With billions and billions of ad dollars going unearned by websites each year because of the increase use of ad-blocking technology, it’s no wonder that some publishers are fighting back. Last year, magazine giant Conde Nast started erecting virtual walls to prevent ad-block users from visiting some of its sites, and now the company is going to try to give these anti-ad readers the option of a monthly access model for Wired.com.
Conde’s existing ad-block roadblock does allow for visitors to pay $.50 for access on a per-story basis. But AdAge reports that, starting Feb. 16, Conde’s Wired.com — which was not part of the earlier paywall experiment — will offer four weeks of ad-free access. And rather than just have empty or grayed-out boxes where the ads will be, Wired will have… more content.
While most online content is “free,” those sites are generally funded from advertising revenue. Thus, contend the critics of ad-blocking technology, users who open a page without loading the ads are stealing.
But many proponents of ad-blocking argue that they wouldn’t try to avoid advertising if it weren’t so pervasive and intrusive. A magazine ad, no matter how clever, knows nothing about the person looking at it, transmits nothing back to the advertiser, doesn’t track the reader from magazine to magazine and then provide that data to a third-party broker who can use it to print up more-precisely targeted magazine ads. Online ads do all of these things, which a growing number of people consider to be an invasion of their privacy.
Additionally, online ads can be achingly poorly built into a site’s design. Sites sometimes pull from multiple ad networks, slowing down the load time for page — sometimes causing it to grind to a halt.
And then there’s pop-ups, pop-overs, autoplay audio and video ads, superheaders and overlaid footers that expand and contract while you’re just trying to read about some prime minister being smacked in the face by a flying sex toy.
In Oct. 2015, the online ad industry acknowledged that there are understandable reasons for people use ad-blockers and vowed to work toward a new more consumer-friendly standard. But the genie may be out of the bottle for many ad-block users, especially now that the technology is more widely available for smartphones, which had been the one remaining haven for publishers.
Wired’s head of operations tells AdAge that it’s time for content providers and readers to have a chat about the reality of the online publishing world: it ain’t free.
“I think people are ready to have that conversation in a straightforward way,” he explains.
In a note to readers, Wired notes that only 4% of large publishers deploy any sort of technology to combat ad-block users, because “the fear of alienating readers has outweighed the fear of losing revenue to ad blockers.”