An ad revenue strategy has pros and cons for news publishers

By Mark Challinor


London, United Kingdom


There are a number of pros and cons when it comes to a reliance on ad revenue. Let’s identify some of the important ones.


What are some of the pertinent reasons why publishers should continue to include advertising as part of their future revenue mix? 

  • Profitable: The most obvious reason. It remains in many news media companies the biggest or at least a significant revenue line. Simple. Fact. Why would we want to give it up? 
  • Flexible: Publishers can maximise their revenue through varying experiments with different/much smarter and creative ad formats/ad placements and match any emerging trends or any audience segments and interests. 

Pros of reliance on an ad revenue strategy include profitability and revenue diversification.
Pros of reliance on an ad revenue strategy include profitability and revenue diversification.

  • Scalable: Creating great ad content for clients that is ultimately valued by end users and, therefore, drives traffic and audience engagement. The right approach here will see publishers continue to increase revenue from ad impressions and clicks will grow organically. 
  • Revenue diversification: One example is that many media companies who have adopted paywall strategies (and, therefore, subscription revenue) can diversify revenue streams by introducing advertising to the mix. Plus … 
  • Creative opportunities: Tech today allows for a much better range of options to put into our sales armoury. For instance, the likes of AR/VR/MR being one such space where the shiny new things in the market today allow for new experimentation and new opportunities that can truly leave customers (both advertisers and end users alike) eyes wide open and receptive. And, of course, with new revenue streams for us. Tech today also allows for better targeting, better personalisation, and, therefore, better received messaging for audiences. What’s not to like?
  • “Passive” income: While building advertising revenue isn’t necessarily a passive income stream, ads located adjacent to “evergreen” content will generate revenue without the need for any content creator involvement.


There are always two sides to every tale, of course. And while ad revenue has many advantages, there are also a number of cautions media companies need to be aware of.

  • Tech risks: Media companies that don’t know how to balance advertising with content run a risk of irritating their audiences, which will no doubt eat into their ad revenue. Dare I say, sometimes publisher greed, short-term focus, and ignorance can be factored into this with no thought to the longer implications. It can easily happen. 
  • Unpredictable: A major disadvantage of any reliance on online advertising is that things such as platform algorithm changes, audience engagement volatility, and ad policy fluctuations can affect how much income ads generate.


Cons of reliance on an ad revenue strategy include tech risks and ad-blocking.
Cons of reliance on an ad revenue strategy include tech risks and ad-blocking.

  • Limits on control: Media Web site proprietors don’t automatically have total control over specific ads displayed on their site, which can lead to irrelevant, inappropriate, or sometimes damaging/conflicting messages and bad juxtaposition of ads and editorial content.
  • Ad-blocking/ad irritation: Ad-blocking software may well prevent ads from displaying and therefore decrease our revenue pools. That said, there are a number of ad-blocking “recovery solutions” that can help publishers regain at least some of this revenue. We can use ad-blocking recovery messages, for instance, to ask users to allow ads on our site or offer them other ways to support our Web site. Nevertheless, it’s still an issue.


Advertising revenue has become an incredibly important asset for media companies over many years, allowing them to monetise content without having to lock it behind a paywall. 

We cannot abandon it now. We would be crazy to. We may have seen a downward trends in what is labeled “traditional” advertising, but it still remains significant for so many publishers. It will remain the lion’s share of revenue for many years to come. And the new opportunities available to us — in an ever-changing but increasingly creative, more personalised, more targeted world — might just shift their focus somewhat. But advertising (in whatever form) will still remain crucial to our futures. 

Those publishers and other people in the chain, such as app developers and others, that use paywalls can reap the benefits via a continued strategic and creative inclusion of advertising, thereby diversifying revenue streams, increasing first-party data opportunities, and reducing their risks in the process. 

There is, of course, no one-and-only route to the monetisation of content. And Web site proprietors/sales teams must understand all the tricks and tools available to them to be aware and well educated so the consultative sell gives us an invaluable USP. 

It’s important to understand that developing a significant stream of online ad revenue requires a thorough, long-term strategy. We should not abandon our focus on that. As said, advertising revenue in increasingly varied forms will be around as a cornerstone to media revenue for many years to come. 

However, focusing on the customer experience must be paramount. New tech, new skills sets in/for our staff, and a refocus on ad instigation from creation to market will allow for all that. 

And maybe, just maybe, that’s where the much-maligned AI has an important role in our advertising futures. As we begin to use AI more and more for things like ad automation and the more menial tasks in the ad process, it will allow us to focus more on creativity and more on creating truly experiences that customers value and desire more of. And will be prepared to pay for! 

Creating content and then linking up with, say, an ad network is far from being enough these days. Media companies need to produce great content yes, but then monitor engagement, respond to varying traffic peaks/troughs, focus on creativity, and review the performance of their all their ad tech continuously, ensuring each part in the chain is working in harmony.

And, above all, avoid any ad irritation by putting the customer as king!

Advertising revenue and our focus on it is/should be alive and well by taking a modern and forward-looking lens.

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About Mark Challinor

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