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Tweakers: establishing the dialogue with users to tackle ad blocking and embrace new business opportunities

Tweakers is an active member of IAB Netherlands. To learn more about how IAB Netherlands has been working with other major Dutch publishers to tackle ad blocking between 2015 and 2016, please access a study from the joint ad blocking campaign and a related presentation from IAB Global Summit 2016.

With over 3.5 million individual visitors and 90 million page views per month, Tweakers, belonging to De Persgroep’s portfolio, is the largest electronics and technology website in the Netherlands and Belgium. Despite such a strong position on the market, Tweakers has been confronted with a grave dilemma: content versus commerce and more generally paid versus free content. Although we never doubted in rich and valuable content being a priority over pure commerce, the pressure on the traditional revenue models started to build up with the rise of the ad blockers. While all online media publishers are being confronted with the issue, our predominantly tech savvy community made it even more challenging. In our case we found the problem also proved to be the solution, which turned the thread into an opportunity with continuously growing (financial) potential.

Whitelisting

In 2014, we undertook our first action against ad blocking, when we decided to place a (fall back) banner on our site directly addressing users with an adblocker. A message from our editor-in-chief in which he honestly and transparently explained our business model, whereby as a website we depend on advertising in order to continue to deliver high quality content to our users. We asked those visitors to stop blocking and start whitelisting, in order for us to continue to do what we do best and in order for them to continue enjoying this for free.

The campaign, which led to a reduced level of ad blocking and increased whitelisting, was the first step in opening up a dialogue with users with regards to the topic of ad blocking. Surely not the last one, though. We do understand the criticasters, and we often take a critical view to ourselves: if we promise ‘free’ content, advertising should never actually stand in the way of consuming that content. In everything Tweakers does, it always puts its users at the center, and this does not only apply to content and design but also to advertising. We have, therefore, always believed and implemented a very conservative advertising model, contributing to an optimal user experience.

More than just LEAN

Tweakers does not serve banners that overlap content or otherwise get in the way of the user , e.g. layers, floor ads, lightboxes et cetera. Furthermore, Tweakers limits the actual amount of available space for ads and the fillrate itself is constantly monitored. The goal is not to fill each individual page with an ad. With regards to prerolls these are always skippable after 5 or 10 seconds, regardless of the duration of the video itself.

A fast and responsive site are essential for a good user experience, therefore Tweakers administers internal guidelines that guarantee a perfect experience. As such, banners are loaded a-synchronized, not polluting and delaying other site content. In addition, initial load size is limited to 50kB. For mobile, we try to limit this even further to 5kB.

In order to protect the privacy and security to the best of our abilities the complete site is available through an encrypted https-connection. An additional aid, also complementing user experience, is achieved through the limited amount of tags. On average, Tweakers only delivers three to five tags per page, against an average of fifty plus on other large media titles.  Thanks to all these changes, our advertising policy and revenue model are now not only transparent, but can be verified by the public.

If for any reason an ad is served that does not comply to our rules, users have the possibility to easily flag the ad on the site, using the forum topic about advertising. We personally reply to comments and we try to explain the policy. Most of the times we make sure the display ad is removed or altered that same day, always providing the user with feedback.

And although we have found the ad block percentage to be above average, with a tech savvy community such as ours, nonetheless over two thirds of our visitors have taken the effort to whitelist Tweakers. Enabling us to reach a consumer group that for most advertisers on other media have become unreachable. Funnily enough, this had become a sales argument. Thanks to an overall ad policy which goes beyond LEAN (Light, Encrypted, Ad choice supported, Non-invasive ads).

Beneficial for both user and advertiser

Over and over again our policy has proven successful for both advertiser and user. Where dialogue with our users has brought mutual agreement. Resulting in a site not flooded with banners, but literally leading to a concept of ‘less is more’. A site where advertising gained relevance for the user, therefore accepted and valued. Resulting in an ad viewability of over 70 percent and an average CTR of 0,60 percent per campaign.

Remaining one step ahead

The percentage of ad block users has stabilized for now, but surely this will not be the end of it. What happens when traditional online advertising no longer suffices as there is no one left to serve a banner to. As we would not like to wait for this moment to arrive we, similarly to most other media publishers, we have sought to develop new and alternative revenue models. The biggest of which has become our concept team, realising branded content, activations and events for our biggest advertisers, which is also to engage our highly committed users. In 2017, this revenue levels up to the display advertising revenue.

The course undertaken by Tweakers over the past years clearly pays off. Tweakers is now at the forefront in the Dutch media landscape, complementing both advertisers and users. Our goal is to remain one step ahead by creating and embracing new developments and opportunities, always with our users in mind.

 

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