Use of ad-blocking software is booming, because consumers want better user experience. Improving advertising will help online publishers thrive.
Call it survival of the most intrusive. To monetize content, many website publishers accept advertising that distracts or disturbs readers.
That is what many people say who install ad-blocking software on their computers and mobile devices.
As the publication Digiday explains, ad blocking is problematic because “publishers don’t get paid for ads that don’t get served.”
Avoiding a Digital Obstacle Course
Ad blocking helps Internet users avoid minefields of unwanted information, including pulsing images and bizarre tabloid-style pseudo news. It also decreases page loading time, a major attraction for Internet users frustrated by pages opening slowly.
An increasing number of Internet users are tired of profuse advertising and concerned about tracking of their personal information. So they are resorting to ad-blocking software, much of which is free and thwarts advertising techniques, such as:
- Ads that complicate access to information on mobile websites
- Popup ads that annoy Internet users when they accidentally mouse over or click the ads
- Automated sales videos that turn on unexpectedly
- Confusing banners unrelated to page content yet inserted between paragraphs and
- Re-target ads following readers relentlessly — like a stalker — from one website to another.
When advertising turns websites into obstacle courses, visitors search elsewhere for information they need. This makes the website ineffective for the company it represents as well as visitors and advertisers.
But a peek into the past lends perspective about moderating digital ad blocking.
Comparing Print Past & Digital Present
The commanding position of advertising on web pages isn’t a new tradition. From the 19th through the early 20th century, ads dominated many newspaper front pages. Sometimes the ads were masked by appearing similar to news stories.
The Virginia Newspaper Project of the Library of Virginia compares this “tradition of disguise” to the nearly seamless blend of advertising and content on a digital front page of The New York Times.
Print newspapers long have supported publication through advertising more than subscription fees. The traditional ratio of content has been 30 percent news to 70 percent advertising.
As the Virginia Project notes, “[Y]ou can’t pursue civic virtues if you don’t make money.”
Historically, subscriptions have never been as effective as advertising for supporting publication of content. So to counter ad blocking, Digiday reports, some publishers are resorting to punitive measures such as preventing users who block ads from accessing their content or “encrypting ad server data making it much harder for ad blockers [the software] to target it.”
Until someone creates a better way to monetize content, business needs to seek common ground with consumers of Internet content by improving advertising quality.
Putting User Experience First
What’s good for the consumer may also be best for companies building brand through online content and others that piggyback on that content with advertising.
It is a waste of money if advertising is irrelevant to the consumers it targets. It’s also wasteful if the style and content of the advertising irritates consumers and drives them to other sites.
Digital marketing specialists, advertisers and companies producing content — whether to promote brand or to produce news — need to improve targeting, clean up ad formats so they look less spam-like, reduce advertising file sizes to speed up load times and practice frequency capping to limit the number of times a user sees an ad (a concept similar to the law of diminishing returns).
To thrive, publishers need to improve user experience and digital marketers need to help craft it.