Interestingly, a recent survey of 1,000 Americans found that 75.4% were fine with the current situation, where content was free, subsidised by adverts. This does leave a sizable proportion who are unhappy, however. A growing problem for marketers and salespeople is that more and more users are taking action into their own hands. The true popularity of ad blocking software is not really known, and is difficult to measure, but data from ClarityRay suggests the problem is reaching endemic proportions. A study of website visits in the US and UK found that 9.26% of all page impressions were affected by some form of user installed ad blocking software - like AdBlock Plus, which is free and easy to download and install. In some sectors, like technology, 17.79% of visits were affected by ad blockers, with the researchers reporting that the figure for certain sites reached as high as 50%. The report also predicts that the rate of users blocking ads will double over the next 20 months.
It's clear that users are not willing to have their experience spoiled by adverts, but are they willing to pay a fee to remove them completely? Spotify is a great example of a platform that has taken advantage of the subscription model. The service offers unlimited monthly music streaming, and users can choose to either use a free version – where the music is frequently interrupted with radio style adverts - or pay a subscription to remove adverts completely. The company released data earlier this year saying they had six million paying subscribers – out of 24 million users, showing that people may be willing to pay to silence advertisers. YouTube is another site that is trying out the subscription model with some channels, while rival Hulu has four million subscribers to its premium – ad free – video site.
One area where it seems the subscription model is slowly catching on is newspapers. The New York Times and the UK's The Times have been hidden behind pay walls since 2011, and while many criticised the decision at the time, last year saw the New York Times earn $52.8 million more from subscribers than they did from advertising revenue.
At present, it seems users are somewhat reluctant to pay for what they used to be able to get freely, or can find elsewhere free of charge. That taboo is slowly being broken, however, as advertisers realise the old fashioned methods of disruption are simply not as effective, and start to offer users alternative options.