Online publishers try reducing ads to boost revenue

For online publishers, more advertising typically means more revenue. It’s why websites are often crammed full of flashing banners, auto-playing videos, content-blocking overlays and widgets recommending sponsored story links.

But some publishers say they’re now taking a “less is more” approach when it comes to placing ads across their sites. Stripping out irritating ad formats and limiting the number of ads forced on visitors can actually result in more engaged consumers and ultimately increased ad revenue, they say.

In early 2016, for example, female-focused publisher LittleThings set a challenge for itself: to remove at least one form of advertising from its site every quarter, but without sacrificing revenue.

Over the course of the next year, it proceeded to remove from its site clickbait-heavy content recommendation ads, interstitial ads that pop up and cover users’ screens, and autoplay video ads. Now the site mostly relies on just display ads, user-initiated video ads and sponsored content. The result: There are now fewer ads on each page, and the website generates less revenue from each individual page that users view. But overall ad revenue has increased.

“Users view more pages, share more content and are generally more engaged,” said Justin Festa, chief digital officer at LittleThings. He said revenue generated from each user’s session grew 38% in June, compared with a year earlier.

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