NY Times starts fighting ad blockers with plea to users

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Stuart Monk
While ad blockers have been around for years, it’s only more recently that the technology has started to go mainstream, helped in part by Apple’s decision last year to start allowing ad-blocking apps with the launch of iOS 9 and a similar move by the Google Play Store around the same time. Samsung also started allowing ad blockers last month for users of its pre-installed Android browser.

The technology of course poses a problem for online publishers, as most still rely heavily on revenue from ads to stay afloat. And it’s affecting content producers both big and small, with the NY Times the latest to deem the issue so serious it’s now taking steps to tackle it.

This week the high-profile news organization started testing ways to beat ad blockers, presenting users of the software with a variety of messages designed to make them think twice about using the technology.

One reads: “The best things in life aren’t free. You currently have an ad blocker installed. Advertising helps fund our journalism. To continue to enjoy The Times, please support us in one of the following ways.”

Readers are then offered two options – to subscribe to the publication, or to “whitelist” it so that the ad blocker automatically stops working for the Times’ website. Of course, the user could also delete their ad blocker, but either of the first two options will suffice, as far as the Times is concerned.

It’s not clear what happens to users who decline the two offered options, in other words, if the reader will be prevented from accessing the site’s contents until they take the appropriate action. A spokeswoman for the news outlet told AdAge only that it was testing “various options” if users choose not to whitelist the site.

She said it was the NY Times’ goal to “inform users of the harm of ad blocking and to encourage the whitelisting of nytimes.com,”adding that the blockers work against the long term interest of consumers. “The creation of quality news content is expensive and digital advertising is one way that The New York Times and other high quality news providers fund news gathering operations,” she said.

The Times’ anti-ad-blocking action is similar to steps already being taken by other big-name news organizations such as the the Washington Post and Forbes.

With some 200 million people around the world using ad blockers as of last year – and that’s before Apples started allowing the technology on iOS – the issue is clearly of growing concern for online businesses that rely on ad revenue.

The blockers are popular with users for a number of reasons – besides offering a cleaner browsing experience, they also reduce page loading times, data usage, and lessen the chances of tapping on a nefarious link that could result in malware landing on your computing device of choice.

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