Blocking The Blockers - Are Publishers Preparing To Call Time On Digital Shoplifters?

Amen to TM. That's how I commented today at the bottom of The Times' story that Trinity Mirror is considering how it can bar people who block ads from receiving its free content. I've blogged about this before, but can anyone tell me where the downside lies in barring digital shoplifters from taking content without the accompanying advertising? Honestly, I'd love to hear the counter argument.

Survey after survey has shown that ad blockers are not stupid -- they get how content is provided free of charge by advertising, yet they still actively choose to cut off the means by which the articles they want to read for free are funded. It's nonsensical to think there is an education process to go through and we can somehow sit down and have a nice chat. There is no compromise; there is no position that needs outlining. Ad blockers know exactly what they are doing and whom they are hurting. They understand the economics -- they simply want a free ride. Blocking that free ride is sheer common sense. What have publishers got to lose other than getting rid of digital shop lifters? Reader metrics may go down, but what's the point in measuring people you can't serve ads to?



It really is time that publishers grew a spine. The Times reports that The Washington Post already has a pop-up (rather ironically) that ask blockers to disable their software if they want to receive content from them. It's a solution I've been suggesting that publishers take up for quite some time now. Yes, there are those who say this might put a wedge between a title and its readers but that's a little like saying CCTV cameras at fuel stations puts a wedge between Shell and people who try to drive off without paying. Who truly cares if a digital pickpocket or two are annoyed?

Now, of course, online publishing does have a case to answer. There are ads that are way too obtrusive. My particular bug bear is with sites who automatically run video adverts somewhere on the page with audio enabled. There you are reading an article when an ad blares out of your speakers until you find the window and shut it down -- by which time, of course, it's played long enough to register you as having viewed it. We all know what the annoying types of ads are so there needs to be an agreement that if you block the ad blockers, you need to take away the most annoying forms of advertising. At the same time too, publishers must ensure they have, and only work with people who have, good security systems in place to combat malware spreading through adverts. It's a common point raised by blockers that they are protecting themselves from malware, while no doubt still using email, social networks and messaging services which are susceptible too.

So, let's hope Trinity Mirror brings in some form of blocking the blockers. The industry needs somebody to take a stand so others can join. Those who don't? Well, they can be a safe haven for digital shoplifters, if they like but I suspect they'll soon see the error of their ways when the proportion of blockers ramps up and higher impressions do no lead to higher revenue.

6 comments about "Blocking The Blockers - Are Publishers Preparing To Call Time On Digital Shoplifters?".
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  1. Rick waghorn from addiply, October 6, 2015 at 10:18 a.m.

    Missing the point here.

    You serve me an intrusive, invasive and irrelevant ad and I will block you.

    Until you learn that you have to advertise *for* me and *at* me and I will block you time and again.

    And as BuzzFeed starts to roll out local video reporters and drive a big tank onto TM's local lawns, I'll just go elsewhere for my local news.

    Unless I can see the ad experience is useful, pertinent and helpful to me, I will block you.

    Particularly on my mobile phone. That's *my* mobile phone, not yours TM to bombard me as you see fit.

    Rules of the games have changed. AdBlock and Co are ripping another 'tribute' out of the system in terms of certain publishers paying to be white-listed... But that's another cost of complexity being pulled out of someone's pocket... 

    Do I need TM in my life that badly? Really...?

  2. Steve Baldwin from Didit, October 6, 2015 at 10:20 a.m.

    Adtech needs to give up its RIAA-like viewpoint. What's next: lawsuits against people who block ads? The more this story becomes "Publishers Bust Freeloading Bums Who Won't Download Their Bandwidth-Sucking Ads and Submit to Pervasive Surveillance," the further we drift toward the rocks. So much for our lip service rhetoric about being "customer-centric."

  3. Terry Rushbrook from The Marketing Shop, October 6, 2015 at 11:04 a.m.

    Ad blockers will ony bloc ads served by third parties.  Embed ads in the page, as in the old days of print, and the ads will still be seen and publishers will once more have control over what they publish and their brand image and the reader will have confidence in the advertiser.

  4. Jan Jilek from ad-net, October 6, 2015 at 1:19 p.m.

    @Rick, @Steve and @Terry, one question. Are you ready to pay a subscription for every websites you are visiting which will provide you with content without ads?

  5. Paolo Gaudiano from Infomous, Inc., October 6, 2015 at 1:41 p.m.

    @sean - your position as editor makes this drivel all the more offensive. I have given you balanced feedback via a comment to a prior post in which you introduce the term "digital shoplifter," which shows a contempt and ignorance that I find appalling from a publication to which I contribute regularly.

    NO CONSUMER EVER AGREED TO BE PUMMELED BY ADS IN EXCHANGE FOR FREE CONTENT. A more correct analogy using shopping would be this: a retailer places merchandise in their parking lot with a big sign that says "FREE." When an unsuspecting user parks their car, the retailer sneaks into their car and puts in a system that turns on the radio and starts blaring ads for the retailer, and the consumer cannot turn the radio off as long as they are in the vicinity of the store. When the consumer finally finds a mechanic that will disable the radio, the retailer calls it digital shoplifting.

    I contribute regularly to MediaPost. I do not get paid for it, but I do it because I love the publication and the content that it provides. I do not use an ad blocker and when a publisher pummels me with ads I curse under my breath, and if it's really bad I stop going to their site. Your comments are offensive and inappropriate. Calling "thieves" the very consumers that pay your salary is insulting and wrong.

    And as for @Jan: the whole point is NOT to pay subscriptions for every website I visit. The point is to give me the option for example to make a micropayment or contribute in some other way (maybe a social share) in order to access their content. It's like the difference between the music industry forcing you to buy an entire CD when all you want is to pay for a song you like. Long live MP3 and music streaming.

    Sean's and Jan's comments underscore why this industry is so broken. All it would take is a bit of creativity and good will, and instead people retrench into self-serving, myopic positions and start slinging mud.

  6. Alvin Silk from Harvard Business School, October 6, 2015 at 4:56 p.m.

    To put adblocking in historical perspective, the following comment bears repeating:
    "The successful advertisement is obtrusive. It continually forces itself upon the attention. It may be on sign boards, in the street-car, on the page of a magazine, or on the theatre program. Everyone reads it involuntarily, and unconsciously it makes an impression. It is subtle, persistent, unavoidable presence that creeps into the reader’s unconsciousness.’”


    E. Fogg-Meade,  (1901), “The Place of Advertising in Modern Business,” Journal of Political Economy, 9, 218-242.


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