How Le Figaro got 20 percent of its ad blocking readers to whitelist the site

French daily newspaper Le Figaro will extend its ad blocker ban after being encouraged by the initial results of its weeklong trial, in which 20 percent of ad blocker users switched off their blockers.

The second-largest newspaper in France after Le Parisien, Le Figaro was one of several major French publishers to run a trial ad blocker ban last month. Le Monde, L’Equipe and Le Parisien were also among those to run a weeklong ban, as part of an initiative led by French trade body Geste.

All of the publishers agreed to coordinate the timing of the anti-ad blocking parry, but the exact approach was left to the individual publishers. Le Figaro was seeing roughly 20 percent of its monthly traffic, which is 31 million unique users, according to Nielsen Mediametrie (55 million worldwide), affected by ad blockers.

The title took a softer approach than others, progressively blurring more articles as users with ad blockers continued clicking through. By the time a user clicked through to their fourth page, the content was totally illegible. At each page click, they were served the message: “Display problem on our site? It’s probably your ad blocker. Disable it to continue reading.”



The content on the page becomes increasingly less legible as the readers with ad blockers enabled click through.

Alexis Marcombe, chief operating officer of Le Figaro Media, said the trial was a success, as 20 percent of the people with ad blockers enabled whitelisted the site, and 5 percent opted for a paid-for premium offer without any advertising, priced at €9.90 ($11.20) a month.

“What was interesting is that people who were using the ad blockers were typically people who read twice as many pages as those who wouldn’t use one,” he said. “They were definitely some of our core readers, so it was important to do it. I’m pretty convinced we will take an even stronger approach in future.”

He said the publisher is already looking at how to extend it. In fact, those who visit the site currently with an ad blocker enabled will still receive the same experience.

In France, the average number of ad-blocker users has risen to 30 percent, according to IAB France, which ran a survey with research firm Ipsos. As such, Le Figaro isn’t relying solely on a ban to solve the problem in the long term. For many, the continued rise of ad blocking has been a wake-up call to many publishers that have opened up their sites too much to ad exchanges and networks, and resulted in poor site experiences for readers.

French readers appear to be particularly intolerant of disruptive ad experiences on publishers sites, with 85 percent of those who use ad blockers in France citing disruption as their main reason for installing a blocker, according to IAB France. Online advertising is regarded as increasingly irritating to 71 percent of them.

Some publishers have been vocal about having drastically cut the number of ad tech partners, while doing a ruthless cleanup on their sites, in some cases shredding hundreds of millions of impressions from their sites. U.K. magazine group Future has shaved 100 million impressions from its titles hit hard by ad blocking. Trinity Mirror’s head of strategy Piers North also urged publishers recently to be willing to lose short-term revenues in order to get their sites in order.

Le Figaro is putting its money where its mouth is. The publisher has run a site-wide cleanup of intrusive ads from its websites, which means it is forgoing €2 million ($2.3 million). “We have unplugged every single intrusive ad format and external sales house, which has cut $2 million from what we would normally have made. But that’s necessary if you want to continue building a sustainable business. We see it as our duty to do it,” added Marcombe.

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