Publishers and ad blocking: A rocky relationship with a personal solution

18 May 2017 | By Tobias Arns



Breaking up is hard to do, but it’s even harder when it costs billions. As more and more consumers deploy ad blockers, media companies are expected to lose $12.1 billion in revenue by 2020.  

Today, as attention spans shrink and online disruption grows, website visitors quickly become annoyed with irrelevant, impersonal, poorly targeted ads. When users install ad blockers, they’re saying the ad content presented to them provides zero value. Consumers have put up with such abuse for years, but ad blockers have provided the means to put an end to this unbalanced relationship once and for all.

Ad blockers are placing an enormous financial burden on publishers, yet more than 50 percent of media companies don’t know how to deal with them. Publishers around the world have gone to court with the battle for ad blocking legislation, but we may not see any changes for years. Until then, publishers and advertisers must work to rebuild their badly damaged relationship with consumers.


Give users more control

The first step in regaining customers’ trust is to give them some control over the content they see, and when they see it. Advertising is often necessary to keep an online business running, but there has to be some give-and-take with viewers.

When it comes to content, 70 percent of users want some or complete control over what publishers and advertisers present to them. This includes knowing why and how publishers are targeting their messages.

As an industry, publishers need to find middle ground that will leave both consumers and advertisers happy. One strategy is to collect data to learn more about customers using a tool such as a data management platform (DMP) to determine customers’ advertising thresholds.

Data is key to not only knowing how often readers want to see ads, but also what kind of ads they want to see. Publishers need to treat each customer as the unique individual he or she is – one viewer may appreciate ads for the latest season of Game of Thrones, while another absolutely hates fantasy television and will find such ads irrelevant.


Take control of your data

As more readers consume content on Facebook and Twitter (more than 60 percent of social media users find and share news on social platforms), marketers must have a better grasp on their social data.

Major content aggregators, such as Google and Facebook, are sharing revenues with publishers, but the massive amount of data they collect is often overlooked. By negotiating data share agreements with content aggregators, publishers can gain better insights about their readers and provide more valuable content. When readers get the content they want, they are more loyal and more likely to subscribe, which will drive more revenue and help counteract the impact of ad blockers.


Use data to negate the need for ad blockers

Publishers need to invest in technologies that can help manage data and use it to personalize content. To optimize the user experience, publishers should tailor content directly to users’ unique interests based on first- and third-party data. Personalization solutions can help develop profiles of each user based on their search history and Internet behaviors. These profiles can also alert publishers to information regarding what times the reader is most active on the web. This leads to more clicks and, ultimately, greater customer loyalty.

By utilizing DMP and personalization technologies, Norwegian newspaper Sunnmørsposten’s advertising click-thru rate (CTR) increased 100 percent compared to non-targeted campaigns. Increasing numbers of click-thrus symbolize users’ interest in content, which means they are less likely to use ad blockers on a website.


Ask permission, not forgiveness

Ad blockers don’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon. The number of consumers deploying ad blockers is expected to increase twofold within the next four years.
To reel them back in, publishers should consider being more transparent with users about this challenge and involve them in finding a solution. They can start by asking permission to present customers with relevant ads. There are several ways to go about this, but perhaps the most effective method is to request users turn off ad blockers before entering a website.

In 2015, the Washington Post began to ask visitors using popular ad blockers to turn them off if they wished to continue reading. A pop-up prompts users to disable the software, blurring out the rest of the article until the reader obliges.

Another alternative is to ask readers to register for a paid subscription. If consumers do not wish to turn off ad blockers, they can subscribe to the publication to offset the loss in advertising dollars.

Ad blockers just may be the force that finally convinces marketers that it’s time to start sharing great content that customers want to see, when and where they want to see it – with no love lost. Publishers can start by taking ownership of user data to personalize the content and ads they’re serving to readers. It’s all about gaining customers’ trust by humanizing the brand’s efforts and giving users what they’ve been missing: respect.

This article was originally published on Martech Advisor.