To combat ad blockers, media companies should shift their business model

Ad blocking is a hot topic nowadays, both for news media companies and for users.

  • Globally, 200 million people are blocking ads today, with a 94% growth year-over-year.

  • 16% of Firefox mobile users were blocking ads at the end of the second quarter 2015.

  • Ad blocking technology is no longer tied only to young users (54% of male and 31% of female users within the 18-29 age use ad blockers), as users above 60 years old take advantage of them (25% of male users and 15% of females over 60 use ad blocking software).

People block ads for many reasons:

  • Ads obscure content.

  • Privacy.

  • Bandwidth.

  • Slow Web site load.

  • Because they can.

What news media houses do with that problem was quite a discussion on the first day of the INMA European Media Conference on Monday.

Caspar Van Rijn, director/digital media strategy of Mediahuis, dislikes ad blockers, but understands why people use them. He believes they give news publishers the opportunity to shift their business models and provide better ad solutions, such as native ads.

“They can also give room for premium advertising,” Van Rijn said.

The situation with ad blocking habits is also a difficult one in Turkey.

Emre Faks, digital engagement and marketing services lead from Hürriyet Publishing, says only 5% of the media company’s traffic is affected by local users with ad blockers. But visitors from other countries differ, with 25%-30% of them use such technology.

Faks sees it as an emerging problem to Turkish media industry: “Agencies who cannot produce ads that connect brands with consumers will lose money, and so will the publishers.”

Gerold Riedmann, CEO and chief editor of Russmedia Digital in Austria, believes so many people are using ad blocking technology because the lack of ads makes a better product; the site or application simply loads faster.

“Publishers won’t be able stop it, and at the same time display advertising should never have become such a big part of online journalism model,” Riedmann said.

Wouter Verschelden, co-founder and publisher of Belgium’s Newsmonkey, believes the whole advertising model should change.

Online journalism model is changing rapidly, and, in his opinion, online advertising model has not changed followed: “90% of revenues coming from display is not a sustainable model. Plus, you can’t stop technology. We need to come up with solutions ourselves.”

So what kind of solutions do publishers have in mind?

According to Caspar Van Rijn, blocking ad blockers is not the approach The Washington Post or Bild take.

“Blocking the ad block users from reading your content is not going to work,” Van Rijn said. “If you have good advertising, non-intrusive and native, then people will stop using ad blockers.”

Riedmann agrees: “Stories need to travel. They need to be consumed on other media, like Facebook and so on. Having a paywall and then blocking ad block users is suicidal. A short-term solution could be partnering with ad block companies, but it’s definitely a dirty business at the end.”

For Verschelden, educating consumers is the key: “They don’t know they want native advertising, so we have to approach them correctly and show them the pros of such actions. If you can engage the audience to open the app, that’s already something. Loyal readers are the ones you should take special care of.”

Talking to advertisers is also key. Faks tries to talk to advertisers, to sit with them and explain the rising problem of ad blockers: “Making advertising meaningful and useful to consumers will help publishers get rid of adblockers,” he said.

The conclusion of the discussion was hard but straightforward. Van Rijn wrapped things up with this: “Ad blockers are here to stay, and we have to make advertising a whole lot better.”

About Marek Miller

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