Ars Technica Defeats Ad Blockers

Ars Technica has some of the best tech writers in the industry. Founded seventeen years ago, it is serious in its reporting and reviews, and it has a serious audience of tech nerds who differentiate it from publications like Tech Crunch or Mashable, which focus on culture and lifestyle tech. So of course Ars also has the audience that knows the most about ad blockers, which is why it is the most experienced at dealing with people who don’t want to see ads.

Ars Technica has been dealing with ad blockers for much of its existence, But now it is owned by Conde Nast (since 2008), and as part of a large media empire, the site has had to figure out a strategy to keep its 6.3 million readers and still make money. The “suits” at Ars chose to deploy a mixed method, which is what we think most publishers are going to have to do. And according to Digiday,  the strategy cut the use of ad blockers from 40% to 25%, which the site finds acceptable (or at least realistic).

First, they concentrated on fast page load times, paying attention to which ads slowed their page loads and making alterations and adaptations accordingly. Second, they’ve cut out intrusive ads, like page takeovers. Except their own: Ars Technica shows a pop-up for people with ad blockers asking them to whitelist the site. It’s a “we’re in this together, and surely you didn’t mean to block US,” type of strategy.

Ken Fischer, who founded the site and still serves as editor-in-chief and CEO, says he has built 25% use of ad blockers among his audience into his business model.

“It won’t get any lower than 20-25 percent for us, because we have a lot of CTOs, CIOs of companies that install business script blockers, so there’s corporate-level ad blocking. It doesn’t really worry us at all,” said Fisher.

We think that’s what all publishers are going to have to expect. There are a number of people who, no matter what incentive you offer, will never turn off their ad blocking software, and rather than freaking out, it would be best if the entire digital media industry built consumer preferences into business models and balanced costs with revenue to safeguard survival.