Ad Blocking Predicted to Cost U.S. Media Owners $12 Billion by 2020


It’s no wonder that major national newspapers and some dailies are taking a hard stance against readers who use ad blockers. They cost newspapers precious revenue, and the numbers keep getting worse. If the current climate continues, media owners in the U.S. alone could lose a staggering $12 billion by 2020. But users have their reasons for using ad blocking, and some of them are based on sound logic.

RELATED: How Jeff Bezos and The Washington Post are Countering Ad Blocking

No longer just a question of whether ads are inconvenient for readers, malware is now in the picture. Publishers are taking a major revenue hit as more and more ads fail to launch. But to reach a reasonable compromise, newspapers need to think about what makes users so ad-phobic.

Ad Blocking is Major Business

Companies that create ad-blocking software aren’t necessarily consumer advocates. Ad blocking is big business, even though many of them are free to use. And newspapers are obliged to comply with the recommendation of the day. With some companies, consumers can whitelist websites that they enjoy. And with others, there’s an up-vote or down-vote option that ranks the site.

Newspaper industry woes are counted as ad blocker successes. One such company, Optimal, lists numerous stories on their website about how ad blockers wipe out billions in newspaper revenue.

Optimal recommends that users pitch in a few dollars to help balance out the revenue losses from blocked ads. But on their “publishers” page, they state, “We will soon let publishers know how to claim the funds they are already accruing.” No word yet on whether any publisher has claimed any funds, nor how much they might amount to.

Who’s Behind Your Ads?

Users aren’t just standing up against annoying ads, they’re worried about malware. An ad at a well-known and respected publisher might not be safe, even if the publisher is a trusted, household name because the ad is from a partner. It’s not from the publisher itself. That’s the point that Optimal stresses.

With such a major financial threat lurking in the not-too-distant shadows, it might be time for publishers to reevaluate not just the effect of ad blockers on revenue but the malware risk that they’re asking readers to take.

In a recent Optimal survey, only 3.3 percent opt out because they “don’t want to harm content creators.” At the same time, nearly 40 percent don’t trust any entity with protecting their device. It appears to be more about protection than anything else.

At one time, ad blocking was primarily to rid the experience of annoying interruptions. But with increasingly sophisticated malware, you should also question how well you know your ad partners. Even Google isn’t immune, as 2014 marked a year when their DoubleClick ads left millions of computers exposed to malware, according to the Verge.

Ad revenue is a newspaper’s bread and butter, and ad blockers are a collateral attack. But before waging all-out war, it’s wise to learn more about why users want to block ads in the first place.

Newspaper revenue is a constant struggle that’s growing bigger and more sophisticated every year.

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