Adblockers can restrict invasive pop-up ads but what are the repercussions for online journalism?
This is a guest post by Lea Simpson, Strategy Director at digital agency TH_NK
Last year Google lost $887m (£550m) in advertising revenue because of ad blocking software -- that's a lot of noodle by anyone's count.
According to PageFair, which makes ad-blocking software, this current trajectory means that by 2018, pretty much everyone on the planet will have installed software that blocks ads. Its projections of an online advertising dystopia were corroborated by Eyeo, a similar business which has a stated install rate of 170,000 a day.
Cue shock and horror. Panicked pockets around the web asked: if the writers and creators can't get paid, they'll stop writing and creating. Could this be the final death toll of quality journalism online?
The final death toll of online journalism will be the lack of innovation around the commercial models that could sustain it.
People's love of good content is as old as cave painting, literally. In fact, people love content so much they naturally seek the path of least resistance to it. That means skipping past your ad exactly five seconds in and shutting down your pop-up before it's even begun to pop.
Advertisers, it's time to take a long hard look at yourselves. Here are three reflections in a black mirror:
First of all, as contexts diversify and attention spans shrink, the repetitive response of bigger and more bombastic ads perpetuates the problem: people are pushed towards the adblockers.
Secondly, advertising at its best practises the gentle art of arousal, piquing the interests of the potential punter, knowing there's a lag between that whetting of appetite and the actual decision to buy. Today, that slow seduction is being filled with stalker ads that shadow us around the web. Too often advertisers are letting digital tools strip down their worthy craft. Remember, just because you can, doesn't mean you should.
Thirdly, our every digital move is a scoured, scraped and scrutinised. Consumers are bucketed into neat segments full of so much data that the industry is bloated. But how has this insight been used? Has it evolved products or services? Has it taken interests into genuine account? Or have these insights been applied to making bigger, creepier ads? Yup, exactly.
Here's the horrible headline: the adblockers are more innovative than the advertising industry. It's time to break the cycle.
Digital consumption is only ever going to be commercially viable if it sets itself free from the inclination to mimic its analogue forbearers.
We need to blow up this inclination to mimic. That means not trying to be a magazine, newspaper or television channel online, but instead, reimagining a relationship between content and its fans in a digital world. Buying a magazine that's full of ads might have be the way it works in the analogue world, in digital, it's time to start asking different questions:
Could we Indiegogo a single piece of investigative journalism? What if, just what if, we could subscribe to an individual writer instead of a whole newspaper? Wouldn't it be interesting if magazines tried to be like airlines and created paywalls that charged less for people who wanted in first? What if reader reviews could push the price up or down? How might we create a birchbox of content? What about a social affiliates model for content that gives people a little kick back for recommending shows and articles and stuff to friends?
I don't believe that people want content for free necessarily, I believe they want it easily. And if there is payment to be made, it should feel fair, transparent, inclusive and, well, digital.
This is the most exciting challenge of our time, feels like the pop-ups are limiting our view.