Audiofanzine testifies: how to deal intelligently with adblockers

AdBack user for 6 months, Audiofanzine accounts for over 45% of adblocker users per month on its site. In average websites are losing around 15 to 20% of their advertising revenues. In order to reveal the impact of adblockers on media sites, Nicolas Debarnot, Technical Director at Audiofanzine accepted to answer to our questions.

Audiofanzine case study

“At some point, a website like ours that today lives from advertising has to find a way to fight against these softwares as well as other sources of income.”

AdBack: Can you present your website in few words?

 Nicolas Debarnot: Audiofanzine is an online magazine for musicians, home recording studios, DJs and sound engineers. The site has a large community around its various contents: tests, files, user reviews, price comparison, classified ads, forums.

A: Who is the target of your site?

N.D: Any musician looking for information on his equipment or the use of his equipment, any musician seeking to buy or sell equipment or to contact other musicians (for example to set up a group), or simply any musician seeking to meet and interact with other musicians. The most representative age group is around 35 years old and the most typical profile is a male and a passionate of music.

A: What is the composition of the team?

N.D:  4 people for the editorial part of the site, 2 developers, 2 sales persons, 1 moderation coordinator, 1 community manager, the president and his executive assistant. Without forgetting many service providers, as well as freelancers for the editorial part.

“In addition to the generated loss of revenues, the real problem is that this type of software doesn’t stop at blocking ads. It also creates a lot of bugs on our site. This is due to filtering rules that are sometimes way too generic and not adapted at all.”

A: There are 419 million adblocker users in the world. What do you think of this phenomenon?

N.D: We understand the reasoning of some people that are using this kind of software as clearly some sites are abusing with ads. However, on Audiofanzine, advertising is targeted and sold by us, and we don’t display any aggressive advertising (for example, pop-ups or a splash screen blocking the navigation). Our interactions with our members show that most of them are not disturbed by advertising on our website. It’s not intrusive and corresponds to what they are looking for on Audiofanzine: audio equipment and musical instruments. Adblocking on Audiofanzine is mostly a collateral damage. Most of users have installed an adblock plugin to fight intrusive advertising on other websites. And they often forget to deactivate it for us, unless we ask them, like with AdBack. In addition to the generated loss of revenues, the real problem is that this type of software doesn’t stop at blocking ads. It also creates a lot of bugs on our site. This is due to filtering rules that are sometimes way too generic and not adapted at all (for example, filtering of the keyword “Ads” that within our site refers to classified ads and not commercial ones).

AdBack message displayed on Audiofanzine to ask users for adblocker deactivation

According to a study conducted by Ipsos in 2016 in France, 50% of users ask for a better contextualization of advertising and 40% want less repetition. The figures speak for themselves: 71% of adblocker users find advertising increasingly annoying and 85% find that it disrupts the browsing.

Advertising as such is not the only reason to install an adblocker. Indeed, 88% of users are disturbed by the exploitation of their personal data. According to the PageFair report of 2016, 30% of adblocker users in the United States install an adblocker for data security reasons, 29% against interruption in browsing, and 16% for faster page loading.

Some ad formats are considered too intrusive by users. Survey of Coalition for Better Ads shows that 25,000 Internet users find intrusive pop-ups and video ads in autoplay with activated sound, on both mobile and desktop.

A: Which formats are accepted by your users?

N.D: We display static skins, skyscraper 160×600, Leaderboard 728×90 or 320×50 on mobile, medium rectangle 300×250. Exchanges with our members show that all these formats are accepted. We do not display intrusive ads such as interstitials (intermediate pages), video or audio ads, etc.

A: According to a study conducted by Ipsos and IAB, 56% of users deactivate their adblocker. 62% of those users deactivate it to access the content and 13% to support the website. You have a pretty strong community, what do you say to your users on the financing of your activity?

N.D: We are always transparent with our community explaining that this type of software makes us lose a significant part of our incomes. We need these revenues to remain an independent and free media.

“Many users have no idea of the size of Audiofanzine and the amount of resources necessary to run it.”

A: Have you ever had the opportunity to exchange with your members about the use of advertising on your website? What do they think?

N.D: Yes, essentially via forums. Most of the time, users admit that advertising doesn’t bother them and that they understand our reasons. Many of them have no idea of the size of Audiofanzine and the amount of resources necessary to run it.

A: In France in 2016, we noted a 30% increase in installation of an adblocker compared to 2015. The use of adblockers continues to increase, how do you see the future of online advertising?

N.D: Blocking methods are becoming more and more advanced. Many people don’t even know that they have an adblocker. Whether because someone else installed it for them, or because they are behind a blocking firewall, or because this is an option enabled by default in their OS or browser. At some point, a website like ours that today lives from advertising has to find a way to fight these softwares as well as other sources of incomes. We are fighting on two fronts.  

“It is important for us to ensure that our current advertising model is not endangered by adblocking. We definitely would like to avoid turning into a paid media.”

A: For the vast majority of publishers, advertising helps to keep their site alive. What are your monthly earnings?

N.D: For now, most of the revenues come from advertising and our annual turnover exceeds one million euros.

By offering unique content with high added value some media are self-financing through paid subscriptions. However, the majority of media depends on advertising. In case we take away these revenues, one day users will have to pay to access the content. Nevertheless it could lead to some sites stopping their activity.

A: What are your monthly expenses?

N.D: Most of our costs are related to human ressources (wages and providers) and to the hosting. Our overall expenses closely follow the turnover, so the company is in balance. However we do not generate a much of margin as it is often the case for a business of passionates. Therefore it is important for us to ensure that our current advertising model is not endangered by adblocking. We definitely would like to avoid turning into a paid media.

A: For publishers adblocking represents from 15 to 20% of advertising revenue loss. Have you noticed a drop in your ad revenues in recent years? If so, by how much? Has this influenced your operations?

N.D: We are measuring the impact of this type of softwares for a while now. And luckily we anticipated this problem before discovering AdBack. Already for several years we were able  to continue the display of ads to our adblocker users. Nonetheless, AdBack helped us to increase the detection rate of adblockers.

Audiofanzine without adblocker: very few non-intrusive ads

Audiofanzine with adblocker: ads are replaced by a contextualized price comparison
encrypted by AdBack

“At Audiofanzine such a loss would mean paying one and a half salary less. This is significant as we’re a small team.”

A: Do you have an idea of the amount of lost revenues due to adblocking on Audiofanzine before using AdBack?

N.D: We calculated the loss related to the lack of advertising and how much we recovered thanks to our own system. If we wouldn’t use AdBack to bypass adblockers (and previously with our internal solution) we would probably lose around 8000 euros per month.

A: What would you do if you could recover this loss?

N.D: At Audiofanzine such a loss would mean paying one and a half salary less. This is significant as we’re a small team. It also represents our outsourcing budget that is essential to keep Audiofanzine on the track. And without servers, there isn’t Audiofanzine.

A : What is the added value of AdBack for you?

N.D : The main added value of AdBack is that we no longer have to develop this detection and bypassing tool internally. There are two advantages to this:
1. We recover some precious hours of work of our team  
2. We benefit from AdBack’s expertise as they have a more global knowledge of the issue thanks to their customers.

According to our analytics tool, about 2 million pages are blocked on Audiofanzine per month. This kind of site requires a lot of human and financial investment.

However, it is important to know that sites have different business models. Some rely on paid subscriptions, some on online purchases of their products, and some rely on partnerships. Each site has a unique audience, more or less responsive to its financing sources.

As there are around 45% adblocker users on its site, Audiofanzine understands the importance of high-quality contextualized advertising to satisfy their users.

At AdBack, we believe in advertising. But in order to ensure a sustainable funding of the website, advertising has to be of high quality. For this reason we propose to websites the possibility to display native and contextualized ads to their adblocker users.

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