If you have been browsing some of the leading German electronics titles online, you may have seen a huge page take-over from a company called Contentpass. The system is currently deployed on elektroniknet.de and on the ELEKTRONIKPRAXIS website, and offers website visitors the opportunity to visit the site ad-free for a small payment of Euro 1.99 per month. Contentpass is a 3rd party – i.e. not associated with the publishers – and is offering a service to ensure compliance to European data protection law.

We were interested in how the system is working, and what the impact might be for advertisers, so took some time to discuss the issue with WEKA FACHMEDIEN and Vogel.

Take-Up is Low

The first concern is whether the option to browse ad-free will impact the audience we can reach with ads on the platform. Thomas Ebert, Head of Event & Marketing / Director at WEKA FACHMEDIEN told us:

“At the moment, the consent to use the page with advertising is 98%. Revenue via Contentpass is therefore not important for us and our readers agree via this way almost exclusively to show advertising on our pages.”

It was a similar story at ELEKTRONIKPRAXIS, and  Bettina Potsch Product Owner Digital Advertising at Vogel said:

“The numbers are not worth mentioning. (<1%)”

So even is we assume that the heaviest users of the site are most likely to subscribe (which is possible, but I think unlikely as Contentpass is used for a wide variety of websites) we’re not going to see any significant drop in advertising inventory over time. In fact that very high acceptance of browsing the sites with adverts is a good sign that visitors to both these sites are generally happy with the level of advertising they see.

Impact on Publishers’ Revenue

There could be a significant impact on revenue. If you think that most adverts on these platforms have rate card pricing in the range of Euro 200-400, then a typical page with maybe 3-5 ads could have a rate card value of around Euro 1 per view. This is clearly not going to be compensated by a Euro 1.99 payment per month to Contentpass. However the very low take-up of the ad-free option means that the move is unlikely to have a significant negative impact on the publishers.

Why Use Contentpass?

If the impact is minimal, why are the publishers using a system that clearly isn’t ideal for user experience. Not surprisingly it comes down to legislation. Publishers are required to have a cookie consent layer, and the law around cookies and advertising tracking are ever-changing. Contracting out compliance with legislation to experts while the publishers focus on their core business of generating great content makes a lot of sense. Most publishers choose to outsource some of their advertising and cookie compliance, and clearly the reason that these publishers choose to use Contentpass is because of their expertise in the field.

Is Contentpass a Good Thing for Advertisers?

My answer to this is “it depends”. If we were in a situation where inventory became limited and prices went up then I’d say it was a bad thing for advertisers. But this is not happening. In fact we are now getting an audience that has proactively consented to seeing our ads. I don’t know if there has been research, but it seems sensible to assume that the psychological impact of consenting must result in a greater likelihood of the advertising having a positive impact on the viewer. And this is definitely the intention of the publishers. Bettina Potsch was very direct when explaining the reason behind having a layer of consent to advertising:

“the goal is to increase the consent”

Thomas Ebert also felt that consent would be a good thing for advertisers:

“Contentpass … is a tool for us to drive up the consent rate of our readers and thus optimize ads for our customers and advertising partners.”

Will we see Other Publishers Taking Similar Action?

The interesting question is whether this approach will impact others, particularly those outside of Germany (Contentpass was founded in Berlin seems to be quite focussed on Germany as their primary market at present). We’ll definitely be watching to see if the introduction of Contentpass has any positive impact on the performance of advertising. It could even be that in countries with less strict interpretations of GDPR there will be publishers adopting similar approaches to increase consent and therefore performance of the advertising. It will be interesting to see if that happens.