Among other things, 2015 could have been labeled the “Year of the War on Ad Blockers.” The rise in ad blocker use has been well-documented, as has the response from brands that need to find ways to attract customers in an increasingly digital world.
Nowhere is this truer than in the news media, where even the most respected news institutions are losing print subscribers and scrambling to find ways to stay afloat. Now, the New York Times is considering banning the use of ad blockers on its website.
Mark Thompson, CEO of the Times, said that “trying to use and get benefit of the Times’ journalism without making any contribution to how it’s paid is not good. Everything we do should be worth paying for. Everything should feel like it’s HBO rather than a broadcast network.”
This is an interesting quote because yes, Thompson doesn’t mince any words in regard to ad blockers, but it also serves as a sort of reaffirmation of the New York Times’ mission. Comparing the Times to a premium television service like HBO makes for a relatable comparison for the general public, and makes the decision to ban ad blockers appear to be more sensible.
Importance of digital marketing for newspapers
It’s unclear exactly when or even if the New York Times will ban ad blockers. Right now, Thompson says he is mostly considering banning ad blockers for readers who are not subscribers.
Digital advertising is more important than ever before for these traditional sources of journalism. In the fourth quarter of 2015, the Times experienced a 7 percent decline in print advertising revenue, but also saw an 8 percent increase in digital advertising revenue. Right now, the Times’ advertising strategy is moving away from traditional display ads and toward branded content, which Thompson sees as a better way of engaging readers.
The Times also gained 53,000 net digital subscribers during the fourth quarter of 2015, and now has almost 1.1 million digital-only paid subscribers total. Revenue from digital-only subscriptions in 2015 was $193 million, which represented a 14 percent increase from 2014.
Clearly, the New York Times is succeeding in growing its online subscriber base. By potentially banning ad blockers for non-subscribers, the media outlet is hoping to see an even greater uptick in subscribers as move further into 2016.