August 2, 2016  JoeyYoung

I understand why publishers all over the country are scared to death about ad blocking software and what it is doing to their bottom lines. I am also completely unconcerned, personally.

After 20 years of doing everything we could as an industry to build a presence online and sell advertising around content we gave away, it must be scary to hear that folks don’t want the annoying Flash ads that pop up randomly, the auto-play video ads, and the sort to clutter their already ADD filtered eyes while surfing the Internet. Honestly, I hate those things and most people do… including the ones selling them.

Study after study was already hurting what publishers could sell ads for online with CPM prices dropping regularly. Slowly, people were picking up on terms like “banner blindness,” “click bait,” and “click bots” and were adjusting how they were spending their dollars online anyway, but the advent of ad blocking software is quickening the pace of those dollars shifting, and publishers are panicking.

I just don’t understand why.

As an industry, most newspapers aren’t making more than five percent of their overall revenue selling digital ads. Why are we freaking out about something that we have thrown so many resources toward and still are only making, if we are lucky, five percent of overall revenue?

I see the advancement of ad blocking software as something that should be celebrated by publishers who still print something on paper. The fact is, we are starting to gain an advantage in the eyes of the advertiser again.

We still have loyal readers in print and online. We still have ad space that works and has been proven to. So instead of lamenting the loss of digital dollars, go out and sell more print ads with these studies and leverage your content online to make money there (more on that later).

Present to your local companies that research shows about 1/3 of the overall clicks on the Internet come from bots. Show them that ad blocking software is keeping their message from being heard online. Then show them that there is no such technology for your print product and that their message will be heard loud and clear by real people who pay for your paper and look forward to it.

Technology has disrupted all forms of advertising from television to radio to print. The difference between us and them is that we still have something you can’t get anywhere else: original content about one’s community.

That content is worth something, and we can sell it digitally (without ads) or in print and people will buy it.

Television has to worry about Netflix, Hulu, and the likes while millions are cutting the cord from cable. Radio has their own problems with Pandora and programs like it which take the music they play and make it more accessible. I have a friend in radio who is doing a great job navigating those waters with his own original content, but I feel his company is in the minority. Those industries are scrambling just like we are to find their way in the Internet era, but in many cases, they are left with fewer possibilities because of a lack of original content, something we aren’t lacking in at all.

Am I advocating a throw it away strategy with digital? Of course not, but I do think we need to start paying attention to what readers actually care about and treat digital like its own product and not a digital, carbon copy of our print editions.

Our strategy online, with our paid papers, has been simple thus far. A subscription service (“hard paywall” for those who like that term) that allows full-access to print, digital, and other perks with a subscription to our content.

We sell our advertising in print because it works and sell some digital to folks who want it, but it is almost always a supplement to what they are already doing in print.

This strategy, we believe, is built for the future and is fortified around what we do well, which is create great, original content people want to read. As far as I know, no one is planning on blocking that anytime soon.