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Mon, Jun 26, 2006

[Icon][Icon]AdBlock revisited

• Post categories: Omni, FOSS, Rant, Technology, Helpful

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.


Comment from: aysiu [Visitor] · http://www.psychocats.net/ubuntu/
I'm in partial-to-full agreement on this one.

If people did start ripping ads out of magazines... well, magazines would have to figure out a different way to make money, wouldn't they?

I often turn off the radio when advertisements come on, or I change the channel. Somehow, though, the radio stations manage to convince their advertisers to pay money for advertisements based on ratings.

And Google--yeah, I don't mind their ads... not so much because they're relevant as that they're text-only ads. They're a bit harder to block, sure. But they're also less annoying and take up less screen real estate.

If people moved to text-only ads, they could fund their sites and not annoy people as much.
26/06/06 @ 09:20
Comment from: ray [Visitor] · http://lostaddress.org
The day we can trust advertisers and webmasters to advertise without being annoying is the day that adblock will lose some of it's relevance.

If I come, for example, here, I expect to come here to read an article, I don't expect to have to fight my way through ads and pop ups and pop unders and flash and "click here, your computer is infected" and so on.

If I had to fight my way past adverts and advertisers to get into a shop, I'd stop shopping there.
26/06/06 @ 11:53
Comment from: Alison [Visitor] · http://www.creativehedgehog.com
I don't use the firefox extension for adblocking any more- it leaks memory and, I suspect, the culprit for multiple firefox crashes that quit once I killed adblock. I do, however, use no-script- it stops javascripts etc unless I allow a site. I don't see a lot of ads- and since javascript is used for flashy in your face ads, it is a welcome "blocker" -even if it is an unexpected advantage to a move that was made primarily in the interests of security.
26/06/06 @ 23:46
Comment from: hari [Visitor] · http://literaryforums.org
I'm not entirely convinced of the moral-ethical issues you raise here, however. It's always going to be a two-sided issue with no clear or easy answers.

And all as ads are not created alike and all websites are different, so I doubt whether this debate will die any time soon when one talks in generalities.
27/06/06 @ 07:14
Comment from: Alereon [Visitor]
There are some sites that I whitelist in Adblock because the ads they display are always, or almost always, relevant to me. Even if I don't click every time, I nearly always feel enriched for having seen them. These sites are awesome. Of course, the vast majority of sites have entirely pointless keyword-based advertizing or retarded mortgage banners.
08/07/06 @ 19:01
Comment from: Will [Visitor]
"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."

I do not understand this argument at all. Surely Adblock means that people are getting Tier 2 for free, thus denying the site any revenue stream at all?
25/07/06 @ 09:09
Comment from: oneandoneis2 [Member] · http://geekblog.oneandoneis2.org/
Will: Thanks for the comment. Please read this
31/07/06 @ 03:36
Comment from: John [Visitor] Email
"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."

Bull. Who's ISP bills per byte?

"At least I can flick through the pages of a magazine before I part with my cash."

Exactly, and if you don't like the ads on a site, you have the option to not view it.

When you block ads your getting cake and eating it too. Your arguments for this are very ethereal in nature. Even the categorization of this argument as being moral in any way is silly.

When you view my site and don't view my ads, your costing me money. Period.

If my ads annoy you, preview, then leave if you wish.

Complaining about relevance or annoyance factors is just a cheap way to even make this an argument.

My ads are annoying, DRM is too restrictive, and commercials on TV are too long and prominent. The result? Less users of those pieces of media.

The true "onus" is to find a balance between monetizing one of these pieces of media and making it compelling and attractive to the media's users.

Removing the rewards for creating content just reduces the incentive for people to create that content.

Both Firefox and Facebook are both supported by ads. If 50% of users started using Adblockers you can probably expect 50% less money spent on improving those products.

Both of those products survive and flourished because they are free to use. Nobody is going to buy enough 2nd tier memberships, shirts with logos, or donate money to support their growth and level of excellence.

02/08/07 @ 04:44
festering leper
Comment from: festering leper [Visitor] Email
"Bull. Who's ISP bills per byte?"

yeah i know... from an urban north america viewpoint this argument seems pretty weak. there are many isps that have low usage caps and charge exorbitant amounts for extra bandwidth.

if you live in the far north of canada and subscribe to basic broadband ( http://www.qiniq.com/?page_id=8 ) you'll be in for a shock once you've used up your monthly allotment of 2 (yes two) gigabytes and are going to be charged $30/gigabyte for any excess.

there are many more isps/service plans that discourage what we might consider a real amount of use (most plans in australia come to mind. i thought this was a good one tho.. :) )
02/08/07 @ 05:16
Comment from: wozza [Visitor] Email
If ads are easy to block, then that's a technical limitation of the medium. The advertiser should factor in the possibility that a certain amount of people will have ads turned off. Therefore they would pay less. So the webmaster gets paid less than he would like. Tough. I'm sure most people get paid less than they would like.
02/08/07 @ 05:47
James Jones
Comment from: James Jones [Visitor] Email
02/08/07 @ 08:20
Comment from: Ian [Visitor] Email · http://www.devolute.net
Anyway to block just those "Get your free smilies here!" animated ads? *shudders*

You make a very good point. Good enough, I think, to make me install Adblock.
02/08/07 @ 09:44
Matt Perry
Comment from: Matt Perry [Visitor] Email
I run a fairly popular fansite that covers a videogame series. Google AdSense makes enough to cover my hosting costs and related expenses, but there's absolutely no other way for a fansite to monetise itself without breaking a few laws. The closet I've come is using Amazon and Play Asia affiliate links to sell related games, and have thus far sold... nothing. I'm not running a business, and have no intention of doing so, but I also can't afford to fund the site out of my own back pocket. Adverts keep my site alive.
02/08/07 @ 10:52
Dave Child
Comment from: Dave Child [Visitor] Email · http://www.ilovejackdaniels.com
Ads like the annoying buzzine mosquito one are, well, annoying. But the simple fact is that if a site has annoying advertising, the thing to do is not use that site.

My view is that the ads and content are a unit. I choose to release content on my site for free, with ads, rather than charge directly for it (as a magazine would).

I think it's a matter of balance. Intrusive ads (noisy, flashing, pop-up, pop-under) go too far- unethical behaviour on the part of the webmaster and advertiser. Blocking appropriate, targeted, non-intrusive ads is unethical on the part of the user. And is likely to drive more webmasters and advertisers to less ethical advertising.

Unless the advertising is itself unethical, leaving it alone is, in my opinion, an implicit condition of viewing the content.
02/08/07 @ 12:48
Comment from: biff [Visitor] Email
Its not a question of cutting out the ads. If you buy a magazine and dont read all the ads from start to finish you are 5T33L1NG from the publisher!!
02/08/07 @ 15:42
Comment from: Andrej [Visitor] Email
I'm glad that now antything is moral if it suits you.

From now on I will steal other people cars every time I need to drive. Why support a flawed business model of buying cars and leaving them on parking yards merely locked?
02/08/07 @ 16:44
Comment from: JD [Visitor] Email
What are "relevant ads"?
Relevant to what?
If I read an article about how "big pharma are poisoning us by selling xyz"... what will be the relevant ads? And ad for the latest xyz?
Let's say I am a computer geek.
Why would I be interested in seeing an ad for the latest/best mega multi-led flashing portable hard drive with an "l33t" label on it? I don't need any fcking hard drive!
If I need something, I do like everybody else: read reviews and buy the best out of the reviews.
So, every single ad is irrelevant; is an annoyance.

And there is a difference between blocking the ads and hiding the ads... When you hide, it's like ignoring them while still downloading them. So your ad provider won't see the difference. It's like not hiding the ads and ignoring them (while they try to force your attention on them).

But, if you expect me to click them and buy their crap products... that will never happen.

In fact, if an ad slips through, I tend to get upset and will associate the feeling (being annoyed) with the company. So it really defeats the purpose!
02/08/07 @ 16:47
Comment from: John [Visitor] Email
This post provoked some interesting responses from webmasters who say that without the ad revenue they wouldn't be able to pay for the services they provide on their web site. Well enough. I would argue that if you have no way other than ad revenue to keep your site going, then your site probably does not offer anything of real value. The Internet would likely be better off with such sites shut down.
02/08/07 @ 17:16
Comment from: mario [Visitor]
I have a gigantic blocklist in /etc/hosts. But sometimes I regret it, because Google ads were actually useful and clickworthy sometimes. And I occasionally find other Textads that I'm interested in, only to find that I first have to unblock an actual server again to view it.

However, I'm not an ads-hater. I'm primiarily into blocking because of privacy issues. (Again talking about Google ads here.)
02/08/07 @ 17:32
John Braun
Comment from: John Braun [Visitor] Email · http://none.com
Ads? The Internet has ADS? I thought that it was some fad that went away.

Seriously, I don't think that I've seen an ad on the Internet in two years. NoScript, AdBlock, and a gigundus /etc/hosts mean that my browsing is ad-free.
02/08/07 @ 21:39
lavi d
Comment from: lavi d [Visitor] Email · http://lavidavegas.blogspot.com
Simply put, I use the internet to read. I'm probably just old-fashioned, but I cannot stand things moving on a page I'm trying to read.

I will adblock an entire domain (doubleclick, etc) if I they put up one animated ad. If, and only if, the domain is not the domain I am reading. In that case, I just block the individual ads. Static ads? Go for it, I can ignore them.
03/08/07 @ 03:26
Comment from: Hari [Member] · http://harishankar.org/blog/
> Simply put, I use the internet to read. I'm probably just old-fashioned, but I cannot stand things moving on a page I'm trying to read.

Although I agree with that, I think on the whole, that statement is like making a mountain out of a molehill.

Of course the internet has ads and of course there are some very distracting and tasteless ads around. But on respectable, non-commercial websites most advertising is within acceptable limits, doesn't perceptibly slow down site loading and in google adsense's case, it actually generates some relevant and interesting links.

So I think this issue is dead and buried now. People who use adblock do it more out of a sense of self-righteousness than because it's really useful in more than a few odd cases.
05/08/07 @ 07:45
Comment from: sokuban [Member] Email
One thing that I always wondered is this.

Webmasters say that if people go to their site, then they have to see the ads. Even if they are pop under, flashy and pictures.

What if I use lynx?

If I do my normal browsing on lynx because I have an extreemly old computer with no support for framebuffers or X. All the ads are blocked.

So really if you think about it theoretically it shouldn't be bad to block ads. Some computers can't even display the ads. How could someone say that people /have/ to see the ads?
06/08/07 @ 06:38
Comment from: Hari [Member] · http://harishankar.org/blog/
Sokuban, having any browser without image support/Flash support is effectively an ad-blocking browser.

So yes, theoritically your browser is an "ad-block" browser.

But really, the whole issue is blown way out of proportion.
06/08/07 @ 18:00
Comment from: slippiefist [Visitor] Email · http://myspace.com/slippiefist
I block ads for the same reason I refuse to shop at Wal-Mart or use (licensed) Microsoft software. I despise capitalism out of control. I think it should be illegal to display anything but small text ads on the internet. Only a naive jackass would click on a ridiculous, flashing, buzzing, huge ad or a pop-up or pop-under anyway.

Look here: My browser is MY property. If a pop-up ad opens another browser window without my consent then that's like abusing my property. I should be able to sue for emotional distress. Keep your stupid scripts to yourself. If I want to be annoyed I'll go download Gator or something.

And don't talk to me about ethics. I'm still trying to find the crack or keygen for that.
12/08/07 @ 18:13
Comment from: oneandoneis2 [Member] · http://geekblog.oneandoneis2.org/
A link I thought I'd post, which I came across after the blog linked to THIS post:
Convince Ad Blockers to Turn Your Ads Back On

Admittedly, it's targeted more against people who use "blanket" adblocks like Filterset G than those of us who just block the annoying ones, but it's still worth a read if you're a webmaster who wants people to see adverts on your site.
24/10/07 @ 11:27
Comment from: Adblocker [Visitor]
I block ads 'cause I hate capitalism in general and especially its vanguard, the ad people. Maybe that's just me, though.
02/12/08 @ 13:19
Andre Parson
Comment from: Andre Parson [Visitor]
I don't mind text-only ads. They're not that annoying, take up less screen estate, take less to download, etc, etc. Googles even try to be relevent!

The ones I hate the most is the animated ones and the "Please watch this 30-second advertisement before we show the next page". I'm paying for these adverts and typically, the content isn't worth the bandwidth of downloading the TV-type advert.
26/06/09 @ 20:33
Comment from: CaptainReality [Visitor]
Ad blocking is legal. It will probably never be illegal. To make it illegal would be an absurd restriction of personal freedom, and the legislation would of course impact other areas. This would be very, very bad.

Therefore, all I see in the 'ad-blocking is stealing' camp is a group of control-freaks who believe that the world owes them a living, who are whining about others engaging in a practice that is perfectly legal.

Boo hoo! Call a waaaaaaaambulance. Would you like some cheese with your whine?

If you don't like people doing what is legal, lobby to get the law changed. You'll fail, and we'll all laugh at you. Those in the 'ad-blocking is STEEELING' camp know this, which is why they're all whining about it on the internet.

For that matter, anyone who is too stupid to be able to tell the difference between 'stealing' and 'automated advertisement culling' is so thick that they belong in the idiot tree for several years. And no, I'm not going to explain the difference; if you can't see it, perhaps you should pay a lawyer $300 an hour to explain it to you.

In the meantime, I'm gonna block your ads. "But I need the money to run my site", you say. My response... "I don't care". "But without ad revenue, ad supported sites will disappear" you say. Again, my response... "I don't care". "BUT YOU ARE A THIEF U R WORSE THAN HITLER U R LIKE SOMEWUN HOO STEEELZ CARZ AND OLD LADEEZ HANDBAGZ AND PACEMAKER BATTERIES FROM THE ELDERLY U NAZI DEMON SCUM" you say. Again, my response... "I don't care".
06/08/09 @ 06:23
Just Another
Comment from: Just Another [Visitor]

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

09/02/10 @ 01:50
Utility Warehouse
Comment from: Utility Warehouse [Visitor] · http://www.dontbreakthepiggy.co.uk
I use Google adsense on my site which does bring in some extra income, clickbank ads can also bring in a good income if you have a niche area. John
20/08/10 @ 08:51
Amy Johnson
Comment from: Amy Johnson [Visitor] · http://www.freeviewmovies.com
AdBlock is one of the best ways to get around this days, because lots of webmasters don't get the fact that large ads and sticky commercials drive people away from websites.
19/11/10 @ 09:55
Comment from: Earbud [Visitor]
AdBlock is amazing software because it blocks the majority of of those annoying ads on YouTube.
03/05/11 @ 23:05
Treadmill Traci
Comment from: Treadmill Traci [Visitor]
The thing is, your arguement about magazines also can apply to websites. You can either pay to look at the website's content, or put up with the ads and see it for free. Which is the better choice here: dealing with something that is slightly annoying, or paying a monthly fee just to look at a website? I know that I'd pick the free and annoying choice....
26/07/11 @ 20:53
Comment from: Angelo [Visitor] · http://bitfreedom.com
I'm a publisher with ad-supported content. I don't mind adblock at all--I think it's morally within everyone's rights to have as much control as they can technically have over their own machine and what goes into it. I also use adblock because of annoying ads.

As a web publisher I don't blame adblock--I blame the annoying advertisers who have ruined it for the rest of us. I don't mind ads so much, and I wouldn't block them at all if it weren't for certain types which are especially annoying.

So yeah, you can try to put the blame on adblock for simply existing and giving control to the user. But it's more productive to see adblock as just part of the environment, and blame your fellow advertisers for being too abusive to users.
19/12/11 @ 07:04

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