Why ad blockers are bad news for online publishers

Last year, Apple announced that its latest operating system iOS 9 was going to be released with an ad blocking function. For those who don’t know, ad blockers are normally a free extension that allows users to block unwanted ads, disable tracking and block domains known to spread malware.

Additionally, ad blockers are the programs that block digital advertising, which can be as simple as the banners that appear on the side of your screen to brand sponsored advertorials and content.

According to a report by Adobe and PageFair ad blockers are expected to cost the industry £14.1 billion in revenue in 2015 alone. Apps that block adverts include Adblock Plus, Peace, Crystal and Purify Blocker – all of these are rated the top five ad blocking downloads. The research also states that 5 per cent of the global internet population use Adblock Plus, which is the most popular ad blocker. The report also predicts that ad blocking will cost £26.8 billion globally by 2016.

Interestingly, Adblock Plus uses filters that the user chooses to block all unwanted elements. It is also free to download and it makes money by charging media companies to be included on its “white list," which is an approved list of outlets allowed to show advertising to Adblock Plus users. These companies pay an amount to be listed on the ‘Adblock Plus’ list.

So why are the number of organisations using ad blockers increasing? And what does this mean for online publishers who gain significant revenue from these types of ads?

Concerns about ad blocking aren't new. They are certainly intensifying and now that Apple's mobile operating system is set to support ad blockers within its Safari mobile Web browser, this is a big step to take the practice beyond the desktop onto mobile devices. But why are they suddenly so popular?

Poor user experience is an important factor. Popups and glitches prevent people from getting to the articles they want, with media outlets overloading their readers with lots of ads. Readers feel pushed then to download ad blockers to be able to go through the content without having to put up with the ads.

Therefore the alternative to publishers is to provide readers with the option to subscribe or opt-in and provide their details in order to stop ads appearing on the website. For example, sites like YouTube or Spotify have launched a subscription version of their online video service, for which viewers pay to remove the adverts. By creating a new paid for offering, they are generating a new source of revenue that supplements the old revenue that they achieved from digital advertising. As an online publisher, at NetMediaEurope we have started asking readers to, either turn off adblockers for our sites or register/opt-in with their contact details and interests, in return for free subscriptions for readers to access our premium content.

It is clear that some publishers may have gone a bit too far by putting too many ads on their site and overloading it with adverts that don’t target their readers. But readers must also understand that publishers cannot provide the content for free just because it is on the internet. You could even argue that people using ad blockers are not actually fully aware of what their action really means to publishers. Readers who block ads from online sites really need to realise that, by blocking the ads with an ad blocker, they are not much different to those who download films and music illegally – as at the end of the day they are not paying for the content they are consuming.

As publishers, we need to make sure that we listen to our readers. It is clear that today’s audience does not want to be inundated with irrelevant ads. If readers object to ads, we need to make sure we find suitable alternatives that provide us with an income so that we are able to keep providing our readers with quality content.

Laurent Delaporte, CEO of NetMediaEurope

Image source: Shutterstock/Georgejmclittle