The Guardian says we’re approaching an “advertising tipping point in 2016,” when internet advertising revenues will eclipse TV ad revenues for the first time. Even if the projection proves true, many media outlets are still struggling to monetize their digital content effectively. Although most consumers spend hours a day browsing online content using smartphones, tablets, apps, and computers, digital advertising revenue isn’t as profitable as traditional advertising formats.
And to add insult to injury, more and more people are enabling ad-blocking software on their smartphones and laptops. Ad-blocking software prevents pay per click banner ads, video ads, and pop-ups from appearing on users’ screens. Now, some media outlets, especially print-born outlets adapting to the digital landscape, are pushing back.
The dilemma for media outlets is this: people spend ridiculous amount of time consuming online content, but the overwhelming majority of those consumers refuse to pay for any of it. Most experiments with paywalls and subscriptions have failed miserably, as users can find similar content with a few clicks. That’s why The Washington Post recently began testing an ad-blocker blocker. When readers with ad-blocking software enabled tried to click on the newspaper’s coverage of newly discovered human ancestor Homo naledi, they instead saw a screen prompting them to turn off their software or purchase a subscription.
“We’re doing a very short test as we often do on the site to see how we can further engage readers who might be using ad blockers,” a spokeswoman for the newspaper said. “Many people already receive our journalism for free online, and in the long run, without income via subscriptions or advertising, we won’t be able to deliver the journalism that people coming to our site expect from us.”
But will such approaches work? Big-name media outlets like the Wall Street Journal have successfully limited access to paying customers, while other outlets are desperately trying to tap new wellsprings of revenue.
So far, CBS and Hulu have also started restricting users with ad blockers.