How UK gay mag Attitude is tackling ad blocking

Attitude, the U.K. gay lifestyle title, has been urging people with ad-blocking software to disable it, or whitelist the site, for the last six months.

Readers visiting the site who block ads will get a pop-up message that reads: “Attitude online operates on a business model that 100 percent of revenues come from online advertising and without those revenues we wouldn’t be able to continue.” However, readers can click off and read the content, but the message will return each time they land on a new page.

“The point is to slow them down,” said Mike Buckley, managing director for Attitude. “If we explain to people we are a small company relying on advertising for our funding, then it will hopefully put people off blocking ads.”

Its ad blocking levels are low at 7 percent, compared to the IAB’s estimate that 22 percent of people in the U.K. block ads. However, Attitude didn’t track what the ad blocking rate was before it began serving the message, so the exact impact of the messaging remains unclear.

Internal Google Analytics suggest it has around 2 million monthly uniques, although comScore levels it out at a much lower 140,000 monthly uniques. The majority of Attitude’s revenue still comes from its print ads and print cover price from its 50,000 circulation, although Buckley was unwilling to disclose the exact percentage split.

Attitude didn’t want to charge a fee for an ad-lite experience, like The NewStatesman, and didn’t want to block its the tougher approach favored by publishers such as Bild. In part, this is because it took a preemptive approach to ad blocking by running the message before there was evidence of it being an issue, at the advice of its digital agency, Create It Solutions. “If 60 percent of people were blocking ads, then maybe we would have had a different view,” said Buckley.

Attitude ad blocking
Attitude asks readers to disable or whitelist, although it doesn’t block content

But while it may have desktop ad blocking under control, mobile is another matter.

“What scares me more than anything else is what Three are doing,” said Buckley, referring to the the telco’s announcement that it is testing network-level ad blocking for 500,000 of its customers for one day this month. This came shortly before a PageFair report found that mobile ad blocking has increased by 90 percent since last year to 419 million globally.

“Publishers will stop people accessing their content,” he told Digiday. “We’ve asked our agency whether we would be able to stop Three mobile users coming to the site. The only people to lose out will be Three customers who will get pissed off and change their phone network.”

Industry insiders have echoed similar concerns that publishers are stuck between having to pay a carriage fee to Three and having their business model disrupted.

On the flip side, others, including Andrew Darling from mobile location company Blis, argue that this particular network-wide ad blocking ban won’t have such disastrous impact. Partly because the ad-blocking ban will only take effect when Three customers use Three’s network, it won’t count when people use WiFi, which makes up the majority.

However, Buckley was adamant that Attitude wouldn’t pay Three for the privilege of letting the site’s ads get through the network’s filter, saying, “That shouldn’t be allowed; it’s horrendously monopolizing.”

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