Stymied by yet another court ruling which declared ad blocking to be legal, Axel Springer has entered a pointless arms race with ad blockers. And to make things even worse, the publisher has lost the first campaign.
PC World, The Stack, and other sites report that Axel Springer is now preventing ad block users from visiting Bild.de, its news site. Starting Tuesday, any visitors who are using a browser extension to block adverts will be shown this warning message instead of the website:
The message prompts visitors to either disable the ad block extension or subscribe to Bild for 3 euros per month. Users are promised faster loading articles and as much as 90% fewer adverts.
Yes, Axel Springer is following in the footsteps of the Washington Post and a handful of other publishers that are refusing to let any of the 200 million or so ad block users visit their websites. Most importantly, Axel Springer is cutting itself an estimated 20 million Germans and Austrians (out of around 90 million people) who block adverts in their web browsers.
Or rather, that is what Axel Springer is trying to accomplish; whether they will succeed is another matter. The Bild.de block can be readily circumvented simply by using an anti-tracking extensions like NoScript or Privacy Badger.
I installed a Chrome extension called ScriptBlock, and was able to visit the site with no problems. (I then disabled the extension because it was messing up all the scripts on all the other sites I visit, but that is less a problem with the idea than a sign I need to find a better tool for the job. Suggestions?)
Axel Springer is getting in to an arms race with its readers, and it has already lost the first round. Let's hope it figures out the futility of fighting with readers before it loses the war.
On the other hand, that would require new ways of thought, or experimenting with new business models, and Axel Springer has shown that it might not be able to pull that off.
In a statement on the Axel Springer blog, a spokesperson for the company said that journalism must be financed by the "two known revenue pillars" (advertising or sales).
The publisher would rather fight for what it has now rather than find a new way to fund itself, and that means that Bild.de will likely not survive the rise of ad blocking.