Don’t use ad-blocking software if you want free access to online media
The Sun has recently removed its pay wall. Meanwhile Axel Springer’s Bild website and the Washington Post have started to prevent readers who using ad-blocker software from accessing online content.
These two different actions are connected by the same issue; readers want free and easy access to online editorial but somebody has to fund it. This creates a commercial headache for publishers and ultimately will destroy media outlets for the PR industry.
Threat to PR
Only 225,000 subscribers paid to read Britain’s biggest selling print daily online, fewer than read the similar version of the much lower circulation Independent. The Sun clearly realised that its online readership was trailing far behind – and so losing advertising revenue – to the Mail Online in particular. So it has reverted to free access and recruiter several senior executives from the Mail – surely no coincidence.
Meanwhile Apple’s introduction of ad-blocking software available on its App Store has created a new problem for publishers; loss of advertising revenue and ultimately the commercial viability of publishing, certainly of smaller online only publications. According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau in the US, 34 per cent of American adults (15 per cent of UK readers) use ad blocking software and this is estimate to have lost $21.8 billion in ad revenue last year. 9 per cent of online ads are blocked. According to the Harvard Business Review, quoted in The Times, the ad-blocking trend represent the biggest boycott in human history – quite a statement!
An interesting is an underlying battle of big brands. To Google (ad revenue $16.8 billion last quarter) ad-blockers are a threat but to Apple it is a not only a revenue opportunity but a way to divert advertisers to its media.
PR – solutions?
So what are the possible next steps for publishers? In truth, there is virtually no free content – Facebook You Tube as well as Google are really advertising media. So what are the options?
1. If most publishers start to bar readers who use ad-blocking software, then barring becomes an industry norm and readers will have to become accustomed to facing the issue if they want free content.
2. Publishers build readership, reader loyalty and ad revenues further before introducing paywalls.
3. Publishers introduce more advertorials and native advertising and make online advertising less intrusive, less annoying – fewer pop-ups and overlays – and more acceptable.
4. Publishers offer readers the option of paying for ad-free versions of content.
5. Publishers, Wikipedia for instance, are asking for donations and others will do the same.
Until this is resolved, the message to PR executives and readers who want free media outlets to continue publishing is – don’t download ad-blocking software.