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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image of Lauren Pedersen

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

LinkedIn: Lauren Pedersen