Can Your Business Benefit By Letting Users Hide Ads?

    February 9, 2009
    Chris Crum

Contrary to what advertisers might like to believe, not everyone wants to see their ads. This is why televsion advertisers don’t like TiVo. Advertising is how a lot of online businesses make their bread and butter though, and without ads, they simply could not generate enough revenue to stay alive. At least one online business believes that allowing users to turn off ads might actually be in its best interest.

Jack HerrickDespite getting all of its revenue from online advertising, wikiHow allows visitors to click a button to remove ads from the site. The company’s co-founder Jack Herrick thinks letting users turn off ads is actually good for business.
"We introduced opt out ads because it is something the community wanted and visitors love it," says Herrick. "The surprising thing is that letting people turn off ads has not hurt our revenues. If anything, treating users with respect was a contributing factor to why we saw more than 100% readership growth from 2007 to 2008. I often wonder why more Web sites don’t offer this ability." [emphasis added]

wikiHow adsThe opt-out feature is displayed prominently right underneath the ads on wikiHow.  It should be noted that these are Google AdSense ads. When visitors click the ‘hide ads’ button, all ads disappear for 24 hours. Visitors who prefer to permanently turn off advertising, need only register an account.

What about sites that have advertisers coming directly to them? I asked Herrick, "Wouldn’t the ability to turn-off ads be a turn off for potential advertisers? And if so, aren’t you missing out on revenue opportunities there?"

"Actually, I think advertisers should love this," he responded. "By wikiHow not showing ads to people who don’t want to see them, we raise the ROI for advertisers. Advertisers don’t pay to show ads to people who don’t want to see the ads in the first place. And the people who keep the ads do so because they believe the ads have offers or information that might be useful to them. Opt-in ad viewers are better potential customers for the advertisers than those who opt-out."

Of course when ads are hidden, advertisers are missing out on brand exposure that they would otherwise be getting. Whether a user is interested in an ad or not, they are still exposed to brands when ads are displayed, and depending on the advertiser’s motivation and payment plan, this might be a good part of what they’re paying for. If they pay by ad impression, this shouldn’t be an issue.

It is an interesting question though. Can your ad revenue-driven business benefit from allowing users to disable your clients’ ads? What do you think?