Ad blocking is a reality: here’s how we tackled it

By Simon Perry | 25th Feb 2016

We (OnTheWight) were delighted to be selected as one of ten UK hyperlocal news sites to work with Nesta on their Destination Local project. The goal: To experiment, learn and spread the findings.

The four projects we chose were ones we felt were important not only to the future of our Isle of Wight News publication, but online news publishing in general.

We felt we couldn’t ignore ad-blocking, so it made it to our shortlist.

Of course nearly no-one in online publishing wants to publicly talk about ad-blockers, but as it’s an industry reality now, we’ve got to deal with it.

Any publication that pretends they’re not affected is just not being honest.

The tool

We went through a lengthy evaluation process to find the right solution for WordPress — there’s quite a few on offer.

We selected the Ad Blocking Detector plugin as we felt it was the most competent and well executed.

Full configuration was reasonably involved, but once done, it just runs itself.

Our approach

Knowing that we were going to do it, it was then all down to our approach.

We approached this from a Reader’s point of view (as we try to do in all occasions) — How would we like to be treated/spoken to?

Knowing our regular readers love us (Hurrah for them!) We realised that many might not have even considered the impact that adblocking might have.

What was pleasing to learn – Making readers aware that we need to earn an income to continue to bring them quality news coverage (something many of them might not have considered previously) appears to work.

Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 16.26.00

 

We’re not confrontational or saying ‘You don’t get to see anything until you unblock ads’ as some large publications have said.

We say,

”You seem to be using an AdBlocker.

Please Whitelist OnTheWight, so we can continue to bring you quality news coverage.

“Without income, we cannot survive.

“Thank you in advance.”

Providing a link off to a separate page detailing how to Whitelist all the major Ad blockers, we made it as painless as possible to support us.

Not wanting the message to be missed, we ran yellow txt on a bright red background. We’re not certain these colours are right, but it’s how we chose to trial it.

The message was part of it, but Connected to the desired outcome of this project — to not have our local advertisers’ ads blocked — we also updated our ad serving software and implemented a number of techniques to avoid our adverts being even noticed by Ad Blockers. It was complex and involved, but also achieved good results.

The results

So how did we get on?

~6% of people visiting the pages of OnTheWight were using ad blockers — significantly lower than the industry average.

Our gentle persuasion worked in getting ~10% of them to Whitelist us, so our ads were shown.

The growth of new people installing ad blockers is ~0.6%

Summary

In short, we’re winning.

Readers can see that they need to support their local news publication.

The percentage of readers whitelisting OnTheWight is significant – and as a bonus, they are increasing ad shows at a rate of nearly 20:1 vs ad-blocking growth.

The future

The plugin is highly competent, tacking the technical issues of ad-blocking well.

We have hit some issues with performance — slowing down the WordPress back-end, not what the readers experience. It’s possible that we’re an outlying use case — as we’ve got 26k+ articles and 130k+ readers’ comments — but we’re working with the plugin’s author and our hosting company to locate bottlenecks and try to optimise them.

Supporting others

Yes, we could just use this plugin and not pay for it, but we decided to donate money to the plugin author.

If you choose to use the same plugin (heck any plugin!), we’d encourage you to do the same.

This article was originally posted on Medium.

Homepage image accompanying this article is copyright thecrazyfilmgirl.

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