The Local Media Consortium—a group of “leading local media companies”—addresses these ad blocking-related concerns in NAA’s recent webinar “Mitigating the Impact of Ad Blocking.” Drawing from the Consortium’s recent white paper, “Ad Blocking: Navigating New Challenges,” Ray Faust, vice president of national and emerging media sales at the Star Tribune, explains that the prominence of ad blockers has risen dramatically in the past few years, although the software has been available for the last decade.
When it comes to using ad blockers, Faust says that some users are driven by privacy concerns, worried about the specific information ads are gathering about them and their behaviors. He also cites data usage consumption and a slower or unsatisfactory user experience as reasons for why users may opt to block ads.
But ad blocking doesn’t just make unwanted advertisements disappear. By impacting publishers’ advertising revenue, it could threaten the presence of the high-quality content that publishers have to offer their audiences. Advertising represents $350 billion of the U.S. gross domestic product and consumers depend on it to assist them in making $9 trillion worth of annual spending decisions, according to Ad Age. As an industry, advertising contributes to the stability and quality of news content and to the economy itself. Ad blocking could greatly affect these totals.
So ad blocking must overwhelmingly affect advertisers’ revenues, right? Well, not exactly. Tom Sly, vice president of digital revenue at The E.W. Scripps Company explains that the impact of ad blocking is felt primarily by the news industry as local advertisers aren’t paying for ads that are never seen or “served.” However, it is important to note that if local advertisers’ ad content isn’t being seen, it could affect them directly if their message isn’t delivered. But the news industry is definitely paying the price.
Beyond taking away revenue, ad blockers and their varying software can disable site analytic tools or maintain a “whitelist” database—a situation where publishers pay so that ad blockers recognize their site and allow their ads to be served—among other things. While some media organizations have chosen to “block the blockers,” Sly advises that this “thermonuclear war” option isn’t wise as a long-term solution, as new code can constantly be written to override the shutout. Instead, the Local Media Consortium recommends engaging in a value and currency discussion with options to pay for content.
In light of all this, Sly recommends that publishers shift to a different point of view: news organizations should look at their site through a user’s eyes and not from a revenue gaining perspective to see what works best, such as site loading times and ease of navigation. Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, publishers should remember how important and valuable their content is when making decisions on how to address ad blocking users.
Members of the News Media Alliance staff have contributed to this post.