Ad Blocking Can Lead To Punishment Of The Good

The rapid adoption of ad blockers has sent a clear message. Consumers have had enough of the intrusive and aggressive approach to advertising that has become part of the Web browsing experience. It punishes publishers, irrespective of the ad experience delivered to their users.


With the latest statistics from Juniper Research estimating publishers could lose over$27 billion by 2020, it is clear this approach will leave a significant trail of damage. That's even for the most premium of publishers that continue to deliver a well balanced mix of content and advertising to their audience.

While the growing use of blocking technology has produced some positive side effects — such as galvanizing publishers to rejuvenate their ad strategies — its negative impact on advertising revenue is placing the livelihoods of all publishers at risk, whether they offer their users a high-quality ad experience.



The important fact to remember is that users don’t want to remove all ads; they just want to block ads they find annoying or irrelevant.

According to a recent IAB study,89% of users blocked ads to improve their experience. The ads considered to be most annoying were those that interrupt that experience — such as interstitials, auto-play videos, and pop ups.

The use of ad blockers is a heavy-handed response to publishers that have not taken the time to carefully select non-intrusive ads or have failed to explain the value exchange — and why ads are necessary to provide the content users want to view. As ad-blocking tools are particularly blunt instruments that block all ads from all publishers by default, premium publishers such as The New York Times, Condé Nast, Hearst, and The Washington Post, which do not compromise on high advertising and content standards, are also caught in the crossfire.

The topic of what constitutes ‘a good ad’ is a controversial one, with the participants on all sides of the ad-blocking debate seemingly having an opinion on what the definition should be.

Adblock Plus, for example, claims to be cleaning up the Web with its owncriteria for acceptable ads. It offers publishers that meet these guidelines the chance to push ads through if they pay to be whitelisted. Google is considering creating their own version of an ‘acceptable ads’ policy.

Lost in all of this, is the fact that many premium publishers already have their own standards — such as those used onCBS Interactive's Web properties — and these go far beyond what is classed as an ‘acceptable ad’ by ad blocking providers.

It is unclear whether adherence to an ‘acceptable ad’ policy would lead to an improved user experience or if these standards imposed by ad blocking companies would be a step down from those already put in place by premium publishers.

Research from WAN-IFRA highlights that 41% of publishers are in talks with advertisers on the subject, devoting sizeable budgets and resources to raising the bar even further for online content. While it is encouraging to see a large proportion of publishers committed to investing in better ads, this effort alone is not enough to restore sustainability to publishers wrestling with the growing use of ad block tools.

To achieve this level of sustainability, publishers must marry their efforts to improve the ad experience with a concerted effort to reconnect with their audiences, clearly communicating why ads are essential. They must also offer consumers the choice on how they want to compensate publishers for their content, via options such as an enhanced ad experience, micropayments or subscriptions.

Without this dialogue, publishers -- even those that deliver the most pristine, polite, and engaging ad experiences -- will struggle to correct the current disconnect between content consumption and content compensation. Ad blockers will have the potential to become more threatening than ever before.

By re-engaging with consumers to align on compensation preferences, publishers can regain control of the user experience, ensure the long-term sustainability of business models, and avoid the barriers presented by the blunt tool of ad blocking.

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