“Your 10-year free trial is over” is how one wag famously described the internet when news publishers started putting their sites behind paywalls a few years back.
And now, with the advent of adblocking software, content publishers who rely on click-through revenues from their banner ads are going to need to find lost revenues elsewhere.
It’s been estimated that adblocking software has meant the loss of over $A30 billion worth of global advertising so far in 2015 alone.
However, in one of the more delicious ironies of adblocking technology, one of the main players – Adblock Plus – has started advertising its products via ad pop-up notifications on its Chrome browser extension.
The biggest argument in favour of adblocking is that ads – particularly ones with videos to smartphones – take too long to load, are chewing people’s data and are rarely watched anyway. Unsurprisingly, a new report by tech firm Page Fair claimed that the software had grown by 41 per cent year on year.
Apple’s new iPhone 6 even comes complete with adblocking software which, as tech expert Professor John Naughton wrote in a recent column in the The Guardian, means: “The real significance of the Apple development is that it puts the weight of a giant company behind the idea of content-blocking, which means that the use of ad-blocking software is likely to accelerate.”
As Naughton states, there aren’t a whole heap of content/news websites that are hugely profitable. The big news sites owned by the big media companies can probably buffer the effects of adblocking via paywalls, but it will probably make a lot of smaller sites unprofitable (and even unpublishable).
“Pervasive ad-blocking will dramatically undermine the predominant business model of the ‘free’ web, which is that the price of freedom is exposure to ads. Without those ads, online publishers will have to find a new business model or go under. And currently, there are not that many alternative models out there,” he wrote.
Naughton too subscribes to the “your free trial is over” theory and believes that what adblocking will do is force publishers of websites to develop sustainable business models for the web rather than simply rely on ads; and, yes, that probably means paying more to use the internet and view the content (in whatever guise that eventually takes).
The opportunity, many argue, is that the traditional ad model will fall by the wayside and be replaced by a content marketing model of influencers and bespoke audiences.
Daniel Paronetto, from social media upstart FanFuel, said customers were getting bombarded with ads, so the real opportunity was for the brands that offered something different.
“When we unlock our phones we’re not looking for ads, we’re looking to be inspired, to be entertained, to have a laugh. We’re looking for stories, and those stories are being told on social media,” Mr Paronetto recently told Fairfax Media. “The best people telling these stories are influencers, and an influencer can be an actor, actress, model and we at FanFuel work with athletes.”
Aussie radio personality and owner of social media company Tribe, Jules Lund, has long advocated the marketing power of online bloggers who are attracting huge followings.
“Naturally, brands and marketers are going to start to integrate their marketing messages within content that can’t be blocked. They’ll be collaborating with creators,” Mr Lund also told Fairfax.