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Mon, Jun 26, 2006
I was actually surprised to see that the debate is apparently still ongoing as to whether adblocking is immoral or not. Unsurprisinly, it's mostly webmasters who tend to the "It is" view, and mostly average web surfers who tend to the "It isn't"
I've touched on the subject before, but there were a couple of points that I didn't include in that one, and you know how it is when you start tugging on a thread. . .
So I figured I'd do another post on the subject. Here it is!
So, obviously, there's the first & most popular argument, "I run a website, it costs me money to do so, I need advertising revenue to pay for the website, adblocking robs me of this revenue."
In other words, people should support bad business models because it's more convenient for the businessmen. On that principle, the entire Internet should be scrapped: News and entertainment industries in particular are struggling to adapt to the new distribution channels it has provided.
Convinced? Me neither.
It's true that it costs money to run your own website - And I know this, of course, because I do so myself. And certainly, it's hard to argue when somebody points out that if you enjoy a website, you should be willing to help that website keep going, by enabling it to make money off ads.
But it's not *that* hard.
There's more than one way to make a few pennies from people who like your website. The simplest, of course, is to simply stick in a "If you like this website, please support it by making a contribution" link. Not reliable, but it does get you some income.
Rather more reliably, there's the two-tier system as used by many websites: Tier 1 is all the content, plus adverts. Tier 2 is a paid-for membership that gives you all the content, minus adverts. You might offer some small perks with Tier 2 as well, of course - Slashdot, for instance, lets Tier 2 people see stories that are just about to be published, a sneak preview that means we stand a better chance of reading the linked article before the Slashdot effect kicks in.
Or there's merchandizing. If you've got a website that lots of people visit, they'll probably like it enough to buy things with the logo on it. Look at most webcomics: The popular ones more than cover their costs by selling collections of their strips in book form. They don't regard the cost of their website as something that needs to be paid for by ads: It's a very cheap form of advertising that makes people aware enough of the strip that they'll buy the books. And plush toys. And coasters, and bumper stickers and. . .
Frankly, as far as I'm concerned, if a webmaster runs a site that's popular enough that the costs become at all significant, the onus is on him (or her) to find ways to cash in on that popularity to keep the site going. The visitors have no duty at all, and they certainly aren't obliged to go out of their way to make money for somebody else.
That's how business works: It's not enough to have good ideas. Plenty of companies with good products have come along and promptly gone bust. You don't just come up with something good and sit back as the world fills your pockets: You get busy and work out how to convince people to part with their hard-earned, or your pockets will stay resolutely empty.
The next point that tends to get dragged out is "Magazines have adverts in them, do you cut those out too?"
There's two points here.
Firstly, magazines have almost universally relevant adverts in them. If you buy a computer magazine, you'll see a lot of adverts for hardware & software. If you're enough of a computer enthusiast, you're very likely to be looking for a new computer or at least an upgrade, and thus the advertised special offers are extremely likely to catch your eye.
The majority of internet advertising is less well-focussed. I just clicked on the Dilbert website to look at today's cartoon, and what do I get? Two banner ads and a pop-under advertising the "Tickle" intelligence test.
The relevance? I fail to see it. That's why I don't visit Dilbert.com without an adblock running.
Secondly, the adverts in a magazine do not result in the mag being more expensive to buy. Quite the opposite: They more than pay for the extra costs they generate in extra paper and ink, and therefore as well as benefiting me by informing me about things I am likely to want to know, they make it cheaper for me to buy the magazine. Everybody's happy.
Contrast this with web advertising. The more I download in a month, the more I pay my ISP at the end of that month. Every advert I download is costing me money: Far from viewing the website free, I am paying for the privelege. Not only are adverts irrelevant, they're expensive.
Okay, so they're funding the website. Big whoop. I might not even like the website, after I get all the ads out of the way enough to actually see it. At least I can flick through the pages of a magazine before I part with my cash.
What's more, I'm probably *not* funding the website. Most adverts, these days, bone-headed though it is, are pay-per-click rather than pay-per-view.
This baffles me. TV, radio, billboards, magazines. . . I've never heard of anywhere but the Web where the advertisers say "Here's our advert, put it on show free, and if anybody buys a product and says it's because they saw our ad, we'll give you some money" and get away with it. I mean, how many people have taken up smoking because they saw Benson & Hedges advertised on the F1 car?? Enough to justify the millions in sponsorship? I think not..
To say that the advertisers got carried away when the Internet made it possible to tell them how many people saw the adverts and how many people clicked on them, is an understatement. They went completely off their rocker and have mostly not climbed back onto it yet. Flashing banner ads and pop-unders make that very clear: The goal is to entice your audience, not alienate them.
So if the website doesn't benefit from me viewing an ad, and it costs me money to view an ad, what difference does adblocking make? At least if I block the ads, it's free for me to look at the website, and the webmaster is no worse off than he would have been anyway.
It's not at all uncommon to see people saying "I block all ads, except for Google's" - I know I often click on Google ads. There's a very important lesson to be learned there, and it's not "Geeks love Google"
It's "Google presents people with relevant adverts via small and unobtrusive text boxes, and people have no problem with that; while most other advertisers think pop-unders are the best way to advertise."
The simple truth is that adblockers are not in widespread use because most Web-users hate capitalism, advertisers, and/or webmasters. They are in widespread use because there is widespread demand, and there is widespread demand because advertisers and webmasters got greedy and stupid.
When I hear an advertiser or a webmaster complain that adblockers cause them problems, then frankly, I'm glad to hear it. Not only will I not apologise for using several adblock measures, I hope they continue to have problems, and I hope they get worse as time goes by.
The more problems they have with adblockers, the sooner they'll realize that annoying web adverts are on a par with advertising via spam, and they'll stop using them and look at the numerous better alternatives.
Google-like relevant text-only ads are ok.
Well, someone here made a comment about magazine flipping, that seeing ads in mag and seeing ads in net is the same. For relevant text-only ad or static image — maybe. For flashing bright something, obstructive Flash object, or loud noise it's not. Consider your mag you try to read start to flash or make annoying noises. You'll use headphones (something like adblocker), maybe sunglasses. Most likely you'll throw that magazine out and never buy again.
I wonder why. :D
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