Ad blocking, the buzzword of 2015 that has shaken up the publishing landscape leaving those affected looking for a speedy resolution. And with good reason too. According to recent research from Adobe and Pagefair, the number of those using ad blocking software globally has grown by 41% year on year, causing a devastating global revenue loss of $21.8bn (£14.2bn) in 2015 alone. These shocking figures have already caused publishers to change tact.
The Washington Post recently began preventing those using ad blocking software from accessing their content, stating that they must either turn off their ad blocker or sign up to a paid-for subscription. In the weeks following, German national Bild and, more recently, City AM and Firefox have followed suit. The latter example will see the web browser block ads for private browsing, which could have huge implications for businesses that operate solely online.
These early examples beg the question as to whether this is the next step or if some publishers are simply retaliating without thinking about long-term effects?
Whilst we have no figures to prove the effectiveness of this change, it’s clear that this method is the first in a long line of strategic steps to get ad blocker users to understand the negative implications their actions have on publishers and their content alike.
In the same research from Adobe and Pagefair, it was revealed that 80% of users are unwilling to pay for ad-free content, with 61% of those ‘completely unwilling’ to view ads to support free content. If anything is clear, it’s that users either don’t fully understand the effect their actions have on publishers, or simply don’t care. Either way, it is our role as publishers to raise awareness and improve the relationship between ourselves and users.
Of course, the prevalence of ad blocking isn’t all bad. Outside of the huge revenue losses and evident lack of care from users, adblockers are actually causing publishers to think more about their content. Rather than just posting numerous listicles a la Buzzfeed to increase traffic, publishers are now taking time to create a higher quality of content that users will not mind either paying for or seeing unobtrusive advertising alongside.