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Publishers battle ad blocking

News, 18 January 2016

NEW YORK: Publishers are experimenting with a number of different approaches to the growing problem of ad blocking – from blocking the blockers to redesigning their sites.

Forbes has achieved some wins with the straightforward response of denying content to people using ad blockers. After a month of using this tactic, the publisher said that 44% of those it had asked to turn off the blocker in order to access content had complied. It is also trialling ad-light experiences, Digiday reported.

At the Huffington Post, the strategy has been to improve the user experience – including ensuring native ads are clearly signposted – and so remove the reasons for blocking ads in the first place.

And Kirsten Cieslar, the site's global senior strategy and development manager, rejected some common thinking: '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,' she said.

If true, that may be because they don't regard what they're being offered in return as a worthwhile trade-off.

A new Pew Research Center study – based on a survey of 461 US adults and nine online focus groups of 80 people – found that there are a variety of circumstances under which many Americans would share personal information or permit surveillance in return for getting something of perceived value.

'Many Americans are in an 'it depends' frame of mind when they think about disclosing personal information or keeping it private when considering different scenarios,' Pew said, as they ponder the likelihood of getting spam, the risk of data breaches, the particular intimacy of location data and overdone customer profiling.

But, across a range of options considered, from retail loyalty cards to free social media, most indicated that at least one of the scenarios described was acceptable.

Slate, another online publisher, has been taking the opportunity to target blockers and invite them to sign up for premium membership, an approach it says has had a small impact on lost ad revenues.

"The overall impact of this phenomenon is exaggerated in terms of financial impact," said David Stern, director of product development at Slate. Stern also contrasted the costs of confronting ad blockers and the opportunity cost of focusing on new platforms.

Data sourced from Digiday, Pew Research Center; additional content by Warc staff