February 10, 2016

Wired’s folly

Wired is taking an aggressive approach to ad blockers come February 16. Either you turn off your ad blocker, or you pay to see the site sans ads. From Bloomberg’s piece on the matter:

Wired plans to charge $3.99 for four weeks of ad-free access to its website. In many places where ads appear, the site will simply feature more articles, said Mark McClusky, the magazine’s head of operations. The portion of his readership that uses ad blockers are likely to be receptive to a discussion about their responsibility to support the businesses they rely on for information online, McClusky said.

I think Mark McClusky is naive. First of all, the pricing is crazy, and whoever of the Wired visitors that might be willing to discuss, or even pay for, an ad free site, are likely Wired fans and thus already subscribing to the magazine. They won’t pay again.

Second, Wired isn’t the cornerstone publication of internet culture that it once was. It could perhaps be again, but I fail to see any significant numbers paying for an ad free website. Perhaps as part of a larger subscription scheme, but not based on the group of ad blocking readers.

Third, people who want to go around ad block combating solutions will do so. They will obviously never pay, and one could argue good riddance to them. However, more readers are better than less, especially if you want to stay relevant. Maximizing income per visitor might be necessary to pay the bills, but when the decision comes down to no income or reject the visitor, it would be folly to do the latter.

Subscription models might work on the web, although it’s not really cracked yet, obviously. Tacking it on as a reaction to habits, ad blocking in this case, that has its origin in greedy business models will never work. Nor should it.

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