Blocking "Adblock" is Proving Disastrous (e.g. Forbes)
With traditional media on the decline, news publishers are struggling to make up lost revenue from print advertising. Most have tried to soften the blow of decreased demand by translating their magazines and newspapers to digital form. However, due to harsh competition and expectations of free content from internet users, many are failing to fill the void left by traditional media sales.
Online publishers are forced to choose from two evils:
advertising or subscription, or face liquidation.
However, due to the sheer annoyance and bad reputation of internet advertising, including the nuisance of pop-ups, unsolicited malware downloads, fake close buttons, and auto-playing promotional videos, over 30% of active internet users utilise an AdBlock browser extension. Consequently, online publishers who utilise digital advertising (like Google's AdSense) are witnessing a drop in revenue and are struggling to produce quality content that can turn a profit. In an effort to recover lost revenue from 'invisible adverts', on Boxing day last year, Forbes decided to block all users of the AdBlock extension from accessing their website. The move was met with controversy by internet users, largely negative, who either vented their frustrations and vowed never to use the site again or attempted to find workarounds that would allow them to access it without altering the add-on. Whilst a slurry of Forbes articles (likely pumped out by the company's PR team) may state otherwise, the website has experienced harsh drops in monthly visitors since the Ad-wall's construction.
From the graphic presented above, following the implementation of the wall in late December, Forbes has experienced a steady decline in users, falling from the 170th most viewed website on the internet to the 240th. Whilst some could contend that the downward trend started in September of the same year, it's indeed common for websites (particularly news publications) to lose viewership in the months leading up to Christmas or particular family-orientated public holidays like Easter or Patriotic occasions. Why? I would guess that during such gatherings, people are generally too engrossed in their own affairs to pay attention to whats happening around them. Though, once the holiday is over, affected websites should experience upward growth. Unfortunately, Forbes didn't and instead viewership continued to decline even in the new year. Why? Internet users, once seeing the 'Ad-wall' simply pressed the back button and didn't bother to enter the site. and instead visit a competitor site that welcomes their presence.
After blocking visitors using AdBlock,
Forbes tumbled from the 170th most viewed website to the 240th.
Just four months after implementing the Ad-wall, Forbes lightened their policy, giving Adblock users the opportunity to login to the website (for free) rather than turning off their extension. A move which aims to increase Forbes' presence on social platforms (via social logins) and collect more detailed reader data; whilst simultaneously plugging the visitor hole. However, after being implemented in May, the alteration proved useless against a dwindling user-base which has continued to worsen in numbers to present day. Instead, the company's next move is likely to construct 'paywalls' and create subscriber-only content. However, whether this will be too little too late remains to be seen.
Forbes back-pedals but the website's future remains grim.