Ad Blocking – What Publishers Need to Know in 2020

If you’re a publisher, there’s no way you haven’t heard of Ad Block before. But in today’s world of digital publishing, you can’t talk about ad blockers without mentioning user experience as well. It’s no coincidence that Google has been going hard on poor UX but rather a response to the real risks to the industry, revealed by the introduction of ad-blocking tools.

Why do people use ad blockers?

Studies have shown an ever-increasing number of people using ad-blocking tools over the years. The main reasons for that tend to vary slightly but in general, it always comes down to these 3:

  1. Intrusive ads and/or poor ad quality
  2. Huge loading times
  3. Security concerns

These may seem quite different from each other but they’re actually related to the same issue on the publisher side – a bad ad strategy, placement, and implementation. In most cases, if a website has a balanced amount of high-quality ads, delivered in the right way, nobody would ever raise an eyebrow. However, a large number of publishers are choosing to abandon user experience and throw anything they can onto their website for the sake of quick profits.

As a result, more and more users have started getting tired of these cut-throat tactics and the use of ad blockers has been on the rise consistently.

The real problem with blocking ads

The real problem with ad-block

All of us would like to have a better user experience without intrusive ads or security leaks. That’s especially true for publishers, as browsing the web is such an integral part of their lives. The problem is that ad blocking tools don’t just get rid of nuisances, but also cause a lot of collateral damage.

An ad blocker treats user-friendly ads exactly the same as the disruptive ones. When enabled, the default setting is to stop all outgoing ad server requests, across the entire browser.

A user may have installed an adblocker because of one particular negative experience, but as a consequence, they’re also blocking all other ads they would have otherwise been ok with. This creates an effect where publishers providing a great user experience often suffer because of the poor choices of others.

It sounds like cheating…

…and in a way it is. However, there are no existing laws against using ad block tools. At the same time, whether or not it’s ethical is still up for debate.

The digital publishing industry has always worked on the ‘quid-pro-quo’ principle. The users get some free content, and in return, publishers get to show them ads. However, neither party has ever had a strict obligation to deliver on their end.

You could say that at some point publishers started abusing the system and the birth of ad blockers is an expected pushback. But ad blocking doesn’t just affect publishers but also the users themselves. Lower ad revenue ultimately means less content and worse quality. Unfortunately, that’s a fact which most people rarely think about.

If we hope for anything to change, publishers and advertisers need to accept collective responsibility and adopt new practices, driven by user experience and ad quality. The Coalition for Better Ads is already making huge leaps in this direction, setting standards across some of the largest platforms in the business.  Hopefully, this will set the tone for others to double down on the user experience as well.

Great User Experience

What can you do about your ad-blocked traffic?

Although there’s no easy fix for this issue, there are several things you can do to mitigate your losses. In the end, it all depends on how many of your users are actually using ad blocking tools. Audiences are always different, so there’s no universal way to tell if you should be taking action.

1. Measure your ad-blocked traffic

There are plenty of services for detecting the number of users with ad block enabled, but our best recommendation is Blockthrough. It’s accurate, easy to implement and you can test the ad block analytics module for free. We’re partnered with Blockthrough ourselves and have found it extremely beneficial for our clients.

Block Through Ad Block Analytics
Blockthrough – Ad block analytics and monetization
2. Monetize blocked impressions

Should you find out you have a lot of ad-blocked traffic, don’t panic just yet. There are solutions out there that allow you to monetize such impressions by displaying only brand-safe ads that won’t have a negative impact on user experience.

Not all publishers should pursue such a solution. However, if it turns out you are losing a significant amount of money due to ad blocking, we recommend (once more) Blockthrough! That’s right, they don’t just provide insights, but also help you monetize impressions you’d be losing to ad blockers. The best part is that they monetize your traffic through Prebid, using your existing Header Bidding partners.

You can check out their Adblock Revenue Recovery Estimator  if you’ve already measured your ad-blocked traffic and would like to get an estimate on how much more revenue you would be making.

3. Ask nicely

Your loyal visitors will probably not be all that annoyed if they see an ad or two if it won’t affect their overall experience. It may sound optimistic, but simply asking them to turn off ad block for your domain can be surprisingly effective.  Some publishers have chosen to completely block their content until all ad blocking extensions have been disabled, but that’s usually not a good idea as you may lose a big chunk of your audience.

4. Introduce a subscription model

Asking your audience to pay for content is definitely counter-intuitive, but it really depends on what you can provide in return.  One thing that we’ve learned from platforms like Patreon and Twitch is that users don’t mind paying, as long as you can bring real value to them.

Another way of going about it is to simply allow ad-free blocking against a small monthly fee. This method is extremely popular with online tool websites and ones that already require some sort of registration.