I think there is huge value in journalism, but I think people are unwilling to pay for it. This happens in other mediums too, such as people who are quite happy to listen to music but don’t want to pay in some way.
I don’t think donations are a scalable model. I think frankly, people need to be pushed into paying. For example, I pay for Headspace, and I am happy to because I can’t get their content without paying for it. Likewise, I pay for Netflix, Amazon Prime, Spotify, and other services because I can’t get that content legally (and conveniently), thus I pay.
Ads are based on the notion that you see something of interest and it either (a) promotes the brand (it sticks in your head, like a TV ad), or (b) generates a click to learn more (such as most web ads). Sure, some people ignore the ads, and that is fine, but the model clearly works (Google’s success being an example).
My point is this: people who use ad blockers seem to do it because either (a) ads are a minor inconvenience, or (b) they want to avoid the bandwidth hit for ads (or both). I can understand ad blockers more in developing nations with scarce bandwidth, but in countries with generous bandwidth caps, it seems people are mainly blocking ads because they are annoying. In which case, those people would rather the people who create the content they like don’t get paid to serve their own convenience of not seeing the ads. I think this is unfair.
Now, this might seem harsh, but in the absence of other models of those content creators getting paid, I think seeing a few ads is a reasonable concession.