Bild's hardline take on ad blocking: 'We will not be blackmailed'

Axel Springer’s Bild tabloid declared a financial victory over ad blockers when it took the aggressive step of banning ad blockers from accessing its site.

The German publisher’s tough stance has had an impact. In October, 25 percent of its 10 million unique visitors were blocking its ads (according to comScore figures). That’s in line with PageFair’s widely cited report that indicates that one-fourth of Germans use ad blockers, compared to the U.K.’s 18 percent.

After Bild asked them to turn off their ad blockers, whitelist the site or pay €2.99 a month ($3.23) for a light-ad experience, the share of people using ad blockers on desktop declined by two-thirds, to a single-digit figure. This created 3 million additional “marketable visits” a week that Bild could monetize.

Other publishers have taken this hardline approach. City AM was the first U.K. publisher to prevent people from reading the site unless they turned off their ad blockers. After a few months, it reported over a quarter of people turned off their software. Forbes and Condé Nast have also deployed similar tactics.

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Users of ad blocking software are blocked from accessing Bild.de, as seen on left.

Bild wouldn’t disclose the percentage of its mobile audience that’s using ad blockers; publishers in the U.K. are reporting numbers in the single digits. But the concern is mounting.

“Ads consume data, and some people still have fixed data tariffs,” Reichelt said. “If you’re a student with a 1 GB data plan on your phone, then of course you will be frustrated.”

At the same time, he balked at the demand on the side of companies like AdBlock Plus that will let publishers circumvent ad-blocking software for a price.

“Third-party blackmailers are saying, ‘Pay us money and we will whitelist you,’ he said. “We cannot allow people to blackmail us.”

Bild’s legal battle against ad blocking has been unsuccessful so far, but the publisher isn’t giving up.

In September, Axel Springer lost a case against Eyeo, the firm behind the big ad-blocking software Adblock Plus. Then it went after another ad blocker, Blockr, but a court ruled against the publisher.

Reichelt predicted the tide will turn as ad blocking gains attention and Bild continues to make its case to the courts.

“Since we’ve established this model the courts are beginning to lean toward our argument,” Reichelt said. “Now the courts and judges have more of an understanding. We will start to win these cases.”