Business Technology

Saturday 25 January 2020

Are digital publishers winning the war against ad blocking?

Ad-block users apparently believe that desktop sites are easier to navigate and mobile sites are quicker without ads.
Ad-block users apparently believe that desktop sites are easier to navigate and mobile sites are quicker without ads.
Steve Dempsey

Steve Dempsey

Ad blocking is a big problem for digital publishers everywhere. Last year, it was estimated to have cost digital publishers $22m (€19.75m) in lost revenue.

So it's no surprise that attempts are being made to put the ad-blocking genie back in the bottle. There have been legal cases and pleas for consumers to turn off ad blockers, content has been hidden from those who persist in using ad-blocking software and, of course, there has been plenty of research.

Most recently on the research front, the IAB in the US produced a study (called 'Ad Blocking: Who blocks ads, why, and how to win them back') which saw over 1,000 desktop users and over 200 mobile users in the US surveyed. The study also included an eye-tracker lab phase, where 103 ad-block users and non-users were shown 924 live digital advertisements on 36 websites.

So what did it find? Well, nothing new seems to be the answer.

Some 26pc of those surveyed block ads on computers and 15pc on smartphones. The prime culprits tend to be 18- to 34-year-old men.

Ad-block users apparently believe that desktop sites are easier to navigate and mobile sites are quicker without ads. The report also found that many consumers confuse ad blockers with security software and pop-up blockers built into browsers.

But there was some good news. Apparently, two-thirds of ad blocker users are open to welcoming ads back into their lives. And the IAB has a host of recommendations to help publishers attract these prodigal sons and daughters back into the fold.

Firstly, users should be given control over the ads they see via skip buttons, close buttons and a ratings system for ads. Publishers should also guarantee that all ads are secure, free from viruses and malware and won't slow down site performance.

The IAB cautions against certain advertising types: ads that block content; long video ads before short video content; ads that follow down the page; autoplaying video ads; slow loading ads and pop-ups that cover the full page.

And the IAB isn't afraid to tell publishers to play hardball if needed. Publishers still struggling to wean users off ad blockers are encouraged to block back. Access to content should be withdrawn from users who persist in using ad blockers.

So are these recommendations being implemented?

Politics, tech and culture site Slate displays the following message to ad block users: "We noticed you're using an ad blocker. Support Slate's journalism and help us reduce our dependence on advertising - join Slate Plus!"

Technology site Wired keeps it chatty: "We get it: ads aren't what you're here for. But ads help us keep the lights on. So, add us to your ad blocker's whitelist or pay $1 per week for an ad-free version of Wired. Either way, you are supporting our journalism. We'd really appreciate it." wins the prize for most effort. Ad block users are invited to click on a button to break the website. The button causes the stories to slide off the page, followed by a message that reminds readers of the value of journalism and the cost of making it.

In Germany, the likes of takes a more aggressive approach. "With Adblocker activated, you can no longer visit," ad blocking users are told.

But the winner in the publishers vs adblockers war at the moment seems to be Quartz. And it doesn't seem to be reading the IAB playbook.

Quartz's SVP of global revenue and strategy, Joy Robins, recently referred to the approach as "advertising with empathy" at the Australian Media and Marketing conference, Mumbrella 360.

The focus is on creating ads that boost engagement and have users' needs in mind at all times.

This means non-interruptive advertising. It means no auto plays, pop-ups or push downs. It means no standardised ads units and a focus on quality creative.

Is it working? Well, Ad Age recently reported an unnamed Quartz insider claiming the site will reach revenues of $30m in revenue this year, up from $18.6m in 2015. What's more, the source said Quartz's display ads are sold at a CPM, or cost per thousand impressions of over $60 - a very high rate.

You can't always believe everything you read from an anonymous source. But perhaps the secret to winning back ad block users is simple. Make better ads.

Sunday Indo Business

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