Making Money From News in the Age of Ad Blocking

News publishing in the UK seems like a volatile place to be right now. As the Independent is forced to give up its print edition, Trinity Mirror sees an opening and launches New Day. Meanwhile the Guardian has just announced big cuts, together with a relaunch of a struggling subscription package and a new ‘focus on branded content, video, and data’ (see UK Business Insider).

Business Insider reported from the Shift 2016 conference last week, where The Sun’s editor, Tony Gallagher, and Katharine Viner, editor of the Guardian agreed that advertising alone can no longer support the news industry.

Both publications are diversifying into new areas of revenue generation. Business Insider says the Sun for example is already making money from Dream Team Football and has plans to become bookmakers as they launch Sun Bets later this year.

A crumbling relationship between news, it’s audience and the advertising industry may not be the only difficulty to overcome in a changing media landscape, but understanding the evolving dynamics in this area must be one of the ways to keeping afloat in a digital news market.

Emily Bell has written an interesting article for the Guardian, in which she carefully describes the oppositional forces at play throughout the ad blocking debate.

The culture secretary John Whittingdale recently described ad blocking as similar to a “protection racket”. However, Bell questions whether it’s reasonable to expect consumers who are bored by irrelevant and annoying adverts (and unwilling to pay for the extra mobile data required to support them and their hidden tracking codes) to turn off their blockers. She argues for a wider discussion about how we pay for news.

As the ‘discussion’ continues, technology ploughs onwards. Mobile network 3 have just announced a Europe wide deal with Shine Technologies which will see adblocking implemented across their UK and Italian networks. Ad Blocking has up until now been less of an obstacle for publishers on mobile platforms, so this news will perhaps be a blow to the marketers.

James Cridland however, questions how effective Ad Blocking can be on mobile. According to his research 75% of mobile use is through wifi rather than across the mobile network, negating any network blockers. And he also points out that much of the news which is consumed on mobile is done through host apps like Facebook and it seems unlikely that adblockers will be able to turn off the integral advertising of the big platforms.

DigiDay reports a hardening approach to ad blocking from some publishers as they deny access to viewers using ad blocking software. Ad Age thinks publishers are turning to the distribution platforms and are;

Increasingly coming around to the idea of a distributed future…giving away articles on platforms like Apple News, Facebook and Flipboard, hoping to make money by selling ads against them there instead of just linking back to their own sites’.

So the discussion about how news might continue to draw an income from advertising rumbles on, but before finishing (for now), let’s return to Emily Bell for a parting shot;

‘And a point for publishers to remember could be this: if your business model is totally reliant on something your readers and viewers abhor, then it might be time to think about the sagacity of dismantling it, rather than getting John Whittingdale to protect it’.