Will Refusing to Show Web Content Work? Publishers Strike Back Against Ad Blockers
Creativity Marketing Transformation

Publishers Strike Back Against Ad Blockers By Refusing to Show Web Content

In the effort to thwart users who block ads, publishers are trying an aggressive tactic: refusing to show Web content until users turn off their ad blockers.

Forbes is leading the bandwagon by hiding content from some users of ad blocking services, Digiday reports. Ad block-wielding users who try to access Forbes’ content are presented with a polite-but-firm message to disable it:

Forbes ad block message

With the stick comes a carrot: Forbes promises users an “ad light” experience when they turn off the browser; users will still see display ads, but no autoplay or animation.

GQ is taking an even tougher stance. Users who want to read one of the magazine’s articles are faced with a popup asking them to turn off the ad blocker or pay 50 cents to read an article, Digiday reports.

Chart with reasons for installing ad block softwareThe Ad Blocker Threat

Forbes, with its fast-growing audience, is making an interesting gambit by withholding Web content from ad blocker-loving users. Will die-hard ad block users bite the bullet to access quality content?

Forbes and others are obviously hoping the answer is yes. Publishers—and content creators of all types—need a way to monetize the valuable Web content they create. As ad blockers have moved into the mainstream, publishers are searching for new ways to get eyes on ads—the lifeblood of their revenue. The more people who use ad blockers, the fewer people who see (and click) on the ads enmeshed with visual and written content.

Research indicates the problem will only get worse. Ad blocker adoption is on the rise—to the tune of 41 percent increase in the last 12 months, Adobe and Pagefair found. Support for ad blockers on mobile devices is another threat.

Forbes is trying to ameliorate the situation with its so-called “ad light” experience. The less-obtrusive ad experience could appeal to many users who mainly use ad blockers to cut the annoyance factor. (People also tend to use ad blockers because of privacy and data usage concerns, Adobe and Pagefair reported).

On the other hand, people hate ads with a passion, period. It’s why ad blocker use has skyrocketed in the first place. Faced with an ultimatum to turn off that ad blocker, some users will bail and find the next content provider. As Forbes and others cull data from their ad blocker experiments, it will be interesting to see just how many users they can persuade to disable the blocker—and how many will bounce elsewhere.

Ad Block Alternatives

Some content experts are calling for a different response to the ad blocker conundrum: Make ads less annoying and more relevant. Ads that comply with user-defined criteria can actually petition Ad Block Plus, a popular ad block service, for whitelist status. Animated ads, overlay ads, pop-up ads, and pre-roll video don’t meet the criteria; unobtrusive display ads may pass the test. The whitelist designation allows approved ads to be shown even to users who have installed the software.

The rise of the ad blocker also places new importance on creative digital marketing. Native advertising allows brands to work with publishers to create digital marketing content that looks and feels like non-sponsored content, a tactic more and more brands are adopting.

Partnerships with celebrities and influencers will also become more valuable. If brands can get their message out via a digital influencer, they gain traction with that influencers’ followers without resorting to an annoying overlay ad.

All of this points to increased emphasis on quality digital marketing content—not ads—to help brands engage with consumers and raise brand awareness. Operating in a content-oriented world won’t be easy, however. Only brands that excel in telling their story in an engaging way and delivering quality, relevant content will come out ahead.

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