The End of the Independent Web Might Be Caused By Readers

The inherent beauty of the Internet is that there is a wellspring of knowledge and information available to anyone capable of typing a coherent search query, for free. We have become accustomed to the Internet being free, but in fact, we’re all paying a price: our attention. Advertisers want that attention, even just for a moment, for the chance to expose their brand to you.

Thus, ads have become the main mechanism of the free-ness of online content. Readers pay publishers for their product – their content – by viewing ads on their site.

Enter Ad Blockers

Ah, yes. Ad blocking: a magical technology enabling readers to browse the Internet uninterrupted by advertisements. Ad blockers essentially block ads from serving before the web browser is loaded and understandably, readers have been fast to adopt them. Complex Media recently reported that ad blocking nearly doubled across its domains from 4 percent in 2013 to more than 7.5 percent in 2014.

Unfortunately, most readers don’t fully grasp the implications of ad blocking upon the publishers whose sites they are reading ad-free. The truth is, ad blocking poses a direct threat to publishers by cutting off one of their primary revenue streams, and it needs a solution. 

The Internet Should Be Free – Like Free Speech, Not Free Beer

Content creation is a job. Just one post can take days or weeks of research, writing, graphic design, split testing and of course, promotion. Then comes the business side of content creation. There’s setting up an ad server, negotiating contracts, managing supply side platforms, and successfully integrating a programmatic advertising strategy into the revenue stream.

Meanwhile, continued adoption of ad-blocking technology removes a bigger slice of publisher revenue. PageFair, a company that helps publishers measure how many visitors block their ads, estimates that ad-blocking technologies are responsible for a $6.6 billion deficit in Google’s global display advertising efforts.

No End in Sight

Bigger companies like Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Taboola all pay ad-blocking technology companies to whitelist their ad creatives in order to bypass ad blockers. These flash-based or static ads are served, while smaller digital advertising partners are blocked. More often than not, when publishers try to combat these ad-blocking companies, they lose. Eyeo – the German company that owns Adblock Plus, the most popular of these products – has been victorious in four different court proceedings brought forth by publishers.

Furthermore, mobile ad-blocking technologies have been announced, which will dip into a whole other layer of publishers’ revenue. Most recently, the conversation has turned to Apple’s new guidelines for its iOS9 software, which gives developers the green light to create content-blocking software. This all goes to say that ad blocking is growing and publishers are not equipped with the resources they need to combat its negative impact on revenue.

The 4 Options for Publishers

For now, when it comes to pushing back against ad blockers, publishers have a few options:

  • Pay the ad blockers 30 percent of reclaimed revenue to get on their whitelists
  • Partner with a company that helps reclaim revenue from blocked ads
  • Block content from visitors with an ad blocker installed, and greet them with a paywall in order to access your site 
  • Diversify revenue streams through native advertising and sponsored posts

At the end of the day, it’s up to readers to find a solution to the ad blocking dilemma. If we want the Internet to remain free – I know I do! – we need to do our part and help these publishers make a living. After all, they’re the ones creating those cat YouTube videos you love sharing with your friends.

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