Web Publishers Escalate Arms Race With Ad Blockers
If there’s one thing that some web publishers hate more than trolls, it’s people who use ad blocking plugins. These plugins may be legal but web publishers aren’t happy. Some are suing or threatening to sue, while others are taking a more direct approach.
Remember a few years ago when Ars Technica briefly blocked all visitors who were using ad blocking plugins? That was intended more to make a point than to punish visitors, but some web publishers are taking it seriously.
They’re following in Ars' footsteps both in developing their own tech and in partnering with companies like Sourcepoint, a company that has developed a platform that either blocks users that have ad-blocking plugins, or tries to get around the plugins and show ads anyway.
Digiday reported back in February a couple UK tv broadcasters are fighting ad-blockers on their website:
ITV, the U.K.’s top broadcaster, for example, thwarts ad-blocking-software users by completely preventing them from watching its content. Those using ad blockers are politely, but firmly, turned away. The approach is best described as tough love.
“We think you may have software installed that’s blocking the adverts on ITV Players,” reads a message on the site presented to ad blockers. “We understand you may not always want the ads, but that’s how we make money that pays for the shows you love.”
The UK’s Channel 4 has taken a similar tact for its own visitors, and there’s also a rumor that Axel Springer (in Germany) has a similar system in the works (I can’t confirm that).
Not all sites want to go to the extreme of blocking the freeloaders, but they might be interested in companies like Sourcepoint. Business Insider reported earlier this week that this startup had raised $10 million with the goal of offering a solution to the ad blocking problem:
Speaking to Business Insider, Barokas explained that to solve the existential crisis ad blockers pose to publishers, Sourcepoint wants to help the publishing community solve two problems: It has the technology to punch through "all the ad blockers."
And it wants to help publishers have a more open dialog with readers about the transaction that takes place when they consume content: The implicit (but often over-looked) understanding that publishers serve ads in exchange for content being presented for free. And that a transaction needs to take place in the first place because content requires investment.
As a web publisher myself, I can see why others might choose to block the ad block users or hire Sourcepoint.
I’m losing about 10% to 15% of page views to ad blockers, even though I don’t have horribly ugly adverts like The Washington Post or The Next Web. I know this because I can see the difference between the number of ads that Amazon and other ad networks say being served vs the total number of page views (as reported by analytics plugins).
Even though I know I’m losing ad revenue, I don’t plan to respond with hostility. A smarter move would be to adapt my business model.
For example, I could follow Liliputing and Techdirt and do a sales links post for the affiliate revenue. Book Riot, with its t-shirt sales and quarterly fun box, would be another site worth emulating. Or I could follow GigaOm over to the dark side and sell posts as native advertising (my opinion: fuck no).
And then there are the sites whose solution is way outside the realm of what I might carry out: Pando Daily, Techcrunch, and DBW. All 3 run conferences (so did GigaOm and PaidContent, when they were still around).
My point, folks, is that there are other solutions to the advertising problem than simply fighting with visitors or engaging in an arms race with the ad blocking companies.
And if ads are really such a failed concept that web publishers can’t get visitors to watch them, then it is past time to look at those other solutions.