Murdoch Wins First Round Vs Google -- But Could Ad Blocking Make It A Pyrrhic Victory?

Rupert Murdoch most definitely has a proverbial dog in the Google fight. He used it to order the first bite as The Times uncovered advertisers, including government departments, funding extremist videos by unwittingly advertising alongside them. The latest headline suggests the investigation could end up costing YouTube $750m.

it's a very clear and obvious tactic. The tech giants Google and Facebook dominate the media landscape, so sew some doubt among advertisers' minds and some of those budgets will surely end up coming back to news brands.

This is certainly the positioning of the newspaper's pressure group, Newsworks. It avoids the word "print" in its latest research, which refers to digital news brands providing quality, brand-safe inventory to advertise against. Its figures claim that campaigns that use quality news brands in the mix are 36% more likely to deliver "very large" profits for the advertiser and are 85% more likely to win over new customers. 

The trouble is that all of this will come to very little unless news brands -- newspapers, if you prefer -- cannot do more to beat the ad blockers. Today's figures show that the Daily Mail loses more than any other Web site globally to ad blocking, a staggering figure of just over sixteen million pounds per year. A particularly revealing finding, from AdBack's figures, is that and are in second and fifth place, with Amazon and Yahoo in the third and fourth spot.

This high ranking for UK "lad" sites popular among millennials, but virtually unknown to older demographics, show what a comparatively huge problem ad blocking is among male Millennials. Figures can vary, but around one in three or one in four male Millennials is typically estimated by researchers to be an ad blocker. Interestingly, as the table of damaged brands continues, the British press dominate positions 10 to 20 in the most highly affected sites. The BBC (which sells ads on its international site), Telegraph, Independent and Guardian are estimated to be losing GBP1.6m to GBP1.5m per year.

So we have a very obvious problem here. Murdoch has started a battle with Google that's been rumbling away for quite some time over transparency, but now that brand safety is involved, it's become headline news. We also have Newsworks talking up the value of premium news brand advertising. In that, they already have a convert with WPP's Sir Martin Sorrell, who extolled the virtues of newspapers earlier this month in The Telegraph.

it's a great team to be taking the fight for budget to Google with, but could it have come six months or more too early? The Coalition For Better Ads recently conveyed to publishers the incredibly simple truth that pop-ups, auto-play videos and ads that generally obscure content are not welcomed by the public. Smaller banners and skyscrapers that do not cover content are by far the more acceptable face of digital marketing. Err on the side of annoying the public and guess what -- you give them good reason to download ad blockers. 

The end-game here is for the Coalition to come up with a set of standards of what is acceptable advertising and what is not. When adopted by the who's who of digital marketing that make up its membership, the idea is there will be less reason for people to download ad blockers. In my opinion, this is an obvious way forward -- but it must be backed up by action to prevent ad blockers from stealing free articles.

Taking away the reason to block and then blocking the blockers is the only way forward.

As it is, then, the news brands are offering advertisers the ultimate Hobson's choice -- YouTube, and the associated brand image risks or newspapers, the capital of ad blocking.

It's not the best choice, is it?

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