In “Will Ad-Blocking Millennials Destroy Online Publishing Or Save It?,” Forbes Staff Writer Gianni Mascioli discusses the loss of revenues attributable to the use of Internet browsing ad-blocking apps. He concludes that “a shift back to more exclusive, channel-specific and premium ad experiences may be exactly what publishers need to re-leverage some control.”
Regardless of the remedy, what we’re seeing is no different than offline behavior. Humans become accustomed to and willfully ignore certain types of advertising (e.g. 1,000 highway billboards along a daily commute). Unless there’s a specific call to action that is tracked, the advertisers (or their agencies) content themselves that the medium is building “brand awareness” or some other such nonsense.
It’s not just an issue for millennials. Consumers are simply jaded and tune out to information overload. When the tipping point is reached, nonconsensual marketing is going to get the boot first, whether it’s through ad-blocking browser plugins while surfing online content providers or simply changing the TV channel to avoid an irrelevant pitch.
To be sure, there are freebie seekers out there who take advantage of valuable content yet block the advertising that supports Internet publishers.
Even paid subscription services can be legally evaded in some cases in order to access content. For example, one can copy and paste the headline of a premium Wall Street Journal article into Google News search, click on a link, and read the entire article that would otherwise be available to you only as a subscriber.
Of course, that raises the issue of whether the person who performs such a search would ever pay for a subscription in the first place. If tracked, perhaps the stats would reveal that access to the content for free this way will induce a certain percentage to bite the bullet and pay for a subscription in order to save time. In other words, the “free” carrot through the search engines converts to an occasional sale that justifies having the carrot in the first place.
Yet it’s not the reader’s responsibility to ensure the profitability of an online publishing enterprise. This means that Internet content providers supported by advertising must adapt or perish.
Unfortunately, some of the adaptations tread into legally risky areas. These include advertorials that are not identified as such, fake news stories that are nothing more than glorified sales letters for particular products and services, and the like.
For advertisers who depend upon eyeballs reading their online pitches and taking action at an acceptable click-through rate (CTR), it’s a reminder that Internet advertising is just one medium for marketing. A sustainable business model requires multiple means of marketing and advertising to prospects offline and online.
In addition to abandoning cost-per-thousand (CPM) impressions in favor of cost-per-action (CPA) advertising, it’s time to find effective legal and ethical alternatives to the current methods of selling via online publishers that attract prospective customers.
Of course, whether you’re an Internet publisher or an advertiser, whatever course of action you propose to take should be run by your Internet lawyer to ensure you’re complying with applicable ecommerce and advertising laws.