How City AM is taking on ad blocking

Business publication City AM has become the first UK publisher to implement anti-ad blocking technology on its website as it looks to explain to consumers the impact of adopting ad blockers.


City AM launched a trial at the end of October that only targeted Firefox desktop users.

The software meant anyone who enabled ad blocking technology and visited the website could only read the first three paragraphs of any article, before being asked to turn off their ad blocking technology or whitelist the website to allow ads if they wish to read the full piece.

According to Martin Ashplant, City AM’s digital and social media director, the trial was the result of extensive research by the publication, which found a high number of regular visitors use ad blocking technology.

“In terms of how many people used ad blockers on our site, we were surprised that the number was nearly 20% of all our desktop impressions. For an organisation like us, that’s a number that we can’t make money out of and we take that very seriously,” he told Marketing Week.

The results of the trial proved promising. Readers using ad blockers on the website dropped from 22% before the trial to 15% during, with no noticeable difference in the website’s exit rate. Additionally, the results showed that during the course of the trial period, ad blockers were turned off 21% of the time when users were blocked from viewing articles.

“We found an encouraging number of users would whitelist us or turn off ad blockers when we asked them to. What we’ve taken from that is that for people who have a relationship with us and visit us frequently, the value exchange is sufficient enough to turn it off,” he commented.

City AM is now rolling out the technology, which is provided by Rezonence, across all desktop browsers and will continue to monitor the figures. There are no plans to use the technology on mobile devices as the current ad blocking figures are “negligible”, according to Ashplant.

“We are very aware that only 8.5% of our audience use Firefox. So even though we’re comfortable with our initial results, we’ll be keeping a close eye,” he explained.

“Going forward, the main purpose is to ensure that we monitise more page impressions. So that’s the main metric that we’re focusing on. We’re also focusing on our user experience. As long as we’re not alienating our core readers, then we’re comfortable with what we’re doing.”

Martin Ashplant, digital and social media director, City AM

While Ashplant recognises that ad blocking is a problematic issue throughout the publishing industry, he admitted that City AM’s move might not be right for everyone.

“With City AM, we’re in a unique position that might not apply to others. While we’re very clearly reliant on advertising, our audience is very much interested in business and finance and understand the requirement to make money. We like to think we’re talking to a set of people who are sympathetic to that,” he explained.

Regardless of a publication’s business model, he stressed that ad blocking should not be ignored.

He concluded: “What it shows is that there are issues around digital advertising. This isn’t us saying everything is rosy in the advertising garden, because it isn’t. Ad blocking isn’t going away and only more people will use it. This is something that the whole industry has to deal with – both publishers and advertisers.”