Ad-blockers ‘must face consequences’ from publishers, insists UK media executive

North_adblockingPublishers should take a harder line with ad-blockers and warn readers that their refusal to watch or see adverts risks damaging businesses, a global media gathering has been told.

Piers North, strategy director at UK firm Trinity Mirror, insisted there should be “consequences” for those who activate ad-blocking technology.

He urged publishers to take a more forthright approach and to value the content their journalists produce.

In many cases, the “value exchange” – readers being exposed to adverts in exchange for having access to a quality journalistic product – will be understood by ad-blockers, he said.

But North, speaking at the International News Media Association (INMA) congress in London, also warned the industry not to “panic” about ad-blocking, arguing that while it is an important issue that needs addressing, there are more pressing challenges.

“The idea that we are facing a catastrophe is overblown,” he said after claiming less than 2% of Trinity Mirror’s inventory is affected.

“It’s a good warning shot for our businesses but we should not over-panic. There are lots of challenges that we face and if we could get rid of them all ad-blocking would not be at the top.”

The remarks support those made earlier this year by Australian media agency executives who warned the impact of ad-blocking was being overstated in the local market.

The first thing media firms should do is “tough it out” and take the battle to ad-blockers, North said.

Consumers must understand there are consequences for their actions – just as there is for stealing a car.

“If consumers are not willing to pay then there has to be a way of funding content and ads have to be part of it,” he told delegates. “Users need to understand that fact. Ad-blockers block because they can, and there is no consequence for a user to ad-block right now.

“If there are no consequences to stealing a car we’d probably do it. But there is a moral and legal framework that prevents us from doing so.

“The reality is that you have to create some consequences for users. We have to explain to them that there needs to be a value exchange. We do need to tough it out and be confident.”

In the UK, Trinity Mirror, which publishes the Daily Mirror, Daily Record and a host of regional dailies, still attracts millions of visits even though consumers can visit the BBC for “an ad-free experience”, he said.

“You can visit the BBC and never see an ad in your life but people still choose to come to us,” North explained. “We need to understand that the stuff we do is valued by users rather than constantly thinking the world is against us.

“If you tell people about that value exchange, if you remind them they have an ad-blocker and that there is a transferable value, you will get rewarded. We need to be confident and take steps to remind users that what they doing has a detrimental effect on business.”

North’s comments followed those of Johnny Ryan, head of ecosystem at technology firm PageFair, who also stressed the problem was not as acute as often portrayed.


Ryan: The increasing number of ad-blockers is “like climate change – slow and steady”

He likened the increasing numbers of ad-blockers to climate change – slow and steady.

“You can get some scary figures about the growth of ad-blocking and it can look terrifying. But when you plot the trend line, it’s not growing exponentially,” he said.

“This is not the apocalypse. I don’t want to minimise how important it is, but it’s been over dramatised.”

He laid the blame for ad-blocking squarely at the door of publishers who, because of their “desperate need” for revenue, allowed advertisers to “run utterly and rampantly amok”.

The result was a “shouting match” between advertisers which created a poor experience for consumers who also felt brands were “snooping” on them.

“The goodwill from the audience declined,” he said.

North admitted publishers must be critical of themselves as many, the Trinity Mirror included, “pushed the boundaries quite far”.

It was up to the industry to “get its house in order” even if that meant turning away some revenue “which I know is very hard to do”, he said.


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