How publishers can do
an end around ad blockers

By Michal Holland
Bulletin Correspondent

A sudden surge of people using online and mobile ad blockers has caused newspaper publishers to take notice of this problematic trend for their advertising revenue.

Peter Marsh, vice president of marketing for NEWCYCLE Solutions, presented “Thinking outside the block: Strategies to combat ad blocking” on Friday, Feb. 19, at the New England Newspaper and Press Association winter convention in the Boston Park Plaza Hotel.

Marsh told a group of about 10 people that media companies need to rethink their approach to Web and mobile advertising as a way to cut down on the number of people using ad-blocking programs.

His presentation covered why people choose to install ad blockers, the type of ad blockers they use, and what type of advertising works for readers.

“Ad blockers wouldn’t be necessary if ads weren’t so intrusive,” said Marsh, who has worked in media and advertising for more than 30 years.

Marsh framed the discussion around four questions:

• Why do people block online ads?
• Why do you think your readers block online ads?”
• What’s not working?
• What’s working today?

Marsh said NEWSCYCLE asked its 750 media-company customers to distribute a survey asking their readers to review a list of alternatives to ad blockers, such as having no ads if the user pays for a subscription to a site: accepting ads if they were personalized or targeted for the user; and accepting native advertising if the sponsored content is relevant to the page the user is reading.

Most readers said they would accept relevant native advertising as an alternative to ad blocking, Marsh said.

“If you served up native advertisement content that has quantity and is relevant to the news that I’m reading, I then find it acceptable and I would not try to block that content,” he said.

Marsh used screen shots of advertisements from several news websites, including, to show how distracting banner ads can be for readers trying to read a story.

“You get all of these banner ads that obscure above the fold and on top of the screen,” Marsh said.

Mobile advertising is important because 40 percent of people receive their news from mobile devices, Marsh said.

People use ad blockers to avoid slow-loading screens. According to the NEWSCYCLE survey, 47 percent of readers surveyed use an ad blocker because Web and mobile page load times are faster when ads don’t pop up, he said.

According to the survey, the most popular ad blockers were Google Ad Blocker, Apple Safari’s built-in ad blocker, and Adblock Plus, Marsh said. Some Web browsers and operating systems come with built-in ad-blocking programs.

Although ad blockers are a good way to keep ads from appearing, advertisers have found ways to get around ad blockers. Ad blockers don’t see so-called “content discovery platforms” because they’re not labeled.

Marsh mentioned ways publishers have found to advertise that work for readers, including good native advertising; an ad-free subscription model; and a whitelisting compromise.

Marsh said good native advertising is transparent, relevant and credible, and includes good content and marketing value.

There is also an ad-free subscription model, a premium membership in which users pay a certain amount to get browser content without ads.

Marsh also discussed the whitelisting compromise. He said the compromise is that an ad placed above the fold must not occupy more than 15 percent of the visible portion of the Web page. If an ad is below the fold, it must not occupy in total more than 25 percent of the visible portion of the Web page.

If the criteria are met, those ads will then be whitelisted and ad blockers will not block them.

“Nobody has the magic answer at all on how to solve ad blocking,” Marsh said.

NEWSCYCLE, based in Bloomington, Minn., works with media companies on software, news content management, advertising, circulation, audience, and analytics.

‘Nobody has the magic answer at all on how to solve ad blocking.’

— Peter Marsh

Michal Holland is a graduate student in the Northeastern University School of Journalism.


POSTED 3/31/16


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