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Ars Technica on the problem with adblocking

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On Friday night, Ars Technica decided to set up a system to catch those visitors running "a very popular ad blocking tool" (presumably Adblock Plus), which in turn would block those users, not allowing them to see any content on the site. As expected, shit hit the fan once the users stopped freaking out, and found out what happened (kinda expected for a tech-centric site) with the articles. So, on Sunday, Ken Fisher, one of the site founders, explained everything about the experiment, and the reasons for doing it. Nothing new there, expect for the fact that ads on many Internet sites now are paid on a per view basis, instead of clicks.

While the post sounds very reasonable, and no one is threatening to cut access to those running adblockers, many people think otherwise, and express so in the post comments. What's more, now the debate spreads to the rest of the Internet, as the post gets slashdotted (and probably digged as well), and people starts weighing on the issue, ranging from John Gruber noting the complexity of the situation to Tech Dirt telling Ars that it's time to evolve and stop complaining. Other people, like Scott Wasson at The Tech Report side with Fisher, painting a situation very similar to Ars Technica.

One of the most ironic things about the whole situation is that the same Internet sites that are supposedly replacing newspapers as major sources of information are also struggling to find sources of ad revenue, and many say that their business model is 'dead' and they should be researching alternative models. So, are 'old' and 'new' media sharing the same dying model? Fun.

I should note that all the arguments 'for' and 'against' have been beaten to death, even here on this forum, but it's always interesting to see the affected business expressing their opinion on the whole matter. Now, if the ad companies said something as well...

This has been a long time coming.  Sites are getting annoyed that they get paid on a 'per view' basis, and nobody is viewing their popups.

Personally I dont have any addon software to block popup's for me, but Opera does a pretty sweet job (hence me not having external software to do it).

Seemingly, we are going to get punished for not viewing the ads...

If you have an ad blocker running, and you load 10 pages on the site, you consume resources from us (bandwidth being only one of them), but provide us with no revenue

--- End quote ---

Nobody ASKED you, nor FORCED you to provide us with information, so stfu moaning and get on with your life.  You wont be missed by me if I get blocked from using your website ^_^

Whats next?  We going to get an electric shock when we go make a coffee during TV show Ad Breaks?

As noted by Fisher in the post, the ad system is extremely reasonable, since they only have two ads at all times, most of them are static or lightly animated banners, plus the occasional Flash ad, which also messes up with Flashblock and NoScript, something that many readers took an issue with. So they're not exactly intrusive. If they switched to an aggressive popup system, I'm sure the heat coming up from the readers hate would be enough to accelerate global warming exponentially.

My argument is simple: blocking ads can be devastating to the sites you love. I am not making an argument that blocking ads is a form of stealing, or is immoral, or unethical, or makes someone the son of the devil. It can result in people losing their jobs, it can result in less content on any given site, and it definitely can affect the quality of content. It can also put sites into a real advertising death spin. As ad revenues go down, many sites are lured into running advertising of a truly questionable nature. We've all seen it happen. I am very proud of the fact that we routinely talk to you guys in our feedback forum about the quality of our ads. I have proven over 12 years that we will fight on the behalf of readers whenever we can. Does that mean that there are the occasional intrusive ads, expanding this way and that? Yes, sometimes we have to accept those ads. But any of you reading this site for any significant period of time know that these are few and far between. We turn down offers every month for advertising like that out of respect for you guys. We simply ask that you return the favor and not block ads.

--- End quote ---

His argument is simple, yet completely wrong.

How can a website, not having advertisements affect its quality?  I personally know plenty who do not run ad's and it doesn't affect them, sometimes ads are highly irritating (like: Watch this video, but we are going to FORCE you to watch a 5 minute clip about kids in Africa), Now, don't get me wrong, I'm all for giving third world country's money, but, just like the comments in the quote, its completely irrelevant and not a good argument.

He seriously needs to get a grip on reality.

Advertisements do not make a place good, and can only ever make a place bad (not ALWAYS, only usually)

DC has NO ads, is completely VOLUNTARY DONATION driven, and has some of the best content (IMO) on the Internet.

In this particular case, the explanation is simple. Several people work on Ars Technica full-time, and even more are paid for their regular contributions. A lack of revenue from their usual streams would force them to either resort to much uglier ad systems, or to simply sell out, and start making highly biased articles in favor of this or other company paying them some good money. Sponsored articles, which are quite common actually, only that there would not be indication of such sponsorship anywhere.

In any case, to me the whole situation is simple. Like the site? Get on with the program. You don't like the site or the program? You're free to do what you want. Making things more complex would only throw everyone into a rat race, and I think we already have enough with music, films and now books and videogames. You can extract several lessons from those fields to know how to improve your current business and make your readers happy at the same time.


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