Blocking "Adblock" is Proving Disastrous (e.g. Forbes)

Blocking Adblock has shown to decrease website viewership, reduce SEO and Search rankings.

With traditional media on the decline, news publishers are struggling to make up lost revenue from print advertising. Most have tried to soften the blow of decreased demand by translating their magazines and newspapers to digital form. However, due to harsh competition and expectations of free content from internet users, many are failing to fill the void left by traditional media sales.

Online publishers are forced to choose from two evils: advertising or subscription, or face liquidation.

However, due to the sheer annoyance and bad reputation of internet advertising, including the nuisance of pop-ups, unsolicited malware downloads, fake close buttons, and auto-playing promotional videos, over 30% of active internet users utilise an AdBlock browser extension. Consequently, online publishers who utilise digital advertising (like Google's AdSense) are witnessing a drop in revenue and are struggling to produce quality content that can turn a profit. In an effort to recover lost revenue from 'invisible adverts', on Boxing day last year, Forbes decided to block all users of the AdBlock extension from accessing their website. The move was met with controversy by internet users, largely negative, who either vented their frustrations and vowed never to use the site again or attempted to find workarounds that would allow them to access it without altering the add-on. Whilst a slurry of Forbes articles (likely pumped out by the company's PR team) may state otherwise, the website has experienced harsh drops in monthly visitors since the Ad-wall's construction.

From the graphic presented above, following the implementation of the wall in late December, Forbes has experienced a steady decline in users, falling from the 170th most viewed website on the internet to the 240th. Whilst some could contend that the downward trend started in September of the same year, it's indeed common for websites (particularly news publications) to lose viewership in the months leading up to Christmas or particular family-orientated public holidays like Easter or Patriotic occasions. Why? I would guess that during such gatherings, people are generally too engrossed in their own affairs to pay attention to whats happening around them. Though, once the holiday is over, affected websites should experience upward growth. Unfortunately, Forbes didn't and instead viewership continued to decline even in the new year. Why? Internet users, once seeing the 'Ad-wall' simply pressed the back button and didn't bother to enter the site. and instead visit a competitor site that welcomes their presence.

Forbes tumbled from the 170th most viewed website to the 240th. 

Just four months after implementing the Ad-wall, Forbes lightened their policy, giving Adblock users the opportunity to login to the website (for free) rather than turning off their extension. A move which aims to increase Forbes' presence on social platforms (via social logins) and collect more detailed reader data; whilst simultaneously plugging the visitor hole. However, after being implemented in May, the alteration proved useless against a dwindling user-base which has continued to worsen in numbers to present day. Instead, the company's next move is likely to construct 'paywalls' and create subscriber-only content. However, whether this will be too little too late remains to be seen. 

Forbes back-pedals but the website's future remains grim.

Update (10 March 2022): Forbes never recovered in its internet viewership. The news provider is now the 306th most viewed website on the internet (according to Alexa), below several of its news competitors, furthering tumbled from their peak of #155 in 2016. However, after this article's publication, Forbes has somewhat relaxed its AdBlock policy, allowing some articles to be read without requiring the extension being turned off. Although refusing users with Adblock is done in the hopes they will at least temporarily pause their use, forcing users to do so can serve to reduce your website viewership. For example, a user clicks on your website through a search engine, and after being greeted with your Adblcok warning, they click off, and go to your competitor. This activity will monitored by Google, Bing and others. and they will reduce your SEO ranking, as the user has spent so little time on your website (after seeing the Adblock message) and will instead prefer your Adblock-friendly competitor who they will no doubt spend more time on. It's a tricky balance, as many websites/blogs (including this one) rely almost wholeheartedly on search engine ranking to survive. 


  1. You write "struggling to produce quality content" as if that's their aim, when it's not.

    Mainstream journalists know 'going in' that the mission objective of any media - hardcopy or online - is to produce and sell advertising. The customer is the advertiser, not the reader; the product is eyeballs on ads.

    There are exceptions to this - the vanishingly-small sliver of journalists who kick at the traces in the Mencken-ian tradition. Folks like Taibbi, Greenwald, Pilger, Fisk, Margolis, Cockburn and about five other people in the industry (across the entire English-speaking world). Generally those folks require their own platform, or some 'splash' story that raises them from obscurity and gives them some market power, in order to get away from the requirement to hew to the in-house narrative arc.

    Stop it with the idea that journalists are thoughtful individuals who want to advance truth - or any other such naïve hogwash. Journalists are shallow dilettantes: Michael Crichton did not invent the 'Murray Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect' in a vacuum. For every Taibbi there are a thousand Bill Kellers and ten thousand Judith Millers and Jayson Blairs.

  2. Nice research on your part here.

    If forbes continues with it`s current practices, surely well be beaten
    to dust within 2 years aprox..
    Too bad for the naive decisions of their board-leaders !
    If a compromise is not an option for the forbes leaders, get ready for R.I.P Forbes.
    Bad-Internet-Karma will kick them out of business sooner than they might fear.
    I have seen other sites which did take such unwise decisions.
    After smelling users leaving as like far from a bad plague, they Quickly adapted & reverted.
    And not only changed tactics but apologized to their users for the inconvenience .
    The web-moto then is: Adapt or Die..
    What forbes leaders will chose ?
    I am curious to see how all this will end up.

  3. I don't mind looking at some advertising. But the auto play videos, pop over Flash ads and the like ruin the experience. I would not block ads if they just had light, static ads on the margins like a regular newspaper.

    The fancy Flash driven ads take up tons of bandwidth, making pages slow to load. It's very frustrating. That's why I went to an ad blocker. Forbes is a great magazine but they just self destructed.


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