According to an Accenture study that broke in Real-Time Daily earlier this week, more than 60% of global consumers know about online ad blockers, and 42% say they would be willing to pay to get rid of ad interruptions.
So, if consumers are willing to pay to get rid of advertising, why aren’t they willing to pay publishers to read and engage with premium digital content? Good question.
This is a topic that Ben Barokas, CEO at Sourcepoint, has given a lot of thought to. Barokas spoke a couple of weeks ago during a panel at Ad Age Digital on the topic of ad blocking and consumer choice. His take on the issue is different. Barokas maintains that the advertising industry needs to have a conversation about compensating publishers for their content. This would mean dialoging with publishers about educating their readers—that’s all of us.
And users of ad blockers are exactly the people the industry should be engaging with. Barokas contends that ad-block users think they want to opt out—but they’re not really opting out of premium publishers like The New York Times, Condé Nast, Hearst, The Washington Post; they’re opting out of “other” publishers that aren’t transparent, where their experience on the Web has been compromised. To be sure, ad-block users may also be frustrated with premium publishers, but they tend to return.
Barokas believes that publishers are going to move toward the concepts of “compensation consent” and “compensation choice.” With compensation consent, if you’re on an ad-supported site, you know it comes with cookies that have an understanding of where you’ve been and where you’re going. This model asks consumers to accept it or opt out. Most people will say “OK,” continue on, and have ads served to them, according to Barokas.
Compensation choice means remunerating the publisher through advertising. But there could be other options, like subscriptions to the site for a day, a week, a month or a year, or purchasing an article or video. In Barokas’ mind, compensation choice is the way to go, and it seems like a sound idea.
The bottom line is, consumers will need to pay to get content, receive ads or provide some data—there’s really no way around this.
Barokas, a former Google executive, proposes forming a consortium of publishers to allow a bundling of content to be served without advertising. Consumers could pay, say, $10 or $20 a month, and their compensation preferences would be known across devices.
“Neflix and Spotify don’t tell you how many times you’re watching a certain show or listening to a particular song. We wouldn’t do that either. To some degree, it’s similar to a cable model, but it’s also a Netflix or Spotify model,” Barokas explained.
With this model, there’s a certain amount of compensation provided for content consumed. The goal is to make the transaction as transparent and frictionless as possible for the consumer. Think of it as a PayPal for media content for seamless content consumption.
But how would such a consortium form? It would have to begin with premium publishers taking the lead. Sourcepoint is now in ongoing discussions with publishers on the matter.
And how would it really work? Content bundles could have no advertising—but maybe if they opt to pay just $5, consumers would get some advertising. The bottom line is giving consumers choices for how they compensate publishers.
This is a much-needed discussion. In order to have the industry move forward in a sustainable way, compensation choice will be increasingly important. Ad blockers, a lack of effective monetization on mobile, and business models that aren’t quite comprehensive enough are issues that need to be addressed head-on.
Sourcepoint, which is in the business of helping publishers monetize, obviously believes that compensation choice is critical to the future of digital content distribution.
"The compensation exchange has to be very clear [to consumers]. We’ll offer several choices. Publishers haven’t done it because they haven’t had an elegant technology to plug into their infraustructure in order to do it,” Barokas maintains.
Sourcepoint is currently testing its technology with a number of clients. The tech could enable a publisher to decide how to present a message to readers that have installed ad blockers. The publisher could choose to circumvent the ad blocker and serve the ad, or it could inform readers that ads pay for the content, and suggest that readers allow ads to be seen. Or, it could enable readers to customize their advertising experience, asking them to pony up to subscribe, or offering a different content bundle for a price.
So far, RTBlog hasn’t heard a better idea.