Blocking My Goodwill

One of the things I’ve done consistently throughout my life is to subscribe to the NY Times. I can remember a representative of the paper coming to my elementary school class to show us how to fold it for easy reading and to explain how newspapers are written and printed. 50 years later, I’m still a reader.

The New York Times uses an unusually large hea...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You might have read that the NY Times is following the lead of several other publications and shutting down access to those people who use ad blockers. Instead, readers who visit the Times site will see, as Digiday reported, the following:

“The best things in life aren’t free,” the pop-up reads.”You currently have an ad blocker installed. Advertising helps us fund our journalism,” then points readers to two options: purchasing a subscription option, which doesn’t strip the site of ads, or to whitelist the Times, which disables the ad blocker.

It’s the value exchange – we give you content, you give us attention. I’ve written about this paradigm before and I came to the conclusion that there really isn’t any one correct answer for publishers when it comes to ad blockers. Cutting off access does little for most publishers since not many publishers can claim to provide truly unique and valuable content and readers can go elsewhere. The Times, however, can make that claim. The issue is that with upwards of 40% of US readers using some sort of ad blocking, curtailing access also means fewer page views that can be sold, lower time one site, higher bounce rates, etc. Still, given their success in digital, I’ll give them a “wait and see” on this. Except for one thing: They’re cutting off access for subscribers as well.  As a spokesperson put it:

Ad blockers do not serve the long-term interest of consumers. The creation of quality news content is expensive and digital advertising is one way that The New York Times and other high-quality news providers fund news gathering operations.

Want to know what really doesn’t serve consumers’ long-term interests?  Greed. My bill for home delivery, which includes online access, is around $150 a month.  I daresay that the Times has gotten full value out of me, just as I’ve gotten great value out of their content. I access the Times site as a logged in user, so it really shouldn’t be too difficult to identify me as a subscriber and not to hassle me about ad blocking.  Hopefully, they will.

To the extent it can, any business needs to treat each customer as an individual.  There are very few rules that can apply to prospects and customers equally, and not every customer is the same (the pesky lifetime value computation we need to do!). Asking a customer to pay for access and then asking that same customer to endure a barrage of ads as a condition for continued access seems like nothing more than greed and insensitivity.  What do you think?

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Filed under Consulting, digital media, Huh?

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