Publishers must join forces to confront the risk to revenue posed by the rapid rise of ad blockers, the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) has urged.
The global news industry body has formed a new coalition with Digital Content Next (formerly the Online Publishers Association) to help address ad blocking.
The two organisations have called on publishers world-wide to participate in a program called Call to Think, which is designed to formulate guiding principles to shape an experience that users would enjoy on publishers’ sites.
Its goal is to improve the digital ad experience by creating new forms of online advertising that will encourage those using ad blockers to abandon the service.
Ad-blocking has been available for years but severity of the issue increased when Apple recently opened mobile Safari to ad-blocking plug-ins.
The move by Apple, seen by some commentators as a strategy to deny rival Google revenue from its advertising business units, has led to fears of a collapse of online display revenue, WAN-IFRA says in a statement.
“We need to articulate a proactive response, one that respects users and sustains media businesses,” said Vincent Peyrègne, chief executive of WAN-IFRA, which represents 18,000 newspapers, 15,000 online sites and more than 3000 companies in 120 countries.
“Everybody suddenly has a lot more freedom, and this freedom includes the freedom of consumers to reject forms of digital advertising.”
The initiative has set three priorities:
- Improve the overall ad experience for users without ad blockers;
- Encourage users with ad-blockers to agree to be served ads again; and
- Focus on mobile-ready ad opportunities that provide alternatives to display, such as branded content, in-stream ad formats, video and audio, and commerce.
The initiative is being co-ordinated by the Director of Global Advisory at WAN-IFRA, Ben Shaw. He said: “We need to actively engage our audiences about the link between advertising and quality journalism. We must find better ways to give readers better control over their ad experiences.”
Ad-blockers are used by 45 million users in the United States, and 198 million globally, a report by Adobe and PageFair claims. They estimate ad blockers will cost publishers US$21 billion in lost revenue in 2015.
The chief executive of Digital Content Next, Jason Kint, said: “Consumer privacy and user experience haven’t been given proper consideration.
“Now consumers are speaking up with software. The industry needs to clean up the user experience and provide more transparency and controls for consumers.
Call to Think emerged from a recent meeting organised by WAN-IFRA and hosted in London by the Financial Times and The Economist.
It included representatives from many of Europe’s top media companies: Axel Springer (Germany), the BBC (UK), Daily Mail Group (UK), The Daily Telegraph (UK), The Guardian (UK), The Irish Times (Ireland), JP/Politiken (Denmark), Mediahuis Connect (Belgium), RCS Media Group (Italy), Ringier Group (Switzerland), Stampen Group (Sweden), and Vocento (Spain), as well as delegates from Digital Content Next (USA), IAB UK, Mozilla and PageFair (Ireland).
Publishers can begin to address the issue by determining how much of traffic is currently blocking advertising. A simple way to do so is available with a custom event in Google Analytics, which can be found here.
A second meeting will be held on Monday October 5 in Hamburg, Germany, during WAN-IFRA’s World Publishing Expo 2015.
Local publishers can voice their opinion on how the issue might be tackled through a short ad-blocking survey.
For more information on ad-blocking read:
- Analysis of the issue and possible resolutions, by Brian Rock, head of Insights & Research
- Fascinating first-person piece by Marketing Director Charlie Murdoch, who downloaded an ad blocker and couldn’t believe what happened next.
- The perspective of Nic Hodges, Head of Commercial Innovations, News Corp Australia and Founder, Blonde3, who believes ad-blocking to be the most over-hyped internet event since Y2K