Indrani Sen: Let us prepare for adblocking and anti-adblocking solutions

24 Oct,2016

By Indrani Sen


The foreword of the FICCI- KPMG Report on Indian Media and Entertainment (M&E) Industry, 2016 said “In 2015, we finally began on a journey that is expected to change the M&E industry in India. A host of changes – many of them already transforming the industry in other countries are gaining traction in India… This new wave of change is likely to fundamentally alter the way content is created, distributed, consumed and monetized in India.” Adblocking on websites is such a change agent which is yet to see high traction by users in India. However, in digitally matured countries it is changing the business economics of publishers and is also threatening to change the core of brand communication.


Earlier in this month, I read an interesting article which described how an adblocking firm’s new move to charge publishers to serve whitelisted ads has created a commotion in the industry.  Eyeo, owner of the adblocking tool Adblock Plus with a significant user base, was already charging publishers like Google, Microsoft and other publishers for getting on to their Acceptable Ads List. They have now created their own network offering to sell access to advertising which has created a controversy in the market place.


The above article prompted me to explore the anti-adblocking measures which are being used currently by publishers to save their digital ad revenue. According to Pagefair and Adobe Report quoted in, adblockers have grown at an astonishing rate, increasing from 20 million users in 2009 to 200 million in 2015. From Q2 of 2014 to Q2 of 2015, they grew by 41%, adding more than 50 million new users. Historically the problem was confined to desktop and laptops, but now it has spread into mobile users. Various researches done by publishers and other research organizations seem to indicate that native ads and sponsored articles have better chance of survival against the onslaught of adblockers than the standard ads. This article is a must0read for Indian publishers as it cites screenshots of publication websites before and after adblocking showing effectiveness of sponsored articles and native advertising.


In another article published earlier this year, Rhiannon Young criticised the anti-adblocking approach adopted by Forbes and prescribes other measures. Forbes does not allow their audience access to their content unless they turn off their adblocker or whitelist Forbes. Young suggested that instead of such a heavy-handed approach, publishers should try having a conversation with their audience, Pay wall/ Freemium model, work with an adblocking software and advertisers for creating acceptable ads, pay adblocking companies for whitelisting the publication, focus on native advertising and sponsored content. In response to Young,   Søren Fuhrjan suggested that publishers should move to a two-way communication with their audience instead of the current one-way (read-only) communication. This may create a hybrid publishing website which will be partially content-driven and partially social media-driven.


A rising crop of startup organisations, Pagefair, Source Point, Secret Media, Uponit, etc., have stated providing anti-adblocking solutions to publishers for protecting their most viable business model based on ad revenue. These organisations aim to provide ways for bypassing adblockers or tracking protection, but their business models are yet to stabilise. This could become a cat-and-mouse game with the adblockers coming up with technically superior versions which cannot be bypassed by the anti-adblocker tools.


By the time Indian publishers get their act together in digital publishing and its business economics, they will be simultaneously hit by a tsunami of adblocking tools along with anti-adblocking tools.  So, the publishers and the agencies need to prepare in advance for safe guarding their digital ad revenue stream. The advertisers need to learn about native advertising and researchers need to come up with special matrix to measure the effectiveness of such advertising. Finally, the industry needs to prepare ethical standards for sponsored content and native advertising.
Indrani Sen is a veteran media agency and marketing services professional. She is currently an Independent Consultant and Adjunct Professor, Media Management at Symbiosis Institute of Media & Communication, Pune. The views expressed here are her own. 

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