The internet is at war. On one side, the major ad networks and the content houses that rely on ad revenue; on the other, the assembled forces of the internet and the latest adblocking software. The situation is desperate – according to a recent report by Juniper Research publishers stand to lose $27bn (£18.7bn) to adblocking by 2020.
Each side is locked in an arms race, congratulating their peers when one of them “stands up” for the cause – many marketers congratulated Forbes when they introduced their “Adblock blocker” splash page in 2015.
To any outsider, the situation in digital content marketing must seem absurd – in what other industry are businesses actively at war with their own audience?
Notice that I didn’t use the word “customers” – in a world of freely available content the real customers are the advertisers and readers are the assets being sold. Unfortunately, digital migrants such as Wired or Forbes are still stuck in the old print model where they expect to fence content off behind a price of entry, be it a subscription fee or compulsory ad views.
This was evident in Wired’s February 2016 edict, where they tried to shame adblockers,
“[…]more than 20 percent of the traffic to WIRED.com comes from a reader who is blocking our ads. We know that you come to our site primarily to read our content, but it’s important to be clear that advertising is how we keep WIRED going[…]”
Meanwhile, Forbes Media’s own Lewis Dvorkin seemed to resent a generation that’s grown up in a world where they could get content without paywalls.
On the backlash to the ad block test:
“Each insisted there must be another way around the issue. A new breed of journalist with youthful readers weaned on “free content” and the belief that ads can infect computers got caught up in the test’s social media crossfire.”
On how we got here:
“The road traveled by the media industry, especially publishers, ad agencies and marketers, to get us where we are is no surprise. First came so-called “Original Sin” — giving away digital content for free.”
However, most content isn’t unique and the way we (Millennials) consume content has changed; instead of picking up the same newspaper or visiting the same site we’re finding news through aggregators such as Google News, Twitter or Facebook’s trending feed. If one site keeps visitors out, they will simply go elsewhere and get the same information without the hassle.
For the most part, the subscription model is dead, and not even heavy hitting outlets can rely on reader loyalty trumping concerns about mobile data usage, malware, or the desire for smoother browsing. Instead of trying to move the tides of change publishers should be riding the wave.
Above all they need to understand this:
Millennials will not be moved or dictated to; the world is changing and it’s your job to keep up.
Page ads may be winning momentary victories right now, but the future will be defined by non-intrusive, legitimately interesting forms of advertising. We’ve moved beyond the one-size-fits-all approach of banner ads (no matter how targeted).
At Alcmy, we recognise this. Our Magazine site is optimised for an aesthetically pleasing user experience without page ads, and we opt to serve brands and earn revenue through creating engaging native content instead. We’ve opted to do things “the hard way” because we’re part of the generation that started using AdBlock when advertising went too far – we know there’s no going back.
It’s time to adapt to the new normal.