The old-aged saying holds true: “If You’re Not Paying for It; You’re the Product.” Unfortunately the general public often forgets this and in today’s digital age internet and mobile users have grown accustom to free content and apps. Publishers have significant overhead to either staff a news room and/or develop these engaging experiences – and to keep the lights on and retain their employees they must generate revenue – more specifically, ad revenue.
With over 144m active adblock users globally – nearly 70% growth y/y reported in June 2014 – adoption has scaled significantly thanks to the increased availability and ease of installation. A significant portion of the growth in 2014 was due to Google Chrome, which led adoption during the same period by almost doubling in use (source: http://blog.pagefair.com/2014/adblocking-report/).
With Facebook recently announcing Instant Articles and Apple following suit with curated content through Apple News and rumors of iOS v9 enabling adblockers by default in safari, digital publishers who have already adjusted from the massive shift from traditional print media are again pinned to creatively generate enough revenue to remain in the black. The move is strategic by the large walled gardens enforcing them, as ad units and revenue can still be generated within their own ad networks. Unfortunately, the publisher is left to fend for themselves and determine how to produce enough high quality content to drive direct visits to their own app on iOS or wholly owned website on Android – where revenue gleaned from ad units goes directly into their pockets.
Meanwhile, Google is hard at work with Twitter to create a new kind of web link and storage system that would allow articles and digital stories to load in a matter of milliseconds, attempting to remain top-of-mind with publishers who may be tempted by the proprietary platforms being rolled out by Facebook and Apple.
While Apple & Facebook are offering consumers a more streamlined, consistent, and stable browsing experience, they are minimizing the importance of publishers to the continued success of their ecosystems. Without content there is no reason to engage in either platform – and content can only be produced when we pay talented writers and editors to work.