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Welcome Neil, tell us about Pagefair
People believe that the internet is a free source of content. The truth is that since its creation content has been paid for by on-screen advertising; you implicitly pay for content when you visit a website and view their ads. Unfortunately for online publishers this income is under threat from multiple angles, and at PageFair we help them address one particular challenge: the rise of ad blocking.
We first experienced ad blocking in an online game we manage called Utopia. The game is free to play and it depends on advertising revenue to operate. We were shocked (and pretty angry) to discover that 30% of our visitors blocked ads; 30% of the revenue that should be earned was being lost. Other publishers reacted with disbelief when we talked about this number, but we know now that we’re not alone. The average ad blocking rate across our clients is almost 23%.
For people unfamiliar with ad blocking and ad blocking technologies please tell us a bit about it.
There’s a growing trend among internet users to block ads. Ad blocking extensions are free and available for all browsers, as well as for mobile devices. The most commonly stated reason for installing an ad blocker is “encountering intrusive or distracting ads on a website”. Sadly, once the extension is installed they never see ads on any website they subsequently visit; that’s a lot of collateral damage created by the bad behaviour of a few websites.
What is your own background and how did you decide to launch Pagefair?
PageFair is a spinout from the ScaleFront Venture Lab where Sean, Brian McDonnell and I have been testing new ideas since 2011. PageFair has accelerated to the point where we’ve downed tools on all other projects to drive it forward. I’ve worked in startups since completing my PhD in 2009, while Sean and Brian are serial entrepreneurs with multiple successes to their names, such as DemonWare and Jolt. Estimates would suggest Google lost almost €900 million to ad blocking tools last year alone.
Are users sick of seeing ads or is it for data and privacy reasons users like to use ad blockers?
Users give a variety of reasons for blocking ads. 80% of ad block users stated they were forced by intrusive and distracting ads, with privacy concerns and security against viruses also being strong motivations.
At PageFair we believe that these users are making a statement about the kind of ads they’re willing to tolerate. Some advertisers have focused too much on grabbing the users’ attention, to the point where it can be difficult to identify the content among the ads. This approach creates new ad block users. Our solution is to serve alternative, more acceptable ad content to these users which respects this statement.
Where do you see the company going?
The vast majority of websites use advertising to fund their operations. We’re already at a point where sites are shutting down due to decreasing ad revenue, and the problem is growing rapidly. In the long term there will be a change in how the advertising industry treats the end user—they’re not just a set of eyeballs; but right now there’s a huge opportunity for us to engage both publishers and end users with a solution that’s fair to both.
With Digital revenues being only a fraction of their analogue counterparts, what is the future of advertising in an increasingly digital world?
One big difference with advertising online is that you can reach a lot more people. The revenues may currently be lower, but your market suddenly gets much bigger. The biggest newspapers, such as the Guardian, now have online revenues to rival their print revenues, thanks to their global online reach. In time, online revenues will also increase. More and more advertising dollars are moving online, with the online display industry growing by 20% per year. The benefit of online is that you can really target your advertising to people who it’s relevant to.
Have you any suggestions for budding tech entrepreneurs on how to get started with the grain of an idea?
Our advice is to get back to basics, and focus on the customer. Ignore the hype around startup land, and make sure that you are solving a real problem for real people. Potential customers who are experiencing a problem of some kind are only too willing to talk with any entrepreneur who might be able to offer them a solution. Don’t be afraid to tell people what your idea is. Next, make sure to read up on the Lean Startup movement, which gives you a blueprint for getting to your customers, and make sure to go along to the many free meetups, where you can share your ideas and experience with other entrepreneurs.
Listen to an interview with PageFair co-founder Sean Blanchfield
For more information visit Pagefair.com
This article originally appeared in Newstalk Magazine for iPad in September, for more details go here.