Email vs. Ad Blockers: The Feel-Good Hit of the Summer

Read in the right voice, the battle between ad blockers and publishers sounds like an action movie: a thriving publishing industry is at peace until an onslaught of lethal ad blockers threatens to destroy their very way of life. Throw in Dwayne “Ad Block” Johnson, and you’ve got the formula for a summer blockbuster that critics will call, “well, at least my kid enjoyed it.”

Adblockalypse, coming June 2017.

Or is it? Like a mediocre movie that promises thrills and delivers fills, ad blocking isn’t quite the deadly existential threat it was made out to be. In fact, publishers now realize their own role in the crisis; it was their terrible user experiences that made blockers popular in the first place. Rather than completely annihilate ad blocking, publishers are now looking to long-term solutions that can help them coexist with ad blockers.

If you’ve ever seen any movie at all, you know this is where the hero comes in to save the day, and of course, the hero in this story is email! Staying afloat in a world of ad blocking will require a combination of audience development and alternate revenue streams, and despite being declared dead at every turn, email happens to be pretty good at both. Read on to see how our reliable old pal email comes to the rescue of publishers. After all, who doesn’t love a good underdog story?

Email: First Contact

Email is your best shot at creating and reaching loyal readers. Social media instantly disperses your content, but between platform noise and algorithm issues, most followers never see your message. Search results deliver one-off website hits, but will these visitors keep coming back? Not without a little nudging. If you can persuade readers to hand over their email address in the time it takes to skim your Oscars recap, you can reach their inbox anytime.

Publishers have long used inline forms and lightboxes to collect email addresses, but these capture widgets can also be leveraged against ad blockers. Some publishers now encourage or even require readers to turn off ad blockers or submit their email address to access their content. It’s a win-win: readers get quality content for free, and publishers either get on-page ad revenue or create monetization opportunities down the road.

Honey, I Upsold the Kids

Collecting the email address gets your foot in the audience’s door; sending email opens that door to strong relationships with that audience. Sending good email, that is. After all, they trusted you with their email address; don’t fall through on your end of the bargain with a lousy sequel. By putting your best offerings directly in their inbox, you can remind readers of the value of your content and turn them into the loyal audiences who stay with you through the credits.

But if those readers are blocking ads, how does that return traffic generate revenue? As digital ad revenue shrinks, publishers need to drive subscriptions to survive. Email gives you a direct way to upsell the readers who have already indicated an interest in your content. This doesn’t have to be solely through marketing emails; the New York Times found that readers are twice as likely to purchase a subscription if they sign up for a free newsletter first.

Advertisements 2: The Search for More Money

While you’re waiting for readers to pay up, you can make money in the meantime by monetizing your emails. Depending on your newsletter metrics, certain monetization methods can be more profitable than others, but email provides the flexibility to try a number of native, display, and sponsored content solutions. This ensures that every email is profitable, even notifications and emails that might not have a call-to-action otherwise.

In-email advertisements are contained, contextual, and most importantly, outside the jurisdiction of most ad blocking mechanisms. Because these ads are all but guaranteed to reach particular users, they also result in higher CPMs for you. Still, the email inbox is where relationships are built and maintained. Email ad units don’t have the stigma of their web counterparts, but you need to remain respectful of the user experience to make sure it stays that way.

Email: A New Hope

While ad blocking isn’t going away anytime soon, the growth in its use has slowed, buying publishers some valuable time to figure out their next move. Still, with mobile blockers on the horizon, publishers are searching for a business model that looks beyond web advertisements. No matter what that model may look like, the inbox will be critical to its success. With email on your side, you can make sure your Hollywood adblockbuster doesn’t turn into a big-budget flop.

Editor, PostUp PlayBook