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Are Ad Blockers Driving Fake News?

Originally posted on Media Post.

With the U.S. administration incessantly screeching that real news is fake and fake news is real, Americans don’t know what to think. Frustrated millennials of all political persuasions are turning toward less conventional news sources to obtain what, in their view, is the truth the mainstream isn’t telling.


Reading alternative news sources is by no means a problem — especially when the result is good publicity to well-deserving publishers. But what about when publishers that are less deserving — those whose “facts” are mere invention or speculation — get the publicity?

How does well-researched, responsible journalism ensure that it, and not less credible accounts, informs public opinion?


Readability and Shareability

The answer isn’t simple. For one, fact-based publications must find a way to more persuasively convey their information to skeptical readers. But there’s another approach to this question. In addition to focusing on persuasion and good Web site content, responsible news sources have an obligation to make their content readable and shareable.


A major impediment to both readability and shareability is the way news sources deal with ad blockers. According to a recent survey by the Interactive Advertising Bureau, 26% of people use ad blockers on their computers and 15% use them on their smartphones.


Threatened by the popularity of ad blockers, a growing number of platforms and publishers, such as Axel Springer, Conde Nast, and Forbes, are responding with an ultimatum: disable the ad blocker or be denied access to desired content.


Such restrictions on content discourages people from reading and sharing. Per the American Press Institute, close to 75% of adults get their news through Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms. That means it’s especially important that factual news be shareable among social media followers.


If their followers can’t directly access content when they click on a shared link, they probably aren’t going to exert the effort to read it.


Confronting Ad Blockers While Retaining Readers

So how, with the increasing popularity of ad blockers, can credible publications make their content easily accessible?


Some publishers address the problem by adopting more user-friendly ads. Video platforms like Brightcove, for example, overcome ad blockerswhile smoothly integrating ads into engaging video content. And companies like Sharethrough create platforms for native ads — ads disguised as editorial content — in an effort to slip past ad blockers unnoticed.

Still, nearly all ads remain vulnerable to ad blockers, and publishers are adopting creative strategies to preserve them while maintaining their readership. Rather than require users to disable their ad blockers, some sites politely ask them to do so. But this rarely works. Even when asked kindly, the majority of readers--hardened from experience with irritating ads--will say no.


The best way for publishers to guarantee  users see their ads and read their articles is to reclaim their authority to display ads. Publishers don’t need to leave themselves at the mercy of readers and ad blockers; ad recovery tools like Uponit counteract ad blockers and redisplay blocked ads.


While on the surface ad recovery might seem to intrude upon the user experience, there are ways to display ads without disrupting a site’s readability. Ad recovery tools have to operate responsibly in order to retain a publication’s readers.

They shouldn’t, for example, restore disruptive ads like pop-ups or noisy autoplay ads.

But as long as the recovered ads are harmless and unobstructive, they won’t deter people from reading good content. They can even be coupled with candid explanations to readers about what’s going on, which could reinforce a publication’s honesty and credibility.

At a time when many sites present stories in untruthful and even damaging ways, responsible publications have an obligation to make their voices heard.

While they’re justified in their fight against ad blockers, denying ad-blocking readers altogether could restrict access to the truth. If publishers find ways to keep ads while retaining readers, they’ll have the best of both worlds.

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