There have been long debates on the fate of print papers in the digital age. But we missed something vital. If consumers have the choice of blocking online ads, will digital advertising survive?
The argument goes like this: as modern society consumes information differently (digitally), news, and implicitly advertising, moves online. The business model is changing – the internet gave users unrestricted access to news and information which in turn put a lot of small papers out of business, while some moved all of their content online. Some newspapers will safeguard their precious content under a paywall but the rest will disseminate it for free and stay afloat from digital advertising revenues. This is old news.
But what happens when the digital advertising does not reach its target audience?
The Financial Times published a very insightful piece, this morning, on how adblockers are messing up a £120 billion online advertising industry.
An adblocker is an application which prevents advertising from appearing on webpages. According to a study by Adobe and PageFair, the number of people using ad blocking software rose 70% last year. Out of 2.8bn internet users worldwide, 144m use adblockers.
Media groups such as Google, who depend on advertising – and we’re talking billions of dollars’ worth of revenue, are up in arms over this. Publishers are equally unhappy and we discover that all big digital leaders have developed various ways of fighting adblockers including lawsuits, cash and software.
This is just the beginning of a long war between consumers - who feel empowered to use the internet as they wish, software developers who create adblockers, and publishers. My question is where does this leave PR? Hypothetically, if you pay for digital advertising which your target audience then blocks by using software like AdBlock Plus, what is your return on investment? Are adblockers a game changer?
With an increasingly empowered internet user, will advertising have the same value? This is just one of the very many examples of why advertising doesn’t work but it’s the latest and it can only escalate. As long as IT developers see these battles as exciting challenges and take them on with pride and determination, more products designed to improve user experience will arise. And improved user experience could mean targeted advertising or it could mean no advertising at all.
So if adblockers are killing advertising, does this present an opportunity for PR?