For a long time, publishers didn’t really worry about ad blockers. However, as lots and lots of reports have come out showing that they cause content creators to lose ginormous sums of money, panic has begun to set in.
There have been a wide variety of responses, from pretending the problem isn’t there to begging people to add a website to the ad block exception list, allowing ads to be shown for their site. Pretty much all responses have failed spectacularly. Long story short, people don’t want to pay for content, and they don’t want to see ads. The general response to the idea that content creators need ad revenue is, “Sucks to be you.”
Therefore, the only real solution is to start blocking access to people who use ad blockers. It’s a nuclear solution, no doubt, but it’s the only one that’s going to work. If people can go to a website and get content without the publisher being compensated for it, people are going to do it. Vague threats about publisher insolvency don’t really seem to have any effect.
The Ad Blocker Problem
AdAge reports that 41 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 29 use an ad blocker. That number keeps going up, and it indicates that future generations will adopt the habit as well.
I wrote about the issue more at length here, but as a result of increasing adoption of ad blockers, the advertising industry stands to lose $22 billion. Ad Blockers are also coming to mobile devices as well, so there’s really no where to go that won’t eventually be filtered.
Begging doesn’t work
Some publishers have tried to get proactive about the problem and appeal to people’s better natures, which may or may not actually exist based on the results of such efforts. The Wall Street Journal reports that Wired has been showing banners to visitors asking to be added to an ad blocker’s white list if the site detects a blocker is in use.
The CEO of PageFair reported that 220 websites ran nearly 600 appeals to people with ad blockers. An incredibly itty bitty .33 percent of users added a site to their white list, and a third eventually removed them. In other words, the pleas simply don’t work.
Many of these appeals flat out tell visitors that they will not be able to afford to run the site if ads aren’t viewed, so it’s not like people are unaware of the consequences of using ad blockers. People just don’t care.
The best solution won’t be embraced, so it’s nuclear or nothing
As with the article I wrote on the topic, AdAge and other have also begun to write about how the advertising industry needs to change to stem the tide of ad blocking. Better, less annoying and fewer ads will all help to reduce people’s annoyance at ads and their desire to kill them to death.
However, there have been no moves to actually change how advertisements are handled. Native advertising has become more popular, but you’re far more likely to see auto-play video or an interstertial ad than a sponsored post. Unless advertisers are willing to pay more for fewer ads, publishers are going to cram every pixel of space on a page with ads, and few publishers are going to be excited about paying more for less.
Therefore, the only real way to ensure that publishers get the revenue they need is to either circumvent ad blockers or flat out deny access to content. Will it piss people off? Oh, heck yes. There will be temper tantrums like you’ve never seen before on social media if sites start doing this.
However, these same visitors are also the ones that don’t actually contribute to a company’s bottom line, so if they really do never visit a site again, there’s little loss. After a bit of jumping up and down and shouting, most will quietly disable their ad blocker or add a website to their white list and go about their business.
It won’t be pretty, but unless the online advertising business is ready to make some real and hard changes, it’s the only option that will allow publishers to keep money coming in.