Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Google expands distribution of tool to be used by publishers to deal with ad-blockers

Google has decided to expand distribution of a tool used by publishers to deal with those who use ad-blockers. The tool launched a year ago in the United States and a few other markets, is now expanding to 31 other countries in Europe and also Canada.
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The tool called Funding Choices, asks or requires users to turn off their ad blockers after seeing a given number of articles. Publishers have options. They can show a dismissible message, or one that requires those who use ad blockers to pay after they view a certain number of articles, block access until they turn off their ad blocker or pay for an ad-free experience through a program called Google Contributor.
Ad blockers
Ad blockers simply block ads or at least many ads on a website but some do much more. There are many different ad blockers, some free and some you purchase. A list and description of a number of ad blockers can be found at Toms Guide.
Most ad blockers will work on more than one browser. They take the form of an app that can be downloaded. They are available not just for desktops and laptops but mobile devices as well.
Ironically, Google itself has an ad blocker for its Chrome browser. It used to be a separate app but is now built in to the browser since February of this year. Verge describes the ad blocker as follows: "Chrome’s ad filtering is designed to weed out some of the web’s most annoying ads, and push website owners to stop using them. Google is not planning to wipe out all ads from Chrome, but it will be blocking all ads on sites that repeatedly violate standards set forth by the Coalition for Better Ads. Full page ads, ads with autoplaying sound and video, and flashing ads will be targeted by Chrome’s ad filtering, which will hopefully result in less of these annoying ads on the web by incentivizing sites to stop relying on them." Chrome can be downloaded free here.
Opera Browser, which I use, also has had a built in ad browser for some time. Some sites will not display if you have your ad blocker on. There is an icon on the screen which if you click it allows you to turn off the blocker for a particular site or whitelist the site. Most sites at present do not keep you from accessing a site if you are using the blocker but no doubt as more people use the blockers the number of sites requiring you to turn the blocker off to see them may increase. Opera also blocks notifications from displaying unless you give permission. Opera can be downloaded here.
Contributor and Funding Choices
Google takes a ten percent cut of the revenue that publishers collect through the ad-free experience Contributor.
In the US and Europe more than a hundred publishers are using Funding Choices including Popular Mechanics and Business Insider in the UK. The Missoulian and St. Louis Post-Dispatch are among US papers that are testing out Funding Choices.
Those using the tool find that ad-blocking rates are in the range of 25 to 35 percent but some are as high as 37 percent. According to Google publishers using Funding Choices see 16 percent of visitors allow ads on their sites but with some much higher. Publishers who make whitelisting a condition for viewing the site find that 22 percent whilelisted the site. If the publisher just asked to be whitelisted only 15 percent complied.
Not everyone was pleased with Funding Choices. One site found their whole site blocked, statistics not being updated, and ad blockers figuring out how get around the app. A Google rep said that many of the issues brought up have been addressed.
Publishers must meet standards to use Funding Choices
To use Funding Choices publishers have to meet the Coalition for Better Ads' standard. The Google Chrome ad filter enforces those standards in that it only blocks ads that do not comply. Some consider that Google is in fact dictating the rules of the web.
There is also a cost to using Contributor as ten percent of the revenue collected goes back to Google. Few publishers are able to get people to pay for online access.
Evaluation of Funding Choices
Daniel Hallac, the chief product officer of New York Media that has tested Funding Choices said: “The main pro is the ease of implementation. You can address the ad blocker problem with little effort. The con is that we don’t see a lot of people paying for an ad-free experience. That said, I really don’t have any point of comparison to know if we are doing better or worse than publishers who built their own solutions.”
There are a number of alternative ways to recoup money from ad blocker and monetize audiences. Rusty Coates a former CEO of the Local Media Consortium said: “It’s becoming a crowded field. With multiple options — and without a real champion for the effort at most companies — opportunities such as Funding Choices too often become No. 7 on a five-item to-do list."

Previously published in Digital Journal

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