers trying to provide that content.
This includes small business owners seeking their share of the multi-billion dollar online ad industry.
But one publisher is suggesting an interesting solution to the ad blocker problem.
Online publishing giant Forbes recently announced getting 42.4 percent of its visitors to voluntarily turn off their ad blockers in exchange for an ad-light experience. In the process, Forbes says its fix monetized 15 million ad impressions that would otherwise have been blocked.
Giving the Ad-Light Experience to Readers
Here’s how Forbes was able to start solving its own problem with ad blockers. Since December 17, 2015, a small percentage of readers with ad blockers received the following message from the online magazine:
“Thanks for coming to Forbes. Please turn off your ad blocker in order to continue. To thank you for doing so, we’re happy to present you with an ad-light experience.”
The remainder of readers using ad blockers became the site’s control group. They did not receive a message and continued to have complete access. Meanwhile those who turned off their ad blockers got an experience free of “Welcome” ads, which some readers find annoying. They also avoided any interstitial video ads between Web pages or video ads.
The Forbes ad blocking experiment is hardly isolated. Magazine staffer Lewis DVorkin writes that German publisher Axel Springer had taken a similar approach with one of its online newspapers earlier, offering an ad light version of its content for a fee.
And Conde Nast publication GQ has recently followed suit.
Learning from the Forbes Ad Blocking Experiment
So what does all of this mean for your business? Well, make no mistake, ad blockers are a growing problem for every online publisher relying on ads to monetize traffic.
A 2015 ad blocking report from PageFair says 200 million use ad blockers online today, 45 million of them in the U.S.
Since the dawn of the Internet, online content creators have relied on advertising revenue as one of the only ways to monetize a product or service they essentially provide to customers for free.
Certainly, if you use your online content to market another product or service or promote live events, for example, maybe online advertising isn’t a big part of your business model. But if providing free online resources is your primary or only business, you almost certainly do.
Meanwhile, DVorkin suggests the escalation between ad blockers, publishers and advertising platforms is only likely to increase. He writes:
“Publishers and ad blocking companies (Germany’s Eyeo is one of the biggest with AdBlock Plus) are engaged in a cat-and-mouse game. Ad blockers work by blocking a list of known urls/domains associated with companies that serve ads (industry leader DoubleClick.net, a Google subsidiary, is among them) to sites like Forbes.com. Some ad blockers will approve, or white list, a publisher’s ads if they’re deemed acceptable — but only for a fee. To some, this screams extortion.”
The solution for online publishers is to reintroduce visitors to the value they offer. Consider asking whether your visitors would be interested in an ad-light experience in exchange for turning off ad blocking software when visiting your site.
Or give them the opportunity to pay for some of that content instead.
I think it is key for content creators going forward to make the “transaction” (reader gets free content and creator gets paid because ads are present) a conscious decision. Then readers are fully aware of the cost to them (having ads) and will judge the worthiness of the content. Forbes obviously has content that is valuable enough to readers that they’ll accept an “ad-light” viewing experience to read it. This is only an early salvo in the ad blocker wars.
I like the idea. I think that people turn on ad blockers for the simple reason that they don’t like ads in their face. If you promise them a lighter ad experience, I am thinking that they would most likely grab the opportunity.