A month-long experiment designed to uncover the best approach to tackling ad-blocking has been conducted by Sydney’s The Daily Telegraph.
It revealed up to 35 per cent of users across mobile and desktop platforms used ad-blockers, potentially costing the company millions of dollars annually in lost advertising revenue.
Android users were more likely to block ads on mobile that those running Apple’s mobile operating system IOS, the study found.
The Telegraph used different messaging to alert readers to the fact they were blocking ads, ranging from the polite to a more direct approach.
When a reader using ad blocking software was detected, the paper served a pop-up message that asked for the site to be white-listed.
If the reader complied, the ad-blocking software would be deactivated for dailytelegraph.com.au.
A second alternative sought a subscription from the reader, under which circumstances they would be permitted to continue to block ads.
Existing paid subscribers were exempt from the experiment.
An FAQ page explained to non-subscribed readers why advertising was vital to funding journalism and providing certain content for free.
According to a report released by anti ad-blocking company Fair Page in August 2015, ad blocking cost publishers an estimated $22 billion in 2015 and there are upwards of 198 million active users of the software.
Hugh Macdermott, News Corp Australia’s head of product management, digital consumer products, said the motivation behind The Daily Telegraph experiment was “to see what kind of messaging would potentially encourage users to change behaviour.”
News Corp is still crunching the results of what was a relatively small study, but the findings will help guide how it frames future responses to ad-blocking.
There are plans to run a broader trial that may explore any relationship between ad-blocking use and content consumption, engagement and subscriber numbers.
News Corp’s chief marketing officer Tony Phillips described the early results as positive.
He said ad-blocking was a reality all publishers had to confront. “There’s absolutely no point complaining about it,” he said. “Offence is our best defence, and our offence is outstanding journalism, fantastic content and people actually understanding the value of it and choosing to consume it.
“We continue to have a positive story when it comes to digital subscriptions sales. We’ve got terrific retention rates.”
He said ad-blocking was not an issue that was having a “dramatic impact on the business”.
A number of publishers, including The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Trinity Mirror and a coalition of French newspapers have experimented with barring readers who run ad-blockers, or asking them to white-list their sites.
Meanwhile, the Interactive Advertising Bureau in Australia has established a taskforce dedicated to the issue. It is expected to share the findings of its research and recommendations in the next few months.
Earlier this year, the IAB in the US released six tactics designed to help publishers approach ad-blocking and the World Association of Newspaper and News Publishers even held an ‘Ad-Blocking Action Day’.
Mr Phillips said the value-exchange of free or discounted content for ads was alive and well.
Ad-blocking software worked on the false assumption there was no value for consumers in advertising, which could be informative and entertaining, he said.
“(TV show) The Gruen Transfer is a perfect example of the fact that people are interested in advertising,” he said.
“A million people tune in watch The Gruen Transfer to watch people talking about ads. Imagine if you had an ad blocker on The Gruen Transfer. You wouldn’t have a show.”
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