Ad blocking, breaking the suicide cycle of online advertising

The dramatic increase in the use of ad blocking software should lead to digital media to an urgent review of its business and ads strategies

Manuel M. Almeida
Sep 2, 2015 · 5 min read

by Manuel M. Almeida

The media, both traditional and digital, whether ‘migrated’ or ‘native’, have a serious problem. A problem called ‘advertising’, the cornerstone of the sustainability of business models based on information.

Traditional because its progressive, but inexorably sinking due to the consolidation of Internet and mobile; and with that, its ability to attract advertising investment.

Digital because, despite the increase in investment from agencies and companies, their profitability is far from the one obtained in analog media. Something that is particularly evident in ‘migrated’ platforms –traditional with web an /or mobile versions–, hampering its commitment to innovation. But that also affects, in varying degrees, to the ‘natives’.

Among the ‘natives’ we can distinguish in turn between self-produced media (agencies, newspapers, news portals, blogs …) and third party production media (aggregators, social networks, search engines …). All are affected by the low profitability of digital advertising, although the latter have an advantage, usually, due to its global nature and its millionaires records of active users.

Interestingly the fact that the greater audience a media channel has, the lower profitability it gets. In fact, the yield is lower on the Web than in newspapers or television, while lower on mobile devices than on the Web.

Given this dysfunction, the tendency has been to bet on the quantity in an impossible attempt of match the benefits of traditional market. And when we talk about quantity, we also talk about aggressiveness and invasive practice, which has not helped so much. I mean, let’s be clear, it has significantly harmed.

We are facing a real vicious circle of suicidal nature: little profit → increase advertising → little profit → fill up the sites with any kind of ads → little profit → attack users by land, sea and air → little profit…

Big mistake. Web 2.0 user always has an ace up its sleeve: the power that technological advances give him. And that power, in the present case, comes from the hand of the software and is called ‘ad blocking‘. Programs and browser extensions that block online advertising content –not just annoying, but heavy and resources-eater– and now, of ‘official’ way, on mobile devices, after the innovations introduced by Apple in Safari with iOS 9.

Global ad blocking growth 2010–2015

In this dead-end street, the survival of media platforms, and the advertising market itself, becomes very difficult. They have not stopped looking for alternative ways: paywalls, pay per article, freemium, subscriptions, crowdfunding, partners, users-shareholders… But without advertising, accounts don’t balance.

Is ad blocking the final blow of media and advertising business itself? Not necessarily.

Yes, it will if the sector insists in clinging stubbornly to their model and take refuge in legal battles or governments support –such as has been done in other cases of unfortunate effect –. In fact, just a few months ago a German court has recognized that no one can force anyone to see advertising, especially if it is annoying.

But if common sense prevails and the media opt to change their strategies, then there would be some hope. At the end, that suicidal cycle previously alluded has shown not only doesn’t serve too much but, with the significant increase i the use of ad blocking software, probably end up going nowhere, nowhere but to destroy any business opportunity.

A non-invasive, ethical and respectful advertising not only will turn necessarily into a decrease in the use of ad blocking, but would transform those media that are now questioned its business model due to abuses in friendly and attractive spaces to readers. That is, in an conducive environment to the advertising investment.

Indeed, most of the ad blocking software allows be selective. That is, they allow users to decide in which pages applies the block and in which not. Some of them even establish criteria of ‘acceptable‘ ads that websites can subscribe if they want to avoid the block. Meaning that those sites that offer a friendly environment most likely will get the reward of visibility, that is effective advertising, thereby obtaining a competitive advantage.

On the other hand, the user has proved, with undeniable patience, his willingness to accept some advertising. And it is rightly so, as this helps to maintain the media and journalists that provide information, avoiding ultimately temptations of bad practices such as data traffic or sponsored articles (passing by journalistic information something that is nothing more than advertising promotion).

Personally, I never block those whom I often visit, sympathize or know they have a hard time surviving. In general, they are new media, new journalistic challenges, incidentally they are also usually whom least intrusive advertising offer.

Thus, rather than a threat to the future of information business and Web and mobility communication, ad blocking may well be considered a touchstone, an ultimatum, a warning. And, ultimately, a reference for agencies and advertisers in detecting web friendly environments to ensure the visibility of advertising investment.

The outlook for the survival of the media in the digital age is, in any case, complicated and on the horizon no definitive solutions are emerging. But if anything is clear in this whole revolution in which we are immersed it is that any initiative, any business that intends to prosper must have the person, the user, in the center of their cares.

I’m not saying that this will save the media and the advertising market, but what I can say is that, contrary to the prevailing model, at least not going to destroy them. In other words: the commitment to a limited and respectful advertising may not be the final solution, but I have no doubt that would be an excellent start.

Ver el post original en español

Manuel M. Almeida

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Writer, journalist, blogger ->

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