Standing Up To The Ad-Blocking Shoplifters Is The Only Way Forward

The FT has proven that if content truly is king and you have content that is worthy of users' attention, even ad blockers will lower their defences to consume it. In a test of 1,500 visitors who had deployed ad-blocking technology, it put up a polite notice pointing out decent journalism costs and ad blockers withhold funding from professional writers.

The result? Nearly half (47%) of people visiting with an ad blocker switched on whitelisted when prompted by a polite notice and several words missing from the article. When nearly all of the article was obscured, and accompanied by a message encouraging viewers to whitelist the site, more than two in three (69%) did so. There really is no need to complicate this further than to draw the natural conclusion. The majority of ad-blocker users will whitelist a site they feel they get more out of by consuming content than have it withheld from them.

Now, I have been the first to label ad-blocker users as digital shoplifters because of the way they seem happy to accept content without playing their part of the deal and consuming advertising. That definition still holds, but it's hard not to have some sympathy with people who are blocking adverts simply because some rogue sites plaster pages with units and make it difficult to see the woods for the trees. Auto-playing video (with sound!) are a personal bug bear too. 

So if we give some ad blockers the benefit of the doubt, it seems that around half, or two in three, will whitelist a site they feel contains very important content. This will obviously go down for sites that do not offer journalism at such a high quality and run content that people feel they can happily get by without reading.

However, it does prove a point. Publishers do need to grow a spine and challenge ad blockers. If you are offering a quality product and you're not pepper spraying ads in front of that content continuously to annoy readers, then you have every right to withhold the fruits of your labour from digital shoplifters. The average ad blocker will generally say they want to prevent intrusive, annoying advertising and it's not about cutting off publishers' ad revenues altogether. So, OK -- let's put it to the test.

More publishers need to follow some leading examples of major US news organisations, and now the FT in the UK to simply and politely ram home the point that there is no such thing as a free ride. If you want this content, then you have to do your bit and allow advertiser's messages to subsidise the cost of producing it. A simple -- but, it appears, highly effective -- message.

1 comment about "Standing Up To The Ad-Blocking Shoplifters Is The Only Way Forward".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics, October 24, 2016 at 10:01 a.m.

    Sean, some content is worth more to a selected few than others to much larger and less discriminating bodies of users. A few publishers with quality and valued content---such as some specializing in business news/commentary, certain sports, and a number of other subjects---hobbies, as an example---can get away with this approach---up to a point. However, when it comes to broader based digital publishers, whose content is not seen as "must read' or indispensible, I doubt that pleading for users to disable their ad blockers so a torrent of disruptive ads will pop up and make their use of the site a hassle is going to work---at least not for long. Ultimately, digital ad sellers will have to take control over the way they display ads, how disruptive they are and how often they intrude, before large numbers of users will disable their ad blockers as a way of allowing the publisher financial "support".

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