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Is there a case for going ad free?

By Jodie Hopperton

INMA

Los Angeles, California, United States

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There is another trend that has been growing for some time in the world, but the news industry has been slow to adapt to: the desire of consumers to go ad free. 

Hootsuite states that a whopping 42.7% of Internet users use ad blockers globally. This is particularly prevalent with younger users (these and many more stats around ad blocking can be found here). Clearly, users are demonstrating their need in this space. 

AudienceProject gives a variety of reasons for this from Web pages, including, “Web sites are more manageable without banners” and “Web sites load faster without ads.” 

Research from AudienceProject shows why readers use ad blockers.
Research from AudienceProject shows why readers use ad blockers.

Of course, many news organisations make a substantial part of their income from ads. It’s a widely accepted norm that content is free, or cheap, in exchange for seeing advertising. In fact, selling audience attention in this way was created by the publishing industry. It doesn’t mean that it’s bad or that ads are bad. But these consumer trends clearly show the desire for at least the choice of an alternative. And we’re seeing this in other mediums, too.  

Some prominent streaming companies now build ad-free versions into their pricing. Hulu, now owned by Disney, at US$6.99 for their standard service is almost double the cost without ads at US$12.99.

Hulu and other streaming companies now offer ad-free versions of their service.
Hulu and other streaming companies now offer ad-free versions of their service.

Twitter recently launched Twitter Blue, a subscriber product that gives access to “premium features,” such as undo tweet. This doesn’t mean Twitter can be ad free, but it does “offer subscribers a fast-loading, ad-free reading experience on the Web sites of publishers within the Twitter Blue Publisher Network” (which is why Twitter purchased Scroll). Publishers who have opted into this network then receive a share of revenue, as demonstrated in the tweet below by Scroll founder Tony Haile. 

Twitter also offers an ad-free option.
Twitter also offers an ad-free option.

Yahoo has also experiments with more of an “ad lite” option for US$5 per month, promising users will find “fewer ads everywhere on Yahoo.”

Yahoo offers an "ad lite" option.
Yahoo offers an "ad lite" option.

Over the next month, I’ll be speaking with media organisations that have built ad-free products, looking at their decision-making process and practically what this new product takes to develop and maintain. If you have an ad-free product that you can talk me through or questions you want answered, please get in touch: jodie.hopperton@INMA.org.

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About Jodie Hopperton

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