With advertising revenue stifled by ad blockers, email marketing offers an opportunity for publishers to continue monetizing their readers while building a better relationship with their audience.
AdBlock is a desktop or mobile browser extension that filters intrusive ads from view, such as banner ads and pop-ups. It has become a bane for publishers, hitting the industry with an estimated $21.8 billion loss in U.S. advertising this year, according to a 2015 study by PageFair and Adobe.
A Juniper Research report estimates that publishers will lose $27 billion a year by 2020 due to ad blockers.
Keith Sibson, vice president of product and marketing at PostUp, says AdBlock does not need to be a doomsday scenario for publishers if they develop different ways to capture and maintain a relationship with readers. He says display ads are not the only way to monetize readers, and that alternative measures might offer publishers a better road to developing a solid relationship with their audience.
AdBlock has been around for a couple of years, but Sibson says it is now reaching a point of critical mass. PostUp is an email and software development service provider and Sibson says the company works primarily with publishing companies, including CNN and The Denver Post.
Some publishing companies are turning to premium subscriptions for more high-quality content or sponsored posts as methods to counteract ad blocking. Since sponsored posts are effectively content, they are not blocked.
“Ad Blocker won’t kill the industry, but it is an erosion on a business model that comes from programmatic advertising,” says Sibson. “Email transcends that.”
Email establishes a direct relationship with a reader as opposed to being at the whim of Facebook’s or Google’s algorithms, says Sibson, and is a way to connect with an audience that’s becoming more and more digitized.
“A like or a follower doesn’t mean anything any more,” says Sibson. “It’s not an audience that the publisher owns, controls or has any say in when the message displays.”
Sibson clarifies a difference between a subscriber and the amount of subscriptions, or newsletters, that they subscribe to.
“The first thing we get is the subscriber and then we want to increase subscriptions,” says Sibson. “That’s where we do use personalization -- if you sign up for that newsletter, then you may also be interested in signing for this newsletter.”
He recommends that publishers evaluate their content and then create category-specific newsletters for their audience.
For example, BuzzFeed offers over a dozen category-specific email newsletters for readers to subscribe to. Ranging from a daily news digest to periodic monthly challenges, email has become one of the top traffic drivers for BuzzFeed.