Pink News founder Cohen says ad blockers threaten the future of journalism

The rise of ad-blocking software represents a significant threat to the future of journalism, according to Pink News founder Benjamin Cohen.

The chief executive of Pink News spoke to Press Gazette as the site marked its tenth birthday.

Cohen said his site now attracts around 5m unique browsers per month from around the world and he estimates that 40 per cent of its desktop computer traffic is ad blocked.

He said he was particularly concerned by Apple’s decision to sell ad-blocking apps for mobile phones while not allowing the blocking of ads within apps which Apple is itself selling advertising on.

He said: “If I was starting Pink News today I don’t know how we would have done it. We wouldn’t have been able to. This really threatens the future of journalism.”

He added: “The more people who block the more desperate measures publishers have to resort to…Apple wants to own the digital media space.”

He said that Pink News is profitable and relies mainly on automated advertising. But he said that the site is increasingly creating its own ‘native’ advertising campaigns, which are less vulnerable to ad blockers.

Cohen launched Pink News in 2005, but became business and technology correspondent for Channel 4 News in 2006 meaning he could only work on the site in his spare time.

Some 18 months ago Cohen  began working on Pink News again full time and he now has big plans to expand.

The site currently has three full-time journalists and four people working in the commercial team.

It has a UK-based journalist covering the US but plans to recruit a US editor in the New Year.

Cohen is seeking to raise £2m in venture capital funding to grow the size of the team from ten to 50 over the next six months.

He said the site has turned down acquisition offers from a UK newspaper group and from a US media owner. He believes the size of the global lesbian, gay and bisexual market is such that Pink News can increase its monthly traffic to 100m unique browsers per month in the next three years.

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