In recent months the debate surrounding the use of ad blocking software by internet users has become a major point of debate online. In just the last few weeks and with the release of Apple’s iOS 9 with its support for mobile ad blocking apps, the debate has flared again.
Some voices claim that ad blocking is a boon for internet users and content consumers and damn the content producers who rely on intrusive advertising to pay their bills.
Others argue that users who block advertising on the sites they frequent are engaging in unethical action, consuming content without paying for that content to be produced and published.
What is clear is that as more internet users choose to block advertising on their desktop and mobile devices the business model that relies on display advertising to provide revenues is dying. It may not disappear this week or even this year, but it will disappear, and relatively soon.
And when it does, content producers and content consumers will need to face a new reality.
In a world where there are no display ads to be clicked or even generated, how will content creators and content publishers support their efforts?
And concurrently, in a world where publishers and providers cannot rely on display advertising to support their content creation efforts, will content consumers be able to find the depth and breadth of content they expect?
This post doesn’t set out to answer these questions, though they are important.
Instead, it takes a closer look at the potential effect of ad blocking software on the world of digital marketing. The question it seeks to answer is this: how will ad blocking technology will affect digital marketing?
And the argument we’ll make is quite simple: digital marketers and the brands they represent have a chance to win – and win big – if the trend towards ad blocking continues.
What Does Ad Blocking Software Do?
Let’s start by defining exactly what ad blocking software is, and what it does for those who install it.
Ad blocking…is removing or altering advertising content in a webpage. Advertising can exist in a variety of forms including pictures, animations, embedded audio and video, text, or pop-up windows and can employ autoplay of audio and video.
When a user installs an ad blocker their online experience generally improves. Absent the pop up ads, autoplaying videos, screaming audio, and intrusive display banners, the web reverts to a place where the content is front and center.
No distractions, no interruptions – just content.
And for the user, that’s a good thing.
Old and Busted: Display Advertising
For the content publishers, on the other hand, the user who visits their site while employing ad blocking software is a net cost to their business. Typically, a publisher can rely on advertising to provide some return on their investment in content. A single user might only return a few cents, or even a fraction of a cent, for each display advertisement that is generated. However, as the wave of visitors grows, the revenue grows, too.
Unless the users have an ad blocker installed, in which case the revenue generated by the user is zero.
And assuming the content cost the publisher something to produce, publish, and maintain, the net result is a loss.
So what is a publisher to do?
New Hotness: Content Marketing
Publishers and content creators need to attract eyeballs, and then convince the users attached to those eyeballs to pay for the content they consume.
In a world where display advertising is blocked and, let us assume, doesn’t return any significant revenue for publishers, there is only one way to attract those eyeballs.
Create better content.
And what is better content?
It’s content that targets a defined niche. It’s content that is useful for readers and viewers. It’s content that entertains and informs. It’s content that converts readers into buyers or, for sites that do not expressly sell a product or service outside of content, supporters, donators or contributors.
In other words, the solution to the problem of ad blocking software for content publishers is not a technological work-around, but rather a reassessment of the business model and a commitment to content marketing.
Nothing to Fear from Ad Blocking
For content creators, then, there is nothing to fear from ad blocking software – or at least there shouldn’t be if there is a strong content strategy underlying their online marketing strategy.
Good content gets shared.
Useful content is read, saved, and passed on.
Publishers and content creators who produce this content will earn both traffic and support from internet users, and the fact that they will generate revenue from something other than display advertising will not worry them.
Do you use an ad blocker? Or have you found a way for your content to cut through the advertising noise? Let us know your experiences on either side of the advertising coin in comments below.