The New York Times Joins The Ad Blocker Wars

Recently read a piece by Jack Marshall of the WSJ titled, “The New York Times plays hardball with ad blockers.” Curious, I immediately went to the NYT home page.

“The Best Things in Life Aren’t Free,” reads the splash page that some visitors using ad blockers see when they come to the New York Times website. It’s one of several approaches the publisher says it is experimenting with to deal with increasingly prevalent ad blockers, which are now popping up on mobile devices as well as PCs.

The fact that the Times, among the most successful traditional publishers to navigate the jump online, is joining this latest battle with ad blockers — alongside the Jeff Bezos-owned Washington Post and Germany’s Bild, among others — shows how seriously the industry is taking the issue.

The gentle prodding of the Times splash page and some of its other tactics are actually lower key than those of some others (the Times is asking visitors with ad blockers to either buy a subscription or whitelist the site so ads can be seen). Forbes, by contrast, has turned away users of ad blockers from actually seeing the site. That’s a pretty severe approach, and prevents even the possibility of sampling, broader sharing and other benefits that can occur when you selectively allow people behind a paywall in some circumstances.

It also fails to acknowledge that many people turn to ad blockers because too many in the publishing industry have failed to ensure that readers have a good experience with ads. In the constant scramble for more audience, and more ad revenue, some publishers have made their sites a minefield of intrusive ads, all begging for attention.

It’s good that the Times, Post and others are experimenting with possible responses. But the best response will be making sure that their ad experiences add to the experience of a site, instead of detracting from it. In the meantime, keep investing in video. With VAST 4.0, ad stitching and other technologies, the high value of video and its advertising will help drive publishers to a stronger place, with higher revenues and stickier audiences.