Let’s play the word association game. When you think of online ads, what’s the first word that comes to mind? Disruptive and downright annoying are some of the more pleasant words used by disgruntled internet surfers. The rest I’ll leave to your imagination.
Media publishers are suffering from the poor-quality ads they deliver. No matter how valuable and insightful your article may be, when readers are hit with “in-your-face” ads, they’re left with a bad taste in their mouths. It’s not rocket science: if you bombard loyal users and readers with ads, when what they want is an uninterrupted and enjoyable read, it’s unrealistic to expect recurring visits. People feel as though they are pushed into a corner, with no other choice but to download an ad-blocking software to fend off those pesky ads.
I myself am part of the 198 million people that surf the web using ad-blocking software. Up until now, ad-blocking has caused companies worldwide to lose almost $22 billion in advertising revenue. Moreover, ad-blocking has increased by 41% across the world, in the past year alone. These facts make brands tremble in their boots.
Besides the obvious fear, publishers are making a big noise and protesting the injustice of it all. From an objective standpoint, is it really fair that users can surf the web, read costly content for free, and install a third-party software to eliminate all the ads from the sites they use?
Publishers are not the only victims affected by the ad-blocking revolution. I’m a firm believer in the saying, “the best things in life are [and should be] free,” but for journalists and bloggers (myself included), ad revenues often make up our monthly paychecks. It’s a bittersweet dilemma: I use ad-blocking for personal web surfing, yet it’s hindering my payroll.
Enough with the venting. There’s no point in complaining about what is and what was. Publishers need to find and make use of new distribution and publishing models in order to get over this hump. If the music industry can recover from the whole free streaming drama, then advertisers can overcome ad blocking.
If you can’t beat them, join them…or at least find innovative counteractive solutions.
Native advertising helps brands and publishers overcome “banner blindness.” In other words, people may recognize these ad formats but can easily ignore them because they’re not intrusive.
Publishers have started to take advantage of native ads with interactive content, in the form of online quizzes, polls, or infographics.
It’s a remarkable way to engage users and move attention towards your ad. These types of ads can be tailored to match the content of the site. In this way, they come across as natural, and they enhance a user’s experience instead of disrupting it. Take, for example, when Huffington Post embedded an interactive quiz into their article “Pope Francis Quiz: 19 Questions To Test Your Knowledge,” powered by Apester’s digital platform.
If fellow publishers follow in suit, they’d be able to get over the ad-blocking problem that brands and publishers are now enduring.
Engaging Social Content
Social marketers can combat the effects of ad-blocking by creating engaging social content and investing heavily in their social channels.
The whole premise of social is that it activates a true 1:1 conversation with customers.
– Sameer Kazi, CEO of Simply Measured
Social marketing is the most effective avenue for true connection with customers and prospective customers, especially if your publication or brand is suffering from ad-blockers. With a strong social following, and a reputation for continuously delivering relevant and helpful content on social, you’ll be able to recoup some of those lost eyes — and retain or regain audience trust.
Your brand’s social following also opens the door for a whole new understanding of what your audience is attracted to and repelled by via regular social audience analysis. This audience analysis can, in fact, inform how and where you choose to advertise in the future.
In time, this engaged and loyal following will grow, pay for services, and ultimately counter your revenue losses. In other words, strong social media content can pose and replace ads themselves.
And behind door number 3…the harshest option. Publishers can refuse people from checking out their content if they have enabled an ad-blocker. Instead, they’ll find a message letting them know that, due to their ad-block software, they cannot view the page.
Although this may seem like a gleaming possibility, content-blocking will place your publication in a less favorable position with your audience and will damage relationships. People may choose to just give up on viewing your content and navigate away from your page.
In addition, this method won’t work if your content isn’t unique and can be found on other sites that won’t punish ad-blockers. Still, this isn’t to say it doesn’t always work. Wired, for example, restricts access to users with ad-blockers, asking readers to “whitelist” their site order to view Wired content. They also just announced in February that they’ll will be providing an ad-free version of their site, for which you have to pay a $1-per-week subscription.
Although this may feel like you’re admitting defeat and succumbing to their demands, it’s an option to take into account. According to the Financial Times, Google, Amazon, and Microsoft have paid AdBlock Plus to stop blocking ads on their sites. Sounds like hush money, but publishers then don’t have to worry about ads being blocked on their site.
It would be a shame, at the end of the day, if publications started going out of business because they refused to budge. The solutions I’ve suggested are only a taste of what’s out there — as a publisher, try not think of the ad-blocking revolution as a defeat, but rather an opportunity to up your marketing game.
Need some tips on how to up your social game and win back brand love — and eyes on your content? Download Simply Measured’s 4 Ways to Make Social a Critical Part of Your Marketing Strategy guide below.