• German Bild publisher tests anti-adblocker alternative
  • Blockers to cost publishers about $22 billion this year

Axel Springer SE has told the readers of Germany’s most popular online news site to turn off their ad blockers or pay a fee as Europe’s biggest newspaper publisher steps up efforts to protect advertising income.

Readers of Bild.de, the Web version of Europe’s top-selling newspaper, have to disable programs that prevent ads or pay 2.99 euros ($3.40) a month to access content, Berlin-based Axel Springer said in a statement Tuesday. The fee will almost eliminate ads on the site, offer faster load times and help protect quality journalism, the company said.

Increased use of ad blockers is jeopardizing advertising revenue for online journalism, and Axel Springer is responding by testing the fee, Donata Hopfen, chairwoman of the Bild Group management board, said in the statement. Bild.de has more than 16 million unique users a month.

Axel Springer is targeting software that’s used by about 200 million people around the world, costing publishers an estimated $22 billion this year, according to Dublin-based PageFair, a company started to counter ad blockers. Apple Inc.’s latest mobile operating system allows owners of the newest iPhones to download Web browser extensions that can prevent ads. ProSiebenSat.1 Media SE and RTL Group SA earlier this year lost a lawsuit against Eyeo, which makes the Adblock Plus. 

In the U.K., the amount spent on digital advertising rose 13 percent to a record 4 billion pounds ($6 billion) in the first six months of this year, according to a study from PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Internet Advertising Bureau. While 4oD and ITV don’t let users watch content if they block ads, Axel Springer may be the first in Europe to offer a subscription alternative, the IAB said.

“All media needs to be funded one way or another and this solution puts the choice in the audience’s hands rather than bypassing them altogether,” David Frew, a manager at the IAB, said in an e-mailed statement.

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