‘Ad-blocking is the biggest external threat to online games journalism’

Christopher Dring
‘Ad-blocking is the biggest external threat to online games journalism’

Ad-blockers are costing jobs and seriously harming the games press, say leading media execs.

Tech-savvy gamers are more prone to using ad-blockers than any other audience, says IGN, Videogamer and Eurogamer.

These websites can pay to have their ads unblocked, as long as they only use ‘acceptable advertising'. But one leading sales manager said this is no different to an East End protection racket

I understand why people install ad-blockers as there are still many websites out there where the advertising is intrusive, aggressive and of low quality,” said IGN's international boss
Geoff Inns.

Once installed, ad-blockers appear to be used fairly indiscriminately, affecting those sites working hard to please constituents as much as the ten-ads-on-a-page sites that care little for any of their customers.”

He added: Paying ad-blockers is giving into blackmail – it only intensifies the problem and makes overly-stringent demands more acceptable. It's like trying to legitimise illegal file sharing for games – a selfish act that ultimately harms the industry.

Most likely is that technical solutions to ad blocking will be found, and we'll see an arms race between those who wish to block, and those who wish to assert their right to fund the service they provide.”

Rupert Loman, owner of Gamer Network which boasts Eurogamer, Games Industry, Rock Paper Shotgun, VG247 and more within its network of sites, says that ad-blockers are a real threat to the future of journalism.

"Ad blocking is probably the biggest existential threat to the future of online games journalism,” he told MCV.

Whilst there have been other significant shifts in online publishing - such as the rise of social media, the shift to mobile devices, the growth of video and so on – ad blocking is the only one that straddles all of these areas and strikes the heart of the business models employed by virtually every online publisher - display advertising.

"Gamers are savvy consumers and often at the leading edge of technology adoption. It only takes one bad advert to slow down your computer, one pre-roll or overlay to interrupt your viewing or reading experience and one overzealous tracking cookie to make you want to install an adblocker. And once you do, every advert - intrusive or polite - is blocked forever.

"Gamer Network identified these threats many years ago and has led the debate with our Acceptable Ads solution as well as diversifying our business into areas such as events and merchandise. We don't think that subscriptions for online content are going to be successful in the short or mid-term, and it will take some major content providers to disappear before consumers begin to better understand the economics of online publishing and costs involved in content production and distribution.

Our view is that the current adblocking situation is unsustainable in the long-term but there are far bigger companies with much more to lose than us from not being able to serve adverts to consumers, and so ultimately a solution will be found at (for example) the web browser or mobile device level. It is notable that companies such as Google are leading the way in exploring potential new business models for editorial content."

Co-founder of Videogamer owner Candy Banana, Adam McCann, added: Ad-blockers are the bane of every media owner.

It has been somewhat mitigated by the sharp rise in mobile users over the past few years, however ad blockers are soon going to become commonplace on mobile as well.

In addition, despite attempts by us and some other media owners to keep advertising non-intrusive, savvy users in the gaming sphere are more likely to have Ad-Blocker installed by default compared to other audiences.”

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