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The War Against Ad Blocking: Publishers Fight for Their Livelihood

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How many times have you received a badly retargeted ad? The answer for most people is every day.

No one can deny that those ads can be annoying, but many people forget that advertising, at least in the short term, is necessary for the survival of online publishers.

Just not that kind of advertising.

Moreover, Apple recently announced its newest mobile-operating system that lets users install ad-blocking apps. Publishers now must understand the profound implications that badly targeted ads and ad-blocking technologies can have on businesses.

Publishers must put their consumers first and give them a sense of control. It's time to ask the serious questions: What do consumers want to see, what do consumers like to see and, most importantly, when do they want to see it?

Without answers to those questions, publishers are going to see their ads blocked and their revenues dwindle to record lows.

In response to the movement from print to online to mobile, publishers quickly need to figure out how to make ads work for users and create a continued digital revenue strategy. But publishers haven't made those tasks easy on themselves.

A majority of publishers have third-party scripts on their webpages from corporations like Google and Facebook. That's a problem—those companies use the publishers' data to sell their own products, and publishers aren't asking for anything in return.

Conglomerates are no longer friendly partners of publishers all around the world.

Publishers demand their livelihood back

The key is to take control of your own data and use it to deliver a personalized experience. Personalized content and ads are critical to the success of digital publishers and to personalized experiences to draw in users.

Moreover, the value of content on the Internet, along with many publishers' revenue, is slowly decreasing. But both go hand in hand. Lack of revenue causes lack of quality content, leading to a less than ideal user experience.

So, how do publishers combat this issue?

Recently, The Washington Post implemented pop-ups on its website, which prompts users to turn off their ad blockers to continue through to its site. This open communication urges readers to understand the bigger picture—specifically that publishers' business is being funded by advertising. Users either have to accept the ads or pay for a subscription. This change is a step in the right direction.

As we move to the future, we can expect more digital publishers to take a stance in how they deal with ad blockers.

Marketing wrestles with the middleman

What consumers don't understand as they browse the Internet for "free" content is that revenue that should be going to publishers to create better, faster, more personalized pages is now going to the middleman, or ad-tech companies. Doing that only slows down and disengages the complete user experience—a thorn in the side of publishers (and advertisers).

Back in the 1990s and early 2000s, a similar issue plagued advertisers and first-generation email marketing companies. Consumers were inundated with irrelevant intrusive emails (i.e., spam) and in the end, technology was called on to block everything.

Comparing that time to ad blockers today is striking. Spam and badly targeted ads are delivered by faceless and nameless companies—which have no relationships or desire to engage with end users.

Today, email marketing is having a revival. Consumers can now opt-in to receive promotions and content from their preferred brands. In many cases, open rates are growing. So is consumer acceptance.

Publishers can combat the ad-blocking issue

Publishers need technology that supports one central data strategy, capturing users' data the moment they start to browse their favorite webpages and enabling publishers to use this data to personalize content and target advertising directly with consumer consent.

Taking that simplified yet thorough approach, publishers can increase the speed of their websites, increase consumer engagement by bringing forward the most relevant content, and improve the overall user experience. Publishers will gain back their control and their revenue.

So, how can publishers combat the rise of ad blockers? Some can follow the footsteps of The Washington Post by prompting users to turn off their ad blockers. Others can implement messaging tactics to urge consumers to subscribe to their publication or to register their email addresses.

But the most important tactic for all is to mirror companies like The Wall Street Journal and USA Today, which are demanding their data back from middlemen and using technology to create personalized user experiences for each customer.

Employing any of those strategies can help keep publishers ahead of the curve. The user experience matters more today than ever—as does publisher revenue—so it's time to link the two.

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Lauren Pedersen is vice-president of Global Marketing at data and personalization firm Cxense.

LinkedIn: Lauren Pedersen

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  • by Rob Mon Feb 8, 2016 via web

    AdBlockers are a blessing for publishers! Although for some publishers 'still in disguise' adblockers make publisher focus again on their main role: being a platform between their readers and advertisers.

    When publishers truly are interested in the needs of their readers (and not in their need to publish information) they gain a tremendous insight in their behavior. More than that, most readers are willing to share this information with their popular magazine, newspaper, blog, etc. As long as the interest is genuine.

    Having linked the different insight to advertisers (hence, linked not handing over data!) the publishing platform can enable transactions between their readers and advertisers. Depending on the brand value of the advertiser the publisher can choose to use a white label solution.

    The businessmodel behind this is clear and will eventually outperform the classic advertising model. Just because salesbudgets are higher than marketingbudgets.

  • by Claudio Wed Feb 10, 2016 via web

    The challenge is more than what do consumers want to see, what do consumers like to see and, most importantly, when do they want to see it. The problem is that the consumer cannot appreciate the exchange of value (content for ads)

    The problem is not the ad-blockers. They are just a symptom of an unbalanced system. I believe we can create a digital advertising model that increase relevancy and revenues, decrease ad spamming, and make a better experience for everybody in the ecosystem.

    Check this model published in LinkedIn:

    The key point of the model is on raising awareness on the exchange of value, reciprocity and sense of control.

  • by John Engstrom Thu Feb 18, 2016 via web

    Over here at Smashpipe we developed an innovative TrustedClassifieds ad panel that doesn't interfere with the reader's experience. Moreover, without ANY tracking tags or cookies or re-targeting—none of which we think work that well to begin with—over 10% of our traffic goes straight to our classifieds and on average register 10 page views in that section. So, yeah, respect your audience, stop tracking them and give them a chance to interact with ads on your site in a way that puts them in the drivers seat.

  • by Rudy Tue Mar 29, 2016 via web

    What publishers don't "get" is that no matter what ads they serve, they are doing so by riding the backs of the visitors of the site: using their bandwidth. By having a very heavy ad experience, for instance, they are costing visitors money through wasted bandwidth. As a mobile user myself, I don't appreciate an ad-laden site pushing multiple graphic banners and an auto-play video at me the second I hit the page. Why should I be "paying" out of my own pocket to receive this nonsense? While I can afford my mobile bill, paying for some greedy publisher's ads is not at all endearing me to remain at their site. At least I have the option to root my devices and install ad blockers.

    Publishers also need to realize that many of us are wising up to the fact that "tabloid" ads by the likes of Outbrain, Taboola, etc. are in no way related to the content on the site and are almost as bad of an annoyance as these new breeds of pop-up ads that completely cover the page. Again, more bandwidth we have to pay for out of our own pockets, and wow, what a great way to drive visitors to the competition.

    Any site that prevents me from viewing it while using an ad blocker will never receive my visits again. Paying attention, Forbes? Unless you, Forbes, will send me a monthly check for MY bandwidth I have to waste to visit YOUR site...uh uh, ain't happening.

    Being a publisher myself, I have found that the ads simply don't work. Even context-based ads, or ads that track users, are rarely clicked on (and in recent years, are blocked anyway). Because my sites are primarily product-oriented, I have done phenomenal by using link monetization (link modification and/or link insertion, although I often don't use the latter).

    There are still users who feel that link monetization is intrusive or "malware" (yes, there are those paranoid types out there), but at least I can sleep at night knowing I am 1) keeping my site easy to read without advertising clutter, 2) not costing my visitors much of anything in bandwidth, 3) keeping my sites financially stable in order to support themselves, and 4) knowing my visitors are aware of the monetization and most of them are more than happy to click our links and help us remain online.

    The big publishers still don't "get it." The amount of ads and "noise" has grown to epic proportions, and is nothing more than a cluttered mess for most readers, and costs many of them additional bandwidth to visit. If the advertising bandwidth exceeds the bandwidth of the content of the site, then there is a serious problem here. And in those cases, I have every right to use an ad blocker on all of my devices to keep my own costs in check. Advertisers and publishers should not expect their free ride to be paid for on my dime.

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