Free content isn’t free to produce.

It costs money to produce. Even at a “blog” without layers of bureaucracy.

I understand the urge to adblock. There are many big conservative websites I just won’t visit anymore because I’m bombarded with pop-ups, pop-overs, pop-unders, and click pop-ups. And then there are auto-run video ads, in a whole league of horrible all their own. Half the time, my computer freezes.

Adblockers are both a response and a cause of the problem. When fewer people view ads, the need to bombard the people who don’t use adblockers to make up the revenue increases. It’s a vicious cycle.

One way to avoid it is to put up a paywall and hope to drive revenue through a subscription model. Both of those models are of limited success, unless you are a unique media property like The Wall Street Journal.

We don’t use any of the above, and we suffer financially for that decision. We’re not part of a media conglomerate with investors and venture capital. A large percentage of our revenue comes from our relatively non-intrusive advertising.

We (I) would just like not to lose money. When you block our ads, it has a greater impact on us.

This is a serious industry problem, as AFP reports, Online ad blocking costs sites nearly $22 billion:

The use of software that blocks online ads is expected to cost websites some $21.8 billion globally in 2015, a study showed Monday.

The study, by software group Adobe and Ireland-based consultancy PageFair, found that the number of Internet users employing ad-blocking software has jumped 41 percent in the past 12 months to 198 million.

The report said that while consumers have warmed to the idea of blocking online ads, they may not realize that the practice could hurt websites which rely on ad revenue.

Those losses are expected to grow to more than $41 billion in 2016, the study said.

“It is tragic that ad block users are inadvertently inflicting multi-billion dollar losses on the very websites they most enjoy,” said PageFair chief executive Sean Blanchfield.

“With ad blocking going mobile, there’s an eminent threat that the business model that has supported the open Web for two decades is going to collapse.”

 

The Report (pdf.) has some more details, including this state-by-state comparison:

Adblocking Penetration US 2015 by State PageFair

Even more worrisome are trends damaging to websites that rely on younger readers, where ad blocking is pervasive (that’s one advantage to Legal Insurrection having a middle-aged/older audience, I guess).

A June 2015 Reuters study found:

Readers deplore online ads, particularly the personalized ones that follow them from site to site. They still don’t want to pay for news. They don’t find tablets all that exciting for reading news. And the homepage is diminishing fast, usurped by Facebook (not so much Twitter).

The biggest surprise: Using apps to block ads has gone mainstream….

Some 47 percent of US internet users now utilize ad blocking software. For 18- to 24-year-olds, that number is even higher: 55 percent. Consumers are, the study says, annoyed with “advertising and the interruption it causes to their reading experience.” Focus group participants seemed to particularly hate ads that surfaced based on browsing history. As one woman put it, “Online ads are obtrusive, obnoxious, annoying.”

Bringing ad blockers to mobile will be particularly damaging. Legal Insurrection gets approximately 40% of its traffic via mobile (25% phones, 15% tablets — i.e., iPads).

And mobile is next in line for adblocking, per the Reuters study:

In fact, 26 percent of US news consumers say that mobile phones are the main way they access news. This is both exciting—news now has its gadget, just like music found the iPod—but it is scary in some respects, too. For one, successful advertising campaigns on five-inch screens have proven difficult, and people don’t spend as much time with the content. They dip in and out. Also, ad blocking is coming soon to the mobile Web.

Multiple outlets have reported that Apple, in the next version of its iPhone and iPad software, will allow the technology in its browser. Blocking ads makes pages download faster and crash less. Once users try it, they can’t imagine ever going back. With about 500 million iPhones in hands around the world, if even a small chunk of those users fall in love with ad blocking, that’s a significant problem for advertisers and news outlets (to say nothing of Google).

None of this concern is new, and there are counterarguments, as reflected in this 2007 article on the Adblocker website:

Now what happens if people start to block ads? First of all, everybody who hates ads and wouldn’t click them anyway now blocks ads. And this can make advertisers really happy because instead of wasting their bandwidth (and money) they now only serve ads to people who are interested in them. They also get better statistics and can see which ads people find more interesting — without having to estimate the number of people who wouldn’t click any ad.

That’s nice in theory. But in reality, WE get paid based on views (and to a much lesser extent, clicks). So theory is one thing, reality is something else.

This all will cause a war between reader adblocking software and website anti-adblocking software (there are such things.)

When we addressed this problem in 2013, readers made the following suggestsions; not being an adblocker user myself, I don’t know if they still are feasible:

  • “Fellow readers, please disable your ad blocker for the sites you enjoy and frequent.”
  • “You know what? I had completely forgotten that I had installed an ad blocking program. I did it a long time ago, because when I’m doing searches, the ads became so intrusive that it was almost impossible to find the information I was looking for.

    It’s easy enough to fix… I click on the icon on the toolbar, and click on “Disable on LegalInsurrection.com”.

    Done.”

So anybody have any brilliant ideas?

[“Suck it up” is not a brilliant idea.]

UPDATE 8-13-2015 Noon:

Reader comments have been very eye-opening for me. While we cannot abandon the advertising we have, there may be a way to give readers who want to support Legal Insurrection, but don’t want to see ads, a way to do so. It would be a model that allows people to stay with the current system (including their adblock software, if that’s how they want to go), but also allows people for a small monthly fee to access the site without seeing ads. It would be purely voluntary, not a paywall. More on that, hopefully, in the next month or so.