WHAT WILL AD BLOCKING COST US IN FREE CONTENT?

December 17, 2015 8:48 am | Thought provoking blogs |

stop sign round sticker previewAs a PR agency that’s been in business for 26 years, we’ve seen our fair share of changes in the sector over the past three decades and one of the greatest has been the shift to online content.

The thing about change is that it’s constant; which is why it’s no surprise that the business of creating, publishing and paying for content is still in a state of flux.

As a construction PR agency based in the north west we are used to paying for journalist content through subscriptions to high quality publications such as Construction News and Building Magazine but many consumers expect to access content for free online. There’s certainly plenty of it, but that may not always be the case.

The game changer is ad blocking software. Around 75% of the revenue generated by online publishers comes from digital advertising, replicating the traditional model of printed advertising paying for journalists to generate content for the remaining pages.

The problem is that people not only expect online content to be free, but they expect it to be instant and tailored to their search criteria. In order to remain free, however, content has been bogged down by ads that distract and irritate readers while slowing their browsing speeds and eating up their bandwidth.

Enter ad blocking software. Free to download and capable of getting rid of all those pesky ads so that you can enjoy whatever ad-free content you want for gratis. Brilliant!

But if everyone’s blocking the ads, the advertisers won’t spend and, if the advertisers don’t spend, who will pay for all that free content?

Many print publications have struggled to maintain sufficient ad revenues to support their costs so have moved online where overheads are lower and digital advertising returns are much more measurable. But the costs of generating good, credible content remain the same so, if an advertising-based business model is no longer viable for online publications due to ad blocking, what happens next?

Culturally, we’re not used to paying for online content; indeed, just six per cent of internet users in the UK currently pay for news. Ad blocking not only puts that free content in danger of moving to a subscription-based model, it also threatens the democratisation of shareable content by destroying the business model that has enabled a generation of would-be journalists to earn their living as bloggers and vloggers.

For us as a PR agency, pay-for-content approach that ensures the publication generates content that users will want to buy is potentially a good thing because it means they will consider the content we offer them entirely on merit rather than our clients’ advertising spend.

For journalists, publishers and anyone who accesses content online it means interesting times ahead and, no doubt, some innovative ideas on how to overcome the ad blockers and realign business models along the way.

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