Associated Press reporter Ryan Nakashima recently conducted an experiment during his Bay Area News Group fellowship to see if publishers should raise subscription prices on readers who visit their websites while using ad blockers.
The results from his test showed some promising insights into how modern publishing brands can (and should) work around ad blockers with metered paywalls.
Ad blockers: A major challenge for today’s biggest publishing brands
According to eMarketer, 30% of all internet users will be using ad blockers soon. Given that’s almost one-third of internet traffic, publishers simply can’t afford to ignore this group altogether — especially when using a metering model to grow subscriptions.
Based on our conversations with publishers in recent months, a frequent complaint is commonly used metering technologies don’t have the ability to understand who is running an ad blocker or have the flexibility to run multiple meters at once and move readers into the correct meter in real time.
3 ways to address the ad blocker problem with a metered paywall model
The Bay Area News Group study inspired me to expand on the ad blocker topic. Specifically, I wanted to answer a frequently asked question publishers come to me with:
When you’re running a metering model, how do you recognize and incentivize readers that block ads before they become subscribers — and how can a customer data platform help?
With that in mind, here are some metered paywall optimization ideas to help you out.
Option #1: Give ad-blocking readers no or limited views
When you identify that a reader is blocking ads and has not yet hit your meter limit, then that reader really isn’t driving any revenue for you.
As such, a fair approach would be to prevent them from viewing any articles at all with a meter set at either no views or one view.
Option #2: Keep same metered limits, but change your ask
One of our favorite approaches to metering is a tiered approach, which can support multiple conversion moments in one program.
Hearst Newspaper’s metered paywall asks for a newsletter subscription at around four views and a paid subscription at around eight views.
Using a graduated meter, Hearst drove 10x more newsletter starts than any other marketing program.
Publishers can use the same graduated meter and simply replace the subscription ask with a different kind of value exchange for the reader.
For example, turning off an ad blocker to get more article views. This lets you get back some of the ad revenue you’re losing while keeping these readers engaged and trending toward a subscription.
Option #3: Give users views, but with recommendations
This might seem counterintuitive at first, but hear us out: Nakashima noted that the ad-blocking readers in his study tend to visit more often and read more content, but also unsubscribed at a higher rate.
He interpreted this as a sign that ad-blocker readers value user experience (UX) highly and that, if you can give them a high-quality reading experience with fast load times, low friction, and good content, they’ll subscribe.
Conversely, if you give them a negative reading experience, they’ll abandon just as easily.
An expanded meter and targeted, UX-friendly messaging throughout could win readers over and give you a high-value subscriber.
Learning about ad-blocking users: Publishers’ key to converting them
While there are a number of metered paywall solutions on the market, most struggle to identify individual readers’ attributes, as well as the correct meter for each reader based on her specific attributes.
Enter the CDP. BlueConic’s ability to collect, unify, and activate reader and subscriber data enables publishers like Hearst, WEHCO Media, and National Geographic to deliver dynamic metering experiences to grow their subscription products.
Using BlueConic to identify who is using ad blockers and then target them with a metered paywall model that is specific to them, you can more effectively engage and monetize all readers — including that elusive 30%.