OKCupid begs ad-blocking users to donate instead

Aug. 24, 2012 at 2:36 PM ET

OKCupid /
This banner appeared for users blocking ads

Popular dating site OKCupid has embarked on a campaign to convert its most ad-savvy users to paying customers by replacing blocked ads with a cheeky banner asking them to donate. Would this playful approach convince you to shell out?

Unlike many competing dating sites, OKCupid has always been free, but the growing popularity of ad-blocking plugins and options in browsers seems to have taken a bite out of their ad revenue. It's not a new occurrence; other ad-supported sites have been dealing with this problem for years, and have arrived at different methods of fighting it, from using more sophisticated ads to preventing ad-blocking users from visiting the site altogether.

Eager to get a bit of money from such users but not wanting to alienate them and hurt the site's user base, OKCupid decided to address them directly.

When an ad-blocker prevents an ad from being loaded or shown, that can be detected by the site itself, and some plugins actually identify themselves so a server knows not to send data. So in this case, when OKCupid discovered that a user was blocking ads, they inserted an banner of their own that the blocker would interpret as normal site data. It reads:

So normally there would be an ad in this spot. But you’re using an ad-blocker like a boss; like a boss who hates ads. & that’s cool, except that OkCupid is ad-supported, & we need money to run this beast. Here’s a solution: You donate $5 to us once, & we remove all ads from the site forever. You don’t have to see garbage ads; we make a little of the money back that we’re losing from the blocker. Everyone wins.

So for $5 they'll never serve ads to your username again — not a bad deal considering they're one of the most popular dating sites around.

OKCupid /
The "A-List" premium membership

OKCupid already offers a premium "A-List" service to users who want to have unlimited space in their inbox or check out prospects anonymously. But at $9.95 per month, it's difficult to justify for anyone but deep-pocketed power-daters. A $5 "donation," on the other hand, is more like a one-time purchase or upgrade, something consumers do very frequently in app stores.

It's a smart campaign, but whether it will find success is anyone's guess: the behavior of a free site's user when asked to pay money could be almost anything, from spontaneous generosity to righteous anger. OKCupid has been transparent about these experiments in the past, so it may be that we'll see a humorous blog post about it in a month or two.

Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for NBC News Digital. His personal Website is coldewey.cc.

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