Relax, Ad Blockers Won’t Kill Your Online Publishing Biz

Written on
Jan 27, 2016 
Tony DAnna  |

In the continuing discussion on the effects of ad blocking, here’s one more perspective on the issue.

At a time when developers are releasing tools that allow consumers to block advertising, the opportunity to monetize content is becoming endangered. This new environment requires publishers to pivot to a new model and focus on building a loyal audience. It’s no longer just about getting more readers to the site, but getting the same readers to come back over and over again.

Publishers who are scrambling to find new outlets to connect with readers and monetize content should look no further than email.

Up until recently, the revenue model for most publishers has been to share content as widely as possible, primarily on social media, in order to drive site visits where readers see ads. In turn, publishers are able to increase ad revenues through more exposure. With this approach, it didn’t really matter who was viewing the content so long as there was a steady, growing number of ads getting in front of eyeballs. But thanks to ad blocking technology, this model is now breaking down. Having more readers doesn’t necessarily translate into more revenue, since ad blockers are now preventing readers from actually seeing ads.

Two Solutions to Ad-Blocking Technology

There are two main approaches a publisher can take to overcome the issues associated with ad blocking. First, publishers can request that viewers turn off their ad blockers when they arrive at the site. Publishers can make this task easy on readers by offering a lightbox upon arrival. While this approach is a good short-term solution to the ad blocking problem, it is probably not very sustainable over time as requiring consumers to constantly switch ad blockers on and off might send potential readers elsewhere for content.

The second approach is to move to a subscription or freemium model. If readers want your content, they’re going to have to pay for it. This is a better long-term strategy. However, in the short term, someone who is just coming to your site for the first time might not be ready to start handing over money. This is why it makes sense to start with asking readers to turn off their ad blockers while moving toward building loyalty in the long run.

The key to building loyalty in the long term is through capturing the reader’s email address. Think about it – if someone asked you to pay money for their content, are you more likely to do it the first time you encounter them, or after you’ve been getting their emails every day and engaging with them? Most people would probably be more willing to pay after having a relationship with you for a while. Publishers need to start focusing on these relationships instead of on just casting a wide net.

In order to move toward a subscription model, publishers should request that readers subscribe to your newsletter. This is also best accomplished by a lightbox on your website. Then once a reader has subscribed, publishers should send them a daily newsletter. Email offers publishers the chance to deliver ads in several formats — from display ads within email to native content or sponsored emails.

Display ads in email are far less likely to get blocked than regular display ads. In addition, since you’re sending email to a targeted audience, these placements are higher-quality and you can charge more for them.

Dedicated email sends allow you to send out a dedicated email on behalf of an advertiser. This allows advertisers to reach a premium audience and bypass blocking. In this case, we recommend sending about two dedicated emails per month on behalf of an advertiser. The key is to not do it so often that it causes your audience to unsubscribe.

Email is also the perfect vehicle to send long-form native ad content, and if done well, your audience might not know (or care) that it’s advertising. Mix native content in with regular content.

Email also serves as the perfect channel to make the request once you’re ready to move to a full subscription model. You may want to offer subscribers the option to receive your content with ads (provided no ad blocking is present), or the option to pay to have ads removed. With email, you’ll be able to target different messages to different parts of your audience.

The channel is also a reliable way to reach and engage consumers without hyperventilating over whether or not the content will be blocked. Rather than worrying about ad blockers, publishers should focus on creating real relationships with their audience through email. Publishers have a lot of fear about ad blocking, but it doesn’t mean the sky – and all your revenue – is falling. It just means that publishers need to pivot toward a different model, one that focuses on quality instead of quantity when it comes to their audience.


Tony has led the PostUp and UnsubCentral businesses since 2008. Tony holds 20 years of management experience in the software, technology and direct marketing arena with some of the world's top global companies and technology innovators. Prior to PostUp, Tony served as Vice President of the Unicast division at Enliven Marketing Technologies. Following Enliven's merger with DG FastChannel, he remained with the company and managed the re-launch efforts for its SaaS based - rich media ad solution into the Agency Channel. Earlier in his career, Tony held senior management roles at Dell and Sony Electronics. Notably, Tony oversaw Dell's retail sales organization of more 150 locations nationally. He also was a key player as Director of Sales and Operations in the launch of Sony's first Direct Sales and Marketing business: Sony Style.

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