Why Gawker doesn't fight ad blockers

Publishers are split on the most effective tactic to counter the rise of ad blocking. But for Gawker, one option is off the table: fighting the ad blockers head-on.

“If our consumers are demanding ad block, then we have no choice than to allow that for now,” said Gawker Media head of programmatic Eyal Ebel at the Digiday Programmatic Summit. “I don’t see a situation where Gawker Media says to readers, ‘You can’t read our content anymore because you have an ad blocker.’”

That’s a very different stance from the likes of Axel Springer and U.K. business newspaper City A.M., which are blocking ad blockers from accessing their content in an effort to get them to change their ways. The Washington Post  is also experimenting with sending people to a subscription page if it detects them running ad blockers.

But that approach may not work in the long term. Publishers may want to fight ad blockers head on, but that could turn out to be a losing battle in the end. “You’re never going to stop it,” Ebel said. “There are too many people at play, and obviously a publisher the size of Gawker Media doesn’t have the resources to deal with such a systemic issue.”

Ad blocking “makes sense to me” from the perspective of consumers, he added.

Ebel said that Gawker’s ad blocking rates were “significant” but wouldn’t share exact numbers because Gawker is still collecting data on how many readers are blocking the ads and their reasons for doing so. But he said that Gawker, which runs a portfolio of sites with different audiences, is seeing different ad blocking rates across its verticals. The ad blocking rates on gaming site Kotaku, for example, whose audience is dominated by tech-savvy young men, are much higher than on Deadspin, Jezebel or Gawker.com. That might change how Gawker approaches the ad blocking issue on each site.

“Instead of trying to figure out how to get around ad blockers, you should figure out why people are blocking ads,” he said.