Life After Digital Ads: What’s Next?

Published Mar, 9 2015
Paid Campaigns

CNN ads without AdBlockI recently found out that the creator of the wildly successful original AdBlock browser extension lives and operates from here in Athens, GA.

Curious, I checked out the latest version to see what was new with ad blocking technology. I was blown away. I had considered AdBlock a great way to stop popup ads that were doing their best to ruin the web. What I failed to realize was that ad blocking technology now also eliminates virtually all ads while surfing the web.

The below screenshot from highlights six different on-page ad zones—none of which appear when AdBlock is enabled.

Advertising in an Ad-Free Future

It occurred to me that professional digital marketers like me better start thinking about what’s next, and fast.

If extensions like AdBlock become mainstream, billions of dollars in revenue stands to evaporate. It is estimated that Google makes up to 97% of its money on digital ads.

In other words, if the Google Display and Search Networks dried up, so would Google. So don’t expect Big Goog to include ad blocking software in its Chrome browser anytime soon.

Fits and Startups

Of course, this risk isn’t news to Google. They’ve been trying for years to develop alternative content monetization methods, with little success.

One Pass, a platform Google created for publishers to charge for content, closed down a year after its 2011 launch with little more than a broken link. The idea was to provide newspapers and other publishers a flexible way to set up content paywalls and offer online access to print subscribers.

New Alternatives to Online Ads

Google recently launched a more direct attempt to re-imagine the ad-free Internet. Google Contributor is a way for content consumers to automatically pay content providers via a monthly contribution of $1-$3. But there hasn’t been much news since its launch back in November 2014.

Google Contributor is a lofty idea, but an uphill battle, particularly since services like AdBlock are mostly free and are already widely in use. That said, Google is the only one that can change the Internet all at once, vs. the piecemeal attempts by popular online providers to come up with their own ad-free versions, like The Next Web does.

Where is Digital Marketing Headed?

Friend and Sony Music Digital Marketing Exec Jason Cohen, who originally brought Contributor to my attention, thinks Big Data has a major role to play in an ad-free Internet.

In Cohen’s view, “The next big thing in advertising is further leveraging big data to find the right person, right time, with the right content, in the right place. I think you’ll also see more technology developed to inject ads into videos and other mediums contextually.”

It’s true that ad blockers can’t (yet) block most video ads, or mentions in content. It’s clear to me the future is still content. Not just any content, but better, more shareable, and relevant content that understands your target audience

I would expect the investment in content to reflect its newfound importance in an ad-free Internet world. According to the Content Marketing Institute, an average of 24% of marketing budgets were allocated to content marketing in 2014, yet 90% claim to use content marketing. Content budgets would surely increase if ads disappeared. If you can’t push, you have to pull, and rely more on social media. Hard to imagine the consumer losing in that scenario.

In an ad-free Internet world, content will truly be king.

What do you think? Tweet me!