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Ad-Blocking: The best things aren't free

3 MINUTE READ | March 16, 2016

Ad-Blocking: The best things aren't free

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Natalee Geldert, Head of Brand Media

Natalee Geldert has written this article. More details coming soon.

Over the past several years, there’s been a significant increase in the number of people using ad-blocking software in their web browser. Since 2014 alone, the use of ad blocking grew by 41% worldwide. Despite the convenience of blocking ads when surfing the web, the software poses a threat to digital advertising and deprives companies of significant revenue.

There are legitimate reasons that people use ad blockers, like a desire to speed up web browsing or not wanting to be tracked online, but publishers have bills to pay. Advertising won’t be going away anytime soon. Ads are a fundamental part of the web ecosystem and have allowed for the massive growth in content and destinations. They are the reason Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and countless other services exist.

Earlier this month, The New York Times began testing out “various approaches” to combat the rise of ad-blocking technology. The tests were administered to “a relatively small population of subscribers and non subscribers,” a company spokeswoman told Ad Age.

One such message prompted an ad blocking user to either exempt the Times’ website from it through a process known as “whitelisting,” or to sign up for a digital subscription.

“The best things aren’t free,” the message read. “You currently have an ad blocker installed. Advertising helps us fund our journalism. To continue to enjoy the Times, please support us in one of the following ways.”

Several publishers, such as The Washington Post and Forbes, have experimented with similar approaches to combatting the rise of ad blocking. Wired magazine recently began offering an ad-free version of its website for $1 per week. The magazine told readers that ad-blocking users will be restricted from accessing the site.

On an average day, more than 20 percent of the traffic to comes from a reader who is blocking their ads. Wired notes, “We know that you come to our site primarily to read our content, but it’s important to be clear that advertising is how we keep WIRED going: paying the writers, editors, designers, engineers, and all the other staff that works so hard to create the stories you read and watch here.” Therefore, Wired has restricted access to articles if they sense you are using an ad blocker.

In an effort to thwart the ever-increasing use of ad blocking software, the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s tech lab has released a guide for publishers groping to respond. “We know that users are looking for choice and we have to respect that,” said Scott Cunningham, senior VP- technology and ad operations at the IAB. “So let’s offer them a choice, let’s make them a D.E.A.L.”

  • D. Detect ad blocking, in order to initiate a conversation

  • E. Explain the value of the exchange that advertising enables

  • A. Ask for changed behavior in order to maintain an equitable exchange

  • L. Lift restrictions or limit access in response to consumer choice

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Many publishers have been flirting with a subscribe-or-see-ads model. Google has even offered a way for websites to accept donations in exchange for ad-free experiences, although it hasn’t gotten much uptake. So far, though, the fear of alienating readers has outweighed the fear of losing revenue to ad blockers.