Time To Block The Blockers -- What Have You Got To Lose?

I couldn't help but jump for joy on reading the MediaPost headline this morning. Wired, the site that is possibly more closely associated with digital technology than any other, has taken a bold step and taken a stand against ad blockers. Viewers now have a choice. They can carry on as normal or if they have ad-blocking technology deployed, they need to add Wired to their allowed sites to carry on viewing content.

Actually, there's a third option -- and this is where Wired is making all the right moves, in my opinion. Users also have the option of pay a dollar a week, or just under four dollars per month, to see the site ad-free. So, if your beef with publishing is that there shouldn't be an ads, then here you go -- you can have the site ad-free so long as you pay your dollar a week for the privilege.

The problem of ad blocking simply can't be underestimated. Adobe and PageFair have calculated that it costs the publishing industry $22bn per year. That was based on an ad-blocking installation rate of around 15% and came with the news that, as of last summer, ad blocking rates had grown by 41% globally in the previous year and by 48% in the U.S. and a staggering 88% in the U.K. With Apple since offering ad blocking on iOS and Android already offering blocking apps, there are no prizes for guessing that this is a situation that will get a lot worse.

Research study after research study reveals that most users of ad-blocking technology grasp the point that the sites they enjoy for free are ad-supported, yet still they block ads. They blame a poor experience on the Web -- and to be honest, they have a very good point. People are fed up with endless retargeted content and creative that is purposefully plastered across the content they are trying to consume. It's the main reason that Facebook Atlas' chief puts a rise in ad blocking down to, at least.

This is why it's so important for responsible publishers to offer a choice. Publishers cannot do anything about the idiot sites out there that blast video with the audio on at unsuspecting surfers or who move pages around to ensure an accidental click is logged. What they can do is offer a good experience themselves for which they expect ad blockers to be turned off. They should also embrace the option that some people just don't want to see ads. That's absolutely fine, as long as they're willing to pay for the privilege.

The more sites that follow Wired's example, the more quality content providers will gain in confidence. They simply have to go to market with a message that if you want to look at their stuff, you've got to view the ads too or pay to get rid of them. GQ, Forbes Slate -- and as an experiment, The Washington Post -- are making inroads here. Their moves are to be widely and loudly applauded.

The irony is that those who are afraid to act and to take a stand must be guilty of either of two failings, and possibly both. If you let people steal your content without the accompanying ads you're a coward who isn't prepared to call out digital shoplifters, or you're too shrew-like to believe in your content and make a stand.

What has a quality publisher got to lose by taking on ad blockers? The worst-case scenario is that people who earn them no money are turned away. There really is no downside to not servicing people who want a free ride without playing their part in the bargain. The best scenario is, of course, the site gets added to a "whitelist," and the likelihood is that person must rate the content sufficiently to carry on returning, even if it means dropping their ad-block guard.

With so little to lose and so much to gain, I'm staggered by how slow the response is from quality publishers. We can all assume, however, that as the small list of top names in content takes a stand, it will prove too attractive a group to join and those who block ads will get a rude awakening.

5 comments about "Time To Block The Blockers -- What Have You Got To Lose?".
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  1. Rick waghorn from addiply, February 9, 2016 at 8:50 a.m.

    Now all you need to do is find a solution that works for Denis O'Brien and the mobile carriers, too...

  2. Bo Sacks from Precision Media Group, February 9, 2016 at 2:29 p.m.

    I agree but only to a point. I think ratebase years ago has helped destroy our ability to appreciate our true and core business. That business isn’t/wasn’t to appeal to advertisers but rather to the paying reader. The reader should have been carrying the load a long time ago.

    We could have done this and we didn’t. We took the easy way. Now we are back pedaling trying to reach and retrain the reader. DUH! Quality content is worth paying for and that is what most quality readers do. Let’s get rid of the fluff and deliver what is worth charging for. Smaller audiences and are lucrative and worth having. 

  3. Craig Mcdaniel from Sweepstakes Today LLC, February 9, 2016 at 2:30 p.m.

    As a publisher with banners ads, I would demand payment from Wired for being paid to block ads on the website without my permission.  The principal is the same as when you when you hear in a NFL game that copy or illegal use of this transmission is strictly prohibited. Wired, when they start to charge a fee to block ads on, are doing so without my permission. Wired is in effect buying my ad locations by accepting money. Last, I will not pay blackmail money either to Wired to have my ads shown. Wired, don’t even think about it. You don’t have enough money to pay damages and attorney fees.

    I would like to hear from the attorneys that follow this story.

  4. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, February 9, 2016 at 3:35 p.m.

    What do you think the tipping point of what readers would accumulatively pay - let's say monthly -  for subscriptions to all they sites they visit without ads ? 

  5. Doug Garnett from Protonik, LLC, February 9, 2016 at 4:54 p.m.

    I'm not buried amist this argument. But from the outside I can make a few observations:

    • VCRs were going to kill TV advertising because "everybody" would record and skip. Riiiiight. It didn't.

    • DVRs were going to kill TV advertising because "everybody" would skip. Riiiiight. It didn't.

    • There have been two prior waves of "ad blocker panic". And each time, ad blockers didn't kill ad effectiveness and the panic dissipated about 8-12 months.

    In part, it's far too much work and far too painfully technical to get the blockers and install them and keep updating them and.... for MOST (not all) people. At least that's what has killed the panic in the past - we realized that while AD people hate their own work and gadget guys love things like blockers, the rest of the world gives them a big shoulder shrug. "Sure, it would be nice not to have to see ads. But is it really worth the hassle?"

    Will that happen again? I'm pretty damn sure. But it makes for some great page space right now. And there's nothing like reading "sky is falling" articles every day. 

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