Ad Blocking and the Uncertain Future of Publishing

For centuries, the publishing industry had operated its advertising business as though the purpose was to find the most intrusive ways to put a client’s advertising message in front of an audience. When the Internet started to become a primary source of information for people around the world and publishers started to move to the digital platform, they continued their intrusive advertising ideas with screen blocks, auto-play videos, pop-ups and anything else that forced consumers to watch a commercial so the publisher could make money.

In 2014, Apple announced that iOS9 would be the newest upgrade to Apple’s newest mobile operating system, and iOS9 would allow consumers to load ad blockers onto their Safari browsers. According to, anywhere from five to 25 percent of users have taken up the offer to load ad blockers, and the growing popularity of ad blockers has become a problem for publishers all around the world.

RELATED: What to Know About Apple’s New Mobile Ad-Blocking

Giving The People What They Want

Ad blockers have shown publishers that intrusive advertising is not appreciated. Consumers do like to browse the type of native advertising that goes with job advertising, which is why so many job boards have started to adopt native advertising techniques. But, by and large, consumers do not like auto-play videos, pop-ups, screen blocks and all of the other intrusive techniques that advertisers have used for a long time to deliver an advertising message.

Job board ads are great examples of how to properly present an ad on a website, because those ads always move with the flow of the content. If native ads on job boards are becoming more popular, then it makes sense that advertising that works more in line with the website’s content is what appeals to users. It may be time for advertisers to go back to their data and determine exactly what type of advertising consumers are willing to read, instead of trying to force advertising onto consumers that will only get blocked.

Mobile Makes The Problem Worse

On a desktop website, many ads in the page borders get past ad blockers. Native advertising that is designed to flow with the content, such as the job ads that were mentioned previously, also get past ad blockers. On a desktop, there is plenty of room to offer native advertising and put up some display ads that consumers will see. But the rise of mobile computing is starting to complicate things for publishers, and it is costing publishers millions of dollars in advertising revenue.

There are no screen borders for display or text ads on smaller mobile screens, and native advertising on mobile devices is still in its experimental phases. That means that an ad blocker on a mobile device is going to prevent the consumer from seeing almost all of the prospective advertising that the publisher has set up, and this growing problem is causing a lot of concern among publishers.

Pay Walls And The Future Of Online Advertising

According to, Millennials absolutely refuse to pay for online content. That means that advertising, in some form, is going to survive in the long-term. The problem is that many of these same Millennials are loading ad blockers onto their smartphones and taking away the revenue that publishers need to stay in business.

For the more established publications, paywalls and online subscriptions have proven to be effective ways at bringing in extra online revenue. When the Wall Street Journal puts a price on its content, people are willing to pay for it. But paywalls cannot be the solution for every online publisher because, as was mentioned, people simply do not want to pay for online content. The balance that publishers must find between offering premium or subscription content and trying to survive only on advertising is a delicate one that is still being explored.

Entertaining And Informing The Client Could Be The Answer

People who are looking for a job will search out job ads and read the native advertising that appears on job boards. So it can be concluded that people will seek out advertising that offers valuable information to them and can benefit them in some way. The problem is that most advertising is there to sell a product, and people may or may not derive value from that information depending on their situation.

When the Super Bowl ads are released online after the game is over, millions of people will immediately go online and start watching commercials. While this idea is not something new to publishers, it has taken on a new importance as the idea of entertaining an audience to get them to consumer advertising is becoming more important. Why do people seek out Super Bowl ads and watch them in droves? If the information an advertiser is not critical (such as a job ad to a job hunter), then it appears that entertainment may be the way that advertisers can get consumers to take in the advertising and react to it.

Many advertisers agree that finding ways to get around ad blockers defeats the lessons that they teach. Consumers are avoiding a large segment of advertising for a variety of reasons, and publishers need to understand those reasons so that they can create advertising that appeals to the masses and drives revenue.

What Should Publishers Do Now

The future of publishing depends on finding ways to generate advertising revenue. Ad blockers pose the most significant challenge to revenue generation that the publishing industry has ever seen. As ad blockers become more popular, more platforms are forced to allow ad blockers to appeal to the masses. Publishers need to continue to analyze their data and find out what types of advertising consumers are clicking on, and then do whatever they can to advance that type of advertising process. If intrusive advertising no longer works, then it needs to be replaced by a more effective type of marketing if publishing is going to survive.

Given that publisher’s need to find new ways of generating advertising revenue, should your company look to alternative types of advertising that do not get caught up in ad blocking, such as recruitment advertising?

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