To be Tough or Soft: Measuring the Impact of Counter-Ad-blocking Strategies on User Engagement

by   Shuai Zhao, et al.

The fast growing ad-blocker usage results in large revenue decrease for ad-supported online websites. Facing this problem, many online publishers choose either to cooperate with ad-blocker software companies to show acceptable ads or to build a wall that requires users to whitelist the site for content access. However, there is lack of studies on the impact of these two counter-ad-blocking strategies on user behaviors. To address this issue, we conduct a randomized field experiment on the website of Forbes Media, a major US media publisher. The ad-blocker users are divided into a treatment group, which receives the wall strategy, and a control group, which receives the acceptable ads strategy. We utilize the difference-in-differences method to estimate the causal effects. Our study shows that the wall strategy has an overall negative impact on user engagements. However, it has no statistically significant effect on high-engaged users as they would view the pages no matter what strategy is used. It has a big impact on low-engaged users, who have no loyalty to the site. Our study also shows that revisiting behavior decreases over time, but the ratio of session whitelisting increases over time as the remaining users have relatively high loyalty and high engagement. The paper concludes with discussions of managerial insights for publishers when determining counter-ad-blocking strategies.


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