Build a Better Mouse Trap: Ad Blockers Should Force Publishers to Change Strategies
Is there anything more annoying than the unwanted and uninvited sales person who knocks on your door trying to sell you a product or service that you don’t want, don’t need, or isn’t related to any of your interests?
This is no different than when someone visits a magazine’s web site and is instead greeted by an unwanted and uninvited pop-up ad. Readers have grown weary of these invasive ads as well as hidden tracking technology, slow browsing experiences and bandwidth-sucking, auto-play videos -- and they are taking action.
According to an August 2015 report by PageFair and Adobe, during the past year ad blockage usage in the United States grew 48 percent. As of Q2 2015, 45 million monthly active users have hung the equivalent of a “No Solicitations” sign on their virtual doors. Ad blocking capability in Apple’s new iOS9 is expected to accelerate this trend.
The publishing industry is rightfully concerned about the ability for its readers to block these ads and putting a stranglehold on this revenue stream -- and that’s a good thing.
Now publishers will be forced to adapt or innovate to survive. For too long publishers resisted the near-term pain caused by disruption within the industry and continued operating under yesterday’s logic while clinging to its broken legacy business model.
Publishers are desperate to build their traffic to reach “scale” leading to content partnerships with other brands, giving away content to social media companies and aggregators and pouring significant resources into content creation.
The goal is to build an audience by any means necessary but the efforts amount to nothing more than a Ponzi scheme where five companies (Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo!, and AOL) generated 61% of domestic digital ad revenue in 2014, leaving the millions of other sites to fight for the same remaining piece of the pie. Meanwhile, the bar keeps getting raised on the numbers needed to attract advertising, which is diminishing in value anyway.
Now that ad blocking is apparently squeezing that revenue stream, publishers will be forced to stop chasing eyeballs and adjust their web strategy.
Since it’s difficult to profit on the web by giving away content, maybe it’s time to charge for content and build subscription-based models. This is sure to generate numerous eye rolls from those who either don’t have content good enough to build such a model or are too tethered to the old business model to take a patient, long-tail approach.
So if brands can’t profit by giving away content and subsidizing it with advertising and they can’t build a subscriber model because they don’t have the patience or readers are unwilling to pay for content, why bother being on the web or have an app to begin with?
Content consumption on mobile devices and the web is at an all-time high, but only because it is there. I remember once reading a story where someone suggested all newspapers could stem its decline in print revenue if they all stopped publishing its content on the web. That’s a drastic notion but if there wasn’t a seemingly endless supply of content on the web, print could re-gain its importance.
I’ve long believed a publisher should use their web site as an extension of its print publication. Run out takes from features that didn’t make the final cut, produce behind the scenes videos and/or timely commentary to features in the current issue. This makes even more sense for regional publications, which typically don’t have the resources or traffic to generate significant web revenue.
We keep hearing stats from The Association of Magazine Media (MPA) about the health of print publishing. If this information is accurate, yanking the band-aid off the digital wound would conceivably steer readers back to print to consume that brand’s content.
Adblocking will likely cause more pain for an industry in flux but it also presents a rare opportunity to put the content genie back in its bottle. After all, if we don’t value the content we create, who will?
Ron Matejko is the President of Phoenix, Ariz.-based MVP Media, an award-winning digital publishing company. Matejko has 16 years of publishing experience in print, Web and mobile and has worked on the staff of two award-winning publications.
MVP Media publishes MVP Magazine, the first interactive sports publication, which won a Bronze 2010 Digital Magazine Award for Best Sports Magazine, besting entrants from 26 countries around the world, and was a finalist for Designer of the Year. MVP Media will launch its own magazines on the iPad in 2011.
MVP Media also helps existing publishers convert their print products into dynamic publications for the web and tablets. Visit the MVP Magazine website at www.mvptoday.com. Contact Ron by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or connect with him on LinkedIn or on Twitter @mvp_media.