How Does the Adoption of Ad Blockers Affect News Consumption?
Posted: 8 Jun 2020 Last revised: 14 Dec 2021
Date Written: July 20, 2021
Ad blockers allow users to browse websites without viewing ads. Online news providers that rely on advertising revenue tend to perceive users’ adoption of ad blockers purely as a threat to revenue. Yet, this perception ignores the possibility that avoiding ads—which users presumably dislike—may affect users’ online news consumption behavior in positive ways. Using 3.1 million anonymized visits from 79,856 registered users on a news website, we find that adopting an ad blocker has a robust positive effect on the quantity and variety of articles users consume (21.5% - 43.3% more articles and 13.4% - 29.1% more content categories). An increase in repeat user visits of the news website, rather than the number of page impressions per visit, drives the news consumption. These visits tend to start with direct navigation to the news website, indicating user loyalty. The increase in news consumption is more substantial for users who have less prior experience with the website. We discuss how news publishers could benefit from these findings, including exploring revenue models that consider users’ desire to avoid ads.
Keywords: online advertising, news consumption, ad blocking, monetization of content, difference-in-differences
JEL Classification: M31,M37, D83, L10
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