India’s leading news websites have been jamming hideous roll-over and banner ads on their pages for years, but if you were savvy enough to use an ad-blocker in your browser, you never had to look at them.
That ends tomorrow.
The top 10 news websites in India including Times of India and Hindustan Times are joining hands and taking a stand against people who use ad-blockers. Starting Thursday, users who visit these websites with ad-blockers enabled will be asked to turn them off to be able to get their daily news fix, senior executives and insiders at the Times of India and the Hindustan Times who did not wish to be named, told FactorDaily.
Other publishers who will be part of this ad-blocker blackout could not be independently confirmed but the sources cited above said The Indian Express, The Hindu, Dainik Bhaskar, Amar Ujala, among others, would also participate.
In the fast-changing Indian digital publishing space, this is a first, although the practice is common around the world. In October 2015, German publisher Axel Springer banned users with ad-blockers from accessing the popular Bild news website; in December of the same year, Forbes did the same; and in February 2016, leading technology publication, Wired, asked people to either disable their ad-blockers to read Wired stories or pay $1 a week to view an ad-free version of the website.
According to a PageFair, an analytics platform that publishes annual reports on ad-blocking, India has the second-highest number of people who actively use ad-blockers on the mobile web (122 million) behind China’s 159 million. And around the world, 22% (419 million of 1.9 billion smartphone users) block ads while browsing the web.
Advertising, driven by page views, is the primary source of revenue for almost all major Indian publishers, so losing out on eyeballs as a result of ad-blockers has a direct impact on the bottomline. But ad-blocking advocates say that the reasons to block ads are more than just making web pages look better cosmetically — blocking ads often means that pages load dramatically faster, and protect users’ privacy by blocking tracking cookies in addition to ads.
Digital advertising will account for 12.7% of all ad spending in 2016, estimated at nearly Rs 57,500 crore, according to a report published in Mint earlier this year.
Is there a way to get around this? That depends on how sophisticated the mechanisms that Indian publishers use to detect ad-blockers are. If you use an ad-blocker blocker-blocker — seriously, such a thing exists — you’ll probably be fine.
Update: Live Hindustan, the Hindi news website of HT Media Ltd, which also publishes Hindustan Times, has already implemented the change and is now asking users with ad-blockers to turn them off.
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Disclosure: FactorDaily is owned by SourceCode Media, which counts Accel Partners, Blume Ventures and Vijay Shekhar Sharma among its investors. Accel Partners is an early investor in Flipkart. Vijay Shekhar Sharma is the founder of Paytm. None of FactorDaily’s investors have any influence on its reporting about India’s technology and startup ecosystem.