Digital Content Next reports recommendations for reaching the ad-blocking audience

As the population of people using ad blocking software has grown, publishers are increasingly recognizing that they have to find a different way to talk to those people.

Digital Content Next, a trade group for premium publishers, has released a set of recommendations and takeaways for publishers and advertisers with that group in mind.

While there’s a portion of users who don’t want to see any ads, period, the focus here was on the people who are open to seeing some kinds of advertising.

“There’s significant and growing audience in the U.S. that can’t be reached right now by advertising, and they have to be part of the discussion,” said Jason Kint, CEO of Digital Content Next. “Many of them don’t have a fundamental problem with advertising. It’s how it’s being delivered. If we want to reach this audience, what are the things we have to do?”

The recommendations came out of closed-door meetings in Europe and the U.S. by DCN and ad blocking vendor PageFair. One, that took place earlier in May, had around 25 people representing publishers, advertisers, ad agencies, industry associations, browsers and privacy interests. They included reps from ESPN, Google, the 4As, The Guardian, Havas Media, New York Media, PageFair, Univision and MPA.

Three specific recommendations came out of the meetings, building on efforts that are already underway in the industry. It said that beyond ad blockers, users should have tools to reject and to complain about advertising (something that provides a feedback loop, as Facebook and Reddit do).

They called for publishers to restore a limited number of premium ads on blocked sites (as Forbes and other publishers do by offering an ad-light experience). Third, they called for publishers and advertisers to commit to a maximum pageload time standard, which is happening already with individual publishers and Google with its Accelerated Mobile Pages.

The hardest idea to implement might be the fact that on the blocked web, third-party tracking isn’t possible, Kint said, so publishers will have to find other ways to get value from readers. That could take the form of asking them to pay or provide some data about themselves, as publishers such as Epicurious and GQ have done. “The industry is tied to this third-party data complex, and it’s gone in the ad block world,” Kint said.

In other takeaways, the attendees also found that the blocked web may provide the opportunity to establish a new form of advertising; that contextual targeting can be used in place of tracking; and that measuring ad success on the blocked web could encourage buyers to focus on value rather than low cost.

DCN has had a strong focus on ad blocking, and its recommendations are in accordance with the Interactive Advertising Bureau L.E.A.N. guidelines to create an uncluttered ad experience and D.E.A.L. that calls for publishers to explain the value exchange to users and ask them to turn off their blockers in exchange for access to content.

The IAB’s Tech Lab also has been discussing the concept of consumer “upvoting” or “downvoting” of advertising so the right relationship can be established between advertiser, publisher, and user, said Alanna Gombert, GM of the Tech Lab and svp for technology and ad operations at the IAB.

“We applaud DCN’s efforts to encourage better publishers economics, better metrics, and improved user choice as ways to mitigate the effects of ad blocking,” she said. “We encourage publishers, agencies, and marketers to continue to test these ideas, and to adopt the L.E.A.N. and D.E.A.L. strategies to create better long-term user experiences and mitigate the short-term impact of ad blocking.”

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