Yeah, we’re going to talk about that elephant in the room. Adblockers have become the norm when it comes to internet browsers. With browsers like Firefox, Chrome, and Edge allowing everyone to access 3rd-party adblockers such as AdBlocker Plus and AdBlocker Ultimate for free, the amount using these addons only increases every day.
I remember reading a Facebook post by ScrewAttack in 2015 where they found that 50% of all users that visit their website use an adblocker. I went to the comment section to find the most liked post was someone saying why they use it. The post said that they don’t do it so sites can lose ad revenue, but because of the amount of malware that spread through them in the early days of the internet and that it makes their internet run faster. The other big reason was because of the amount of time users spend on YouTube. This also makes a lot of sense as nobody likes listening to a set of their favorite genre or artist and have it randomly interrupted by a 2 minute unskippable ad. That and who doesn’t find ads for RAID: Shadow Legends annoying at this point?
When it comes to games journalism, there are a lot of readers out there who say that websites should not accept money from any company in the videogames industry and rely simply on ad revenue from Google Adsense. This is completely understandable why they would want to see this from an ethical standpoint. However, the amount they earn from ad revenue fluctuates so much that it would be a huge gamble on the site’s operators. For example, one of my personal good friends and a mentor when I was first starting out, Ryan Clark, is a journalist in the professional wrestling industry and thanks to several factors outside his control, ad revenue dropped 80% the week before Wrestlemania which is usually the busiest week of the year for them and the month where everyone gets a nice little bonus for all the time and effort they put in. For comparison, this would be like our income dropped 80% during a major gaming event like E3 or Tokyo Game Show.
We’ll also give a firsthand experience.One of our most read articles on our site is the announcement of No Man’s Sky Foundation update. During the day we published it, it got picked up by Facebook and got pinned to the featured article when No Man’s Sky started trending on the social media platform. That day we received 32,163 views and generated $53.00. Later on in February we got a ton of traffic from the leaked screenshot of Assassin’s Creed: Empire. During that day we reached a total of 22,521 pageviews. You might be expecting we receive around $25 in ad revenue based on the amount received from the No Man’s Sky article. Maybe on the low end around $15? Actually we didn’t even make $10. We ended that day collecting $5.75 from ad revenue.
So what exactly should we do? First, we just need to accept the reality that the number of adblock users is going to increase and adapt to it. Just because something has worked for the past 20 years doesn’t mean that it will work for another 20. Another big thing is to diversify. When I say diversify I don’t mean start covering nerd culture like IGN or GameSpot, I’m talking about relying on other forms to generate ad revenue. Tons of people are using social media everyday, hell you might be reading this from a link of Facebook or Twitter. Like I mentioned earlier, when we made $53 from our No Man’s Sky piece it was in large part due to it being featured on Facebook back when they had a trending section. It didn’t come from people who were accessing it on a browser, it was because they did it through their Facebook app on their phones which do not block ads.
Another option is to target the Chinese market. While everyone has their own opinions on the country and their government, it’s hard to ignore that every business and their mothers are trying to get their foot inside China. It’s very hard to ignore a country that has a population of 1.4 billion and interestingly adblockers are banned in the country which is very appealing to those who run on ad revenue.
The third and final option we’re going to mention is crowdfunding. Many smaller outlets have started going to crowdfunding site like IndieGoGo or Patreon. Even Jason Schreier mentioned that in his first interview since leaving Kotaku where he said:
“I don’t have a solution for this. If I did, I would just start a website or something. Some of the solutions I’ve seen work for people are subscription positions and user-funded content. And ultimately, I think that’s the only way to go. This idea that things on the internet should be free just because they’re on the internet is what has just been catastrophic for media, among other industries.
“I am heartened a little bit when I see people finding success on Patreon and other crowdfunding sites…There does seem to be some model that works, but it’s just so personality-focused. I wonder how that could possibly work for other forms of games media, and yeah, it’s all just a bummer.”
Overall, it’s hard to say what the future holds. The gaming community wants to support actual good journalism, but don’t want to pay for it. Plus nobody wants to be bombarded with ads for crappy shovelware and gambling games every other second. The gaming industry is it’s own wild world. For comparison, the idea of lootboxes and pay-to-win has been accepted in markets such as China or Korea, but is shunned very harshly by Western audiences. Reputable mainstream news outlets such as Bloomberg and The New York Times can get away with doing a subscription model to read articles on their site, but I can tell you without any doubt that there is no way in hell any major gaming outlet could do it unless they offered something beyond extraordinary. None of us truly know what will happen in the next 5-10 years. To quote a famous wrestler from the 90s “Nothing’s for sure.”