City AM’s ad-blocker ban extends to brand content

London business newspaper City AM is applying the same ad-blocking rules to its brand content as to its editorial: a full-on ban.

The daily publisher was the first in the U.K. to get tough on ad-blocker users, deploying a ban last October. Months after, it revealed that more than 25 percent of those using ad blockers had switched them off.

Now, all sponsor content that runs on City AM’s site is getting the same treatment. That’s because the publisher’s tent product called “City Talk” lets advertisers publish directly via the editorial content-management system so it’s treated the same way as journalists’ content by the ad-blocking tech.

City AM’s chief operating officer, Charles Yardley, confirmed the ban is active on all branded content, but that it’s too early to monitor what the effects have been yet on Invest Edinburgh’s performance. “Most publishers serve their native content through an ad server — invariably ad-impression-led packages,” he said. “We serve our native content through the CMS, and it’s treated the same way as journalists’ content. The blocker is against all article pages, be they written by journalists, contributors or marketers.”

Of course, it’s an open question whether a person who went to the effort to install an ad blocker would be deterred by the prospect of not being able to read advertorial.

So far, around 10 articles have been published by Invest Edinburgh. Some of the articles such as “How Edinburgh is driving the fintech revolution,” have been shared 1,105 times since its Aug. 14 posting, despite the ad-blocker ban being activated, according to the Invest Edinburgh Talk hub.

The wording of the pop-up is, therefore, the same. It reads: “We are having trouble showing you adverts on this page, which may be a result of ad blocker software being installed on your device. As City AM relies on advertising to fund its journalism, please disable any ad blockers from running on, then reload this page to see the rest of this content.”

Below the message, all the content is blurred and totally illegible.


Steve Chester, director of data and industry programmes at the IAB, said that having City Talk branded content served via its CMS was consistent with the publisher’s overall stance on ad blocking. “If they didn’t do the same for their branded content that goes through the CMS, it would potentially compromise the rest of their editorial strategy,” he added.

Currently the only other publisher to open up its CMS to advertisers is Forbes, which has allowed clients the same access via its branded content platform BrandVoice. Although Forbes insists ad-block users whitelist Forbes to gain access to an “ad-light” experience, its own ban doesn’t extend to BrandVoice content, despite the fact that the content is also published via the publisher’s CMS.

“Forbes does not because it doesn’t have to. BrandVoice content is integrated into the content mix directly via its CMS,” said Forbes commercial director for Europe, Middle East and Africa, Paul Mikhailoff. “As such, ad blockers don’t stop branded content from appearing.”

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