The growth of ad blocking — and its domino effect within online publishing — is an increasing challenge for Mar Tech and Ad Tech companies and even keeping pace with the changes is a lot to contend with. So, a roundup:
A recent New York Times story reviewed the emerging conflict between traditional publishing models and the software developers capitalizing on consumer privacy concerns, calling the fallout a clear threat to the $50 billion online ad industry. And Adobe and PageFair estimated this month that ad blocking led to almost $22 million in lost ad revenues worldwide in 2015. Globally, it reported, usage of ad blockers grew 41 percent between Q2 2014 and Q2 2015; this year the BBC placed worldwide users at 200 million.
The face-off between publishers and ad-blocking entrepreneurs has kept the news industry hopping, with new developments almost daily. In recent news:
- Newspapers are fighting back, as exemplified this month when Brave Software Inc. (which makes ad-blocking browsers) proposed placing its own ads in online newspapers — in space made available as other ads are blocked by its own products. In response, the National Newspaper Association of America, representing 2,000 papers across the U.S., issued a cease-and-desist, citing copyright laws and unlawful appropriation of news content. Brave refuted that assertion in print. Some predict a legal battle.
- Major online publications such as Forbes, the Washington Post and GQ Magazine have been prohibiting access to ad-blocked visitors unless they pay a fee or allow certain ads to appear. Technology news outlet Wired.com followed suit in February with an ad-free, paid-subscription version of its site. Publishers hope such measures thwart ad blocking, but results are still unclear.
- Online publishers are educating audiences about how ad blocking could devastate traditional online publishing models. The International News Media Association noted this month that German publisher Gruner+Jahr installs anti-ad blocking messages on its sites in conjunction with Sourcepoint software that actually circumvents ad-blocking technology. On a related topic in the Wall Street Journal, Internet Advertising Bureau Chief Executive Randall Rothenberg slammed “whitelisting” in which vendors like Adblock Plus and Crystal collect fees from advertisers and publishers in exchange for exemption from blocking. Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Taboola have reportedly paid Adblock Plus “hefty fees” for that privilege. “Ad blocking is robbery, plain and simple,” Rothenberg stated. “(It’s) an extortionist scheme that exploits consumer disaffection and risks distorting the economics of democratic capitalism.”
- The skyrocketing use of mobile is increasingly important to online advertisers. Mobile devices currently make most ad-blocking plugins ineffective or cumbersome, though some new blockers on the market are making mobile headway.
- Advertisers are increasingly countering the backlash by shifting dollars to native advertising which offers audiences valuable information with an editorial look and feel. Others are guarding against intrusive ad elements and use of personal information that tends to annoy viewers. “People are spending too much time talking about ad-blocking and not enough time figuring out why people want to block ads,” commented former Procter & Gamble exec Jim Stengel.
One thing is clear: the conflict will most certainly revolutionize traditional publishing, but what this will look like is very much at play.