At Gruner+Jahr, we are working from the premise that quality journalism will always cost money — either paid by the advertiser or by the user. Adblocking is an innovation that disrupts this business model.
This disruption is nothing positive, as the business model of companies such as Eyeo, the leading adblocking company with its tool Adblock Plus, is highly questionable, if not illegal.
Adblockers are not a part of the value chain; they are not about making ads better, but getting money from publishers. They have no right to interfere with the publishers’ online businesses, and it is not in the interest of the user to accept a lack of journalistic quality, nor do users want to pay for online journalism.
To put it simply: Adblockers are destroying the value chain and business model of most online businesses.
However, many users are not aware of the business model of online journalism. They do not know that online journalism needs a separate editorial team and is no simple reproduction of print journalism.
They often do not understand the complex technology and workflows that make online journalism possible. Plus, they are unaware of the Adblock Plus modus operandi. We asked 10,000 of Gruner+Jahr’s readers what they know about Adblock Plus. Only a shockingly low 18% know and accept that Adblock Plus whitelists ads and makes money from this.
Hence, we publishers need approaches that help our readers and users understand the necessity of advertising to protect the quality of online journalism.
At Gruner+Jahr, we follow different but intertwined approaches to combat adblocking:
- User communication: We use pop-up messages to explain to users how our business model works, ask them to switch adblockers off, and explain how to do it.
- Limited access: On some of our special-interest sites, such as Geo.de, users of adblocking see messages prompting them to either deactivate their adblocker to view an article, or to buy a daily access pass or a weekly access pass.
- Technical circumvention: With software such as Sourcepoint, we circumvent the adblocker and serve the ad in spite of it. This approach works well on pre-roll video, less so on display advertising, and the recovery of ads is quite complex and no easy task.
So far, these approaches have been successful and our strategy significantly reduced adblock rates. Some examples: The adblock rate on our site Geo.de decreased by 43%, and on essen-und-trinken.de by 38%. This had almost no negative effects on reach.
However, the most important thing we learned through our measures is that intensive, explanatory user communication is key. On our community site urbia.de, for example, we experiment solely with user communication, and we reduced adblocking by 27%.
These results show us that our readers and users understand that free use of quality journalism on the Internet is only possible when it can be financed by advertising. We as publishers just need to talk with them and further fight for solutions against adblockers. In this context, we at Gruner+Jahr are very open to share deeper insights with other international publishers.