Most websites exist to make money for their owners: it is a fact of life. Even those that are run more as hobby sites are usually expected to pay their way by generating some income. For many years now the business model underlying probably the majority of websites has been a simple one: the site provides content to site users without any monetary charge, and this is paid for by on-site advertising through networks such Google adsense.
This business model is becoming increasingly threatened by the rise of ad-blocking applications. Actually these have been around for many years, almost as long as internet advertising, but it seems that their use is now becoming more widespread. Perhaps users have just had enough of "made for adsense" or "news" sites where the actual content is a tiny part of the overall page load, and is often obscured by adverts. If they are paying to download the data, it is more than annoying: it is expensive. Moreover these adverts can sometimes include malicious scripts, which can download malware. The advertising networks do a fairly good job of weeding out malicious ads: but "fairly good" is not enough, and there have been many cases in recent years of malicious advertising infecting site visitors. So it is hardly surprising that many users have had enough.
If you are a website owner this is likely to pose an increasing challenge to your business: in future, advertising can no longer be relied upon as a way to monetize your website. So what are the alternatives? Here are some ideas.
1. Ask your users nicely not to use an ad-blocker on your site
I don't think this should be forgotten about as a solution. Most users have probably never thought about your business model, or the problem that their ad-blocker use can cause for you. If you really are providing a good experience for your users it is likely that they will accept the idea that you deserve some reward for it. Of course this relies on the fact that you actually are giving your users a good time. Probably a good idea in this case to keep the number of ads to a level that is not annoying.
2. Convert to a subscription site
Offer extra content to paid-up members of your site.
This can work, if what you provide is good, and users cannot get similar content elsewhere for free. Paywalls do introduce problems: for example, how do you get your content indexed by search engines? Moreover converting your site to a subscription model is a bit of a gamble, you will need to be confident that your users will be prepared to pay up if you go down that route.
Still, Joomla is well-suited for this kind of application, with its sophisticated system of user access control.
3. Feature advertising as part of your content
The way that ad-blockers work is by blocking content that is loaded from 3rd party sites. If the advertising is part of your site content then is cannot be blocked in that way, so you might want to look at alternative forms of advertising, such as sponsored content. Of course if you are doing this, you need to make it clear to your users.
Also, you can look at affiliate marketing. This is where you feature product links on your website: if the user clicks the link and buys from a 3rd party website, you get paid. It is slightly more indirect than normal advertising, because it requires the user to actually make purchase before you get paid, but the rewards can be generous if the product is high value. It also requires more input from you, because you normally set up the affiliate links on your site: however that may not be a bad thing, it gives you greater control over what you actually advertise.
Also this is where we get to blow our own trumpet a bit: we have two extensions for Joomla! that allow you to easily add affiliate links to your site:-
Our Amazon plugin
Our AmazonWS content plugin allows you to add Amazon product information directly to your Joomla articles, with the use of some very simple short code. You can select individual products or list of products to display; or show the results of keyword searches of the Amazon database. The product information includes affiliate links to the Amazon site.
The content plugin can be used by itself, or as part of our Amazon Shopping Cart package. This is a package of Joomla extensions that allow you to create a complete shopping cart for Amazon products on your website. The customer only visits the Amazon site when it is time to check out; when they pay for their purchases you get paid your affiliate fee.
Affiliate Window for Joomla
Affiliate Window is an advertising network representing many of the largest UK, USA and Canadian businesses. If you publish a website in one of these countries the network is a great way to earn extra revenue for your site through advertising products as an affiliate.
Our Affiliate Window extension for Joomla uses the Affiliate Window ProductServe API to automatically fetch product information, and display the products on your site. All that you need is an API Key, and to choose the products that you want to display, and the Affiliate Window extension does the rest. All the product links will include your affiliate tracking id, so you get paid whenever a sale results.
The advantage of affiliate advertising is that it allows you to continue to provide your content without charge to your users, avoiding the problems of subscription sites.
To conclude, the rise of ad-blockers does pose challenges to the business model for many websites, but this need not be a disaster, there are alternatives. Personally I will not be sorry to see the end of content-poor (or almost entirely lacking) sites that rely entirely on pay-per click advertising. If website publishers are forced to think more carefully and creatvely about their revenue source, this may be a positive development.