Ad blocking has been a pain for publishers over the past few years. What began as a simple spam blocking measure, has now turned into a global trend that is hurting both publishers’ traffic and ad revenues. Ad blockers of today are often seen as a “guardian” gone rogue, as its primary role is for dealing with the proliferation of spammy ads that have been twisted into that of a silent revenue killer for honest publishers. They have been looking to counter ad blockers by introducing whitelisting and other solutions, with varied levels of success. Stay with us to learn more about picking out the best option for protecting your web assets, and ultimately recovering what the ad blockers took from you.
Catch 22: Whitelist or Face Paywall
Publishers have been sounding bells over the problem of ad blocking technologies for quite some time now, yet even they could not foresee what this issue would transform into. The number of users of ad blocking tech increased by 30% in 2016, amounting to 615 million of ad blocking devices which are in use now. If you want to observe this problem from a more “humanized” point of view, you can say that there are 69.8 million people who are more or less hostile to the adverts shown on your site, while the numbers of users of this technology continually increases. Finally, this is hardly an academic issue, as your digital advertising revenues suffer some rather palpable damage, amounting to no less than $41 billion in 2016 for the industry as a whole.
Publishers responded to the issue by pleading with their visitors to whitelist their sites, in the form of more or less polite messages which face visitors with a choice: Either whitelist the site in question, or it will erect a solid paywall around itself. The ad blockers tides have even reached the upper echelon for players such as the Guardian, Forbes, Financial Times and the Atlantic, which recently resorted to presenting their readers with the “whitelist or face paywall” option. This approach may be seen as a hardline by many publishers who prefer not to antagonize their audience and risk losing a significant portion of them. An additional issue is the fact that ad blockers may create a catch-22 situation for the manner in which the ad-blocking crowd among your audience interacts with your content. Research has shown that users of unloved ad blockers tend to be more engaged with the content you provide. Therefore, using this approach may involve risking alienating a portion of your visitors who will move on to the competition, meaning that you’ll need to make an extra effort in predicting how your audience will react to this last-resort measure.
Take It Slowly
On the other hand, consider what the Financial Times did when faced with the problem of ad blockers. In order to remain on their readership’s good side, they resorted to establishing a dialogue with their audience in order to minimize the impact of this type of software on their website. According to preliminary results of the experiment they conducted, almost 40 percent of their readers agreed to view ads and stop using ad blockers when asked to do so in reasonable and well-argued manner. Not wanting to hurt the total number of their readers, they opted for a three-stage process which emphasized the value of quality communication between content providers and the audience.
The first level message included informing the visitors that production of the quality content is not free, although its consumption may sometimes involve the same principle. The message was worded in a manner which was well-reasoned and non-argumentative. Despite great results, there was still an issue of what to do with the remaining percentage of readers who chose to ignore it. For them, FT removed words from the content and replaced them with blanks, paired together with serving another plead to turn off the ad blocking software. Finally, the last message given to the unrepentant visitors with ad blockers warned them of the impending restriction of the access to the FT site. What can be gleaned from the Financial Times’ approach is that the publishers will be wise to try to actually strike a balance between being outright confrontational or restrictive (as in the case of paywall) and using more gradual and communication-oriented approaches to resolving the matter.
The use of ad blockers is steadily increasing, prompting the publishers to come up with various methods to counter their negative impact
Image Credit: Business Insider
Fighting the Ad Blockers with Stellar UX
Yet, some publishers actually try to circumvent the issue of ad blocker altogether, choosing to better integrate advertising content on their website as a part of the overall user experience. For them, the growing use of native advertising, advertorials and other types of sponsored content is seen as a way to counter the pernicious effects of ad blocker usage. The same goes for advertising by means of offering sponsored content, which consists of sponsored articles paid for the promotion of a company, service or a product. They can be more or less direct, with either oblique or transparent references to the sponsors. Yet, this type of advertising is not without its demands, as the publisher will have to demonstrate enough skill to ensure the seamless fusion of served advertisements with general content generation strategy. Still, if executed correctly, the use of native ads has, according to some, proved itself to be a successful workaround solution for bypassing ad blockers.
As a cure-all solution is hard to come by in this case, you will do well to combine these efforts with your overall UX improvement campaign which can include improving the site’s UI and loading performance, together with utilization of less intrusive ad formats that are compatible with the content you offer.
Proliferation of ad blocking software has been huge in the past few years. Moving away from its original purpose of moderating advertising excesses, this type of technology has given publishers a hard time with their monetization efforts. Combating ad blockers that syphon away your hard earned money requires a multi-faceted approach to the problem, in which you need to employ a range of variable efficient measures. These involve the introduction of a paywall as a response, educating your audience on the negative impact of ad blocking on content generation, and making efforts at improving the overall UX of your website paired with the use of alternative advertising formats. Combining all of these at various stages is the most rational approach, which is bound to protect and future-proof your sources of revenue.
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