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A 2015 report by Adobe and PageFair estimates that $21.8 billion in ads were blocked last year. Meanwhile, half the reporters in the newsroom are using ad blockers, reports Michael Romaner, Executive Vice President for Digital, Morris Communications Co.
Yet, there is no negative consequence to using ad blockers and publishers haven’t done much to educate readers about ad blockers.
When Romaner asked the audience at “Ad Blocking: Prospects and Solutions” how many have posted content in their newspaper or on their website about ad blockers, no one raised their hands. And when he asked if any had ever run an op-ed on the subject of ad blocking, only one person raised his hand.
Last year NAA brought its concerns to Apple after it released it’s iOS9 operating system, which supports ad blockers. Apple executives told NAA we’re not going to lead this fight, Romaner said. Publishers need to lead this fight because this is your problem, Apple told NAA but, if you lead this fight, Apple will come in behind you, Romaner said.
Currently, there are no downsides to using an ad block. It is free and it works, said Scott Spencer, Google’s director of product management/sustainable advertising. There is only upside to using an ad blocker, said Ben Barokas, founder and CEO of software company SourcePoint. “We haven’t made it painful of them to use an ad blocker.”
Romaner suggested U.S. publishers follow the lead of European publisher and ban together to show users what would happen without ads to support the content newspapers create. In Sweden on August 20 the largest publishers are planning to block content to anyone using a ad blocker. “Why don’t we have an ad blocking day,” Romaner asked, “and communicate to our visitors and readers what is happening.”
Publishers in France recently did something similar for one week, Barokas said. “Consortiums like they have in Sweden and France can begin to create awareness in general public that there is a value exchange going on,” he said. The reader gets content in exchange for ads that subsidize that content’s creation but more and more people don’t under that value exchange is occurring
Barokas recommends newspapers move to a model like Spotify or HuluPlus that allows consumers to pay for content that is ad free.
However, the choice to pay for ad-free content or see ads is not a neutral choice, said NAA President and CEO David Chavern. Maybe, he said, the people advertisers want to reach most are the ones who will choose to pay to not get ads.
If our consumers are telling us they don’t want ads, we might need a new way to serve ads, said Joe Barone, managing partner digital ad operations of GroupM. Many consumers are being followed by that hotel room they already booked, he said. He also cited a 2015 study that found 95 percent of consumer’s mobile data is being eaten by mobile ads.
Chavern encouraged everyone in the room to talk with their IT department about doing an in-depth analysis of their data to make sure they are being served efficiently and not slowing down the user experience.
Looking at the data may allow you to change the ad experience, Spencer said. For most publishers, page views shoot up once the data is changed and ads are served faster. Regardless, he said, the industry also needs to find out from consumers what is annoying about digital ads and what is OK.
Members of the News Media Alliance staff have contributed to this post.