Subscribe to Inc. magazine
ADVERTISING

Are Ad Blockers Hijacking Your Revenue?

Encourage users to "white list" your company and let ads appear, but first make sure ads are relevant and not intrusive.

Did you know that an increasingly determined segment of your audience is blocking your ability to earn revenue? (This assumes that your company offers a free online service that’s mainly supported by advertising.)

Encourage your users to "white list" your company so that they will not use ad blockers while on your site.

Dozens of companies have emerged to block online ads. For example, with more than 50 million users, open-source Adblock Plus is the most popular browser extension. (It is not without controversy.)

How likely is it that your customers will block ads on your site?

A recent report from PageFair found an average ad-blocking rate of 22.7 percent on its clients’ sites. The PageFair report also revealed that websites where ads are most often blocked tend to cater to the technologically savvy. One of every three users blocked ads on gaming sites, and one of every four users blocked ads on technology sites. By contrast, only 5 percent of users blocked ads on travel websites. Finally, PageFair indicates that ad blocking is growing at 43 percent annually.

To users, the benefits of ad blocking include quicker loading and cleaner-looking Web pages free from advertisements, lower resource waste (bandwidth, CPU, memory, etc.), and privacy benefits. Whether driven by users' frustrations with noisy, intrusive, distracting or ugly ads, ad blocking does, unfortunately, threaten the concept of a free-for-everyone model of the Internet.

Websites providing content to users can get the money needed to pay the company’s bills by either charging users subscription fees or by having users click on ads. It costs users nothing but a little time to click on ads. The best ads even provide helpful information to users.

Arguing that the use of ad-blocking software risks cutting off their primary (or only) revenue stream, some websites have taken counter-measures against ad-blocking software, such as attempting to detect the presence of ad blockers and preventing users from accessing the content unless they disable the ad-blocking software. A few years ago, technology news site Ars Technica experimented with an outright ban on users who blocked ads. For 12 hours, they were redirected to a blank page, until Ars posted this explanation: "Imagine running a restaurant where 40 percent of the people who came and ate didn't pay. In a way, that's what ad blocking is doing to us."

Get your users to "white list" you.

Some ad blockers offer a "white list" function that lets users enable ads from certain websites. This is what you have to get them to do. So when your audience contacts you by phone, mobile device, social network, or website, find ways to influence them.

For example, you can say: "Please help us keep this service FREE by not using an ad blocker while you’re here." Drive home the point. Encourage users to white list your website by describing, as Ars Technica did, why ads are so essential to funding the content.

Tell people the truth about privacy.

Also guarantee users that ads won’t violate their privacy. While the mechanisms are complex, users are now understandably suspect of how advertisers and/or publishers violate their privacy, ranging from subtle methods such as retargeting based on user browsing habits to noxious methods--such as selling user information to third parties that would cause them to be bombarded with phone calls, letters, or email.

Ironically, the white-list concept is at the heart of the controversy over AdBlocker Plus. Under the guise of encouraging publishers to only show "non-intrusive ads," the company that owns AdBlocker charges content providers a fee to get their ads through. For those companies having to pay--apparently including Google, Amazon, and Yandex, Russia’s largest search engine--the fee for not having their ads blocked is reportedly a hefty chunk of the revenue generated by letting ads go through. Some have called this outright extortion.

Create better ads.

Perhaps some publishers have themselves to blame for creating ads annoying enough for users to block them. Unfortunately, all publishers then suffer because of users’ reactions. Patrick Smith, of TheMediaBriefing, recently told the Guardian that the TV ads shown during the Super Bowl "are the most talked-about things in the country for a day or so after the event." No surprise there--half the reason people watch is for those famous ads.

And they're often worth it. The ads are typically funny, interesting, cute, or entertaining. Smith urged the need for quality of advertising instead of having "irrelevant, out-of-context flashing banners and low value ad network gifs about losing weight in one easy trick." Among other ad types, he shunned rollovers that activate without being "rolled over" and instead autoplay video ads.

Once you get users to white-list your website or mobile site so you can continue to earn revenue from ads, here are some steps you can take to remain on the white list:

  1. Make sure that ads are highly relevant and not instrusive. Pop-ups, pop-unders, and sound-on videos are all examples of the kind of ads that motivate people to install ad blockers.
  2. Make sure that once someone clicks on an ad, it appears instantly, with a landing page that results in a highly positive user experience. 

TV networks, Google, Facebook, Twitter and others have all been able to provide value to the world with an ad-supported model. It would be a grand shame if heavy adoption of ubiquitous ad blockers dismantles the free content that we enjoy on the web today. Equally important, though, is having publishers and advertisers prioritize a high-quality user experience.

More:
Last updated: Oct 23, 2013

SCOTT JONES | Columnist | CEO ChaCha

Scott A. Jones is a veteran entrepreneur, venture capitalist, and co-founder of ChaCha, a real-time Q&A service that has answered more than 2.5 billion questions from 45 million+ unique users per month. Jones co-founded Boston Technology and Gracenote, the planet?s largest music meta-data service. Jones has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, CNN, and Fortune Small Business.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



Register on Inc.com today to get full access to:
All articles  |  Magazine archives | Livestream events | Comments
EMAIL
PASSWORD
EMAIL
FIRST NAME
LAST NAME
EMAIL
PASSWORD

Or sign up using: