The Atlantic's Website Will Now Let Some Pay to See No Ads

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The Atlantic has begun to give people who block ads a choice: Let ads through, or subcribe to a new ad-free edition.
The Atlantic has begun to give people who block ads a choice: Let ads through, or subcribe to a new ad-free edition. Credit: Courtesy The Atlantic
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The Atlantic would like to figure out a way to make some money off of the 8.5% of unique visitors to the magazine's website who use an ad-blocker.

So, starting Monday, The Atlantic will give visitors who use ad-blockers a choice: Whitelist the website or pay $3.99 per month for an ad-free version.

Kimberly Lau, senior VP-digital and head of business development for The Atlantic, said the magazine expects to see a bunch of blockers whitelist the site.

"We're not expecting a windfall in the subscription part," she said. "We're just expecting more people to whitelist us." Overall, she said, The Atlantic expects a "small percentage of the overall population" to pay up for the ad-free option, which will be devoid of branded content as well as traditional display advertising.

Ad-blocking visitors confronted by The Atlantic will actually have the option to dismiss the request and proceed to read, for now. Later in the year, though, readers will be forced to pick one of the two options or go elsewhere for news and commentary.

The ad-free option will not be marketed to readers who don't use an ad blocker, a spokeswoman said, and will only be available when readers are automatically targeted.

Wired magazine rolled out a similar approach to ad-blocking earlier in the year, asking readers to either whitelist the site or pay $1 a week for an ad-free version. In April, the magazine's then-head of product and business development told Ad Age that the approach was "going great."

Wired, at the time, reported that 20% of unique visitors were using blockers, making the problem even more pronounced than for The Atlantic. The New York Times is also considering an ad-free digital subscription offering, though that effort doesn't seem to have progressed beyond the exploratory stages.

"All the cool kids are doing it," Ms. Lau said when asked about the rise of ad-free subscription offerings.

The Atlantic, which this week got a new chief editor in Jeffrey Goldberg, began testing ad-blocker messaging about a year and a half ago, when it started telling readers that a blocker had been detected and asked them to subscribe to the print magazine or sign up for a newsletter. "People felt like the way the message was written, it was yelling at them," Ms. Lau said.

Like all media properties, The Atlantic can't afford to lose revenue when advertising does not display for some readers. Ms. Lau estimated the figure to be "in the millions" annually.

"It's really important to the ongoing health of our company that we contnue to find ways to work with advertisers and deliver their messages in an effective way with our site," she said.