April 15, 2016 Last Updated 10:27 am

IAB to gather media executives to discuss the growth of ad blockers, but ‘the press’ isn’t invited

Mark Thompson, President and CEO, The New York Times, will keynote conference, which is closed to reporters who might want to know what their bosses are saying about ad blockers and the companies promoting them

The Interactive Advertising Bureau has announced that it will hold an event to discuss ad blocking. The event is invitation-only, but the IAB’s website says it will “closed to the press.” If that seems confusing to you, well join the club.

What this really means is that the media executives don’t want to speak on the record about how they feel about ad blocker, and especially the tech companies they blame for the growing use of the solution. They probably also don’t want to have any discussion they may have about the causes of this growing trend, such as publisher’s growing use of the kinds of ads readers simply hate (and if they don’t discuss this, then they don’t want that known, as well).

logo_adblockAd blocking is becoming a real problem, but the public is getting more lip service about this than any real action to reform the obnoxious ad practices that publishers are employing.

Check out any Gannett website for the worst examples. But many sites today are using those auto-play video ads that sometimes have audio, and somethings thankfully do not, but must still be closed out manually if the reader wants to get by them.

Another trend is for the reader to be hit with a pop-up ad that forces them to sit there for five to ten seconds before they can close it out in order to read the story they want.

Will any of these things be discussed? or will the discussion only be about the best ways to lock out readers who use ad blockers?

Earlier this week David Pemsel, the chief executive of Guardian Media Group, admitted that The Guardian was looking at the phenomenon.

“What is important is that in the end we need to make sure the economics stack up,” Pemsel said. “If more and more of those ad-blockers are introduced, we will be far more aggressive by saying ‘you are consuming our content for free, you can’t’, and turn it off.”

The Guardian is firmly in the free web site of the paywall debate. But for that to work they need to be able to monetize their content via advertising (though they have hedged their bet a bit by introducing a membership model, which really is a voluntary paywall solution).

Ad blockers are probably here to stay, and it makes sense that publishers and the IAB should explore the issue. Just two weeks ago, a German court through out a case against Ad Block Plus, filed by the newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung (the same paper at the center of The Panama Papers reporting).

“Look, we don’t want to pile on publishers here,” Adblock Plus spokesperson Ben Williams said. “We know that the transition from print to online is still a huge challenge. But we view adblocking much like the court: as an opportunity, or a challenge, to innovate.”

I was tempted to sign up for the meeting myself, but doubt if the IAB would let me in as I find myself half way between my 30-years in publishing and the other side of the business that the media are now fighting.

Here is the IAB’s event announcement:

NEW YORK, NY – April 15, 2016 — The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) today announced plans for the IAB Ad Blocking & User Experience Summit, an invitation-only full-day event held on Monday, June 6, 2016, to bring together leading publishers and top advertisers to share successful strategies for improving user experience to stem the tide of ad blocking. Senior executives from across the ecosystem will delve into real-world publisher case studies, be introduced to new user research, and evaluate current best practices. Attendees will also investigate the latest actionable tools that can help the entire industry create better, LEANer user experiences.

IAB_Ad_Blocking_UX_Summit-logoMark Thompson, President and CEO, The New York Times, will keynote the conference, offering his perspective on a publisher’s obligation to provide optimal consumer experience. The day’s roster of expert speakers also includes:

  • Jed Hartman, Chief Revenue Officer, The Washington Post
  • Mark Howard, Chief Revenue Officer, Forbes
  • David Morris, Chief Revenue Officer, CBS Interactive
  • Mike Smith, Senior Vice President of Revenue Platforms and Operations, Hearst Magazines Digital Media, and Senior Vice President Advertising Platforms, Core Audience, Hearst Corporation

These industry leaders and others will examine a range of key topics:

  • Detection and Notification – Opening the conversation with consumers
  • Combating Latency with Lightness – Putting creative and data on a diet
  • How Business Operations Must Evolve – The new DEAL between brands, agencies, publishers, and ultimately consumersAd Blocking and the Mobile UX – Where are we and what can we do?

“Putting user experience first is crucial in maintaining the open, ad-supported web and its wealth of free news, information, and entertainment offerings,” said Randall Rothenberg, President and CEO, IAB, who will be setting the stage for the day’s presentations and town halls in his opening remarks.

The closed-door summit will be held at the Crowne Plaza Times Square in New York City. To learn more or request an invitation, please go to iab.com/adblockingsummit.

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