A Rant about Ads

I’ve posted in the past about my ambivalence about blocking ads online. On one hand, I installed AdBlock Plus because internet advertising has gotten really obnoxious, with sites seemingly competing to see who can make the most irritating ads and who can place the most ads in places that obscure content. The Internet got a lot cleaner when I starting blocking ads.

On the other hand, I recognize the importance of advertising on the Internet. Free sites with ads have an implicit contract with the viewer: view the ads on the page, maybe click on them if you’re interested, and we’ll let you use our site for free. An individual can block ads, and it’s somewhat like stealing cable — on your own, it’s insignificant and almost a victimless crime. But in the long run, it’s happening a lot and it endangers those sites’ abilities to support themselves with ads. (I work for an ad-supported site, so I’m biased.)

I went a few months with AdBlock Plus disabled entirely. It went pretty smoothly, but most of the sites I visit frequently are like my own company: we don’t accept invasive ads. Ads the make sound, cover content, or *gasp* open popups are never allowed. (We also reserve the right to reject “sleazy” ads.) Recently, I’ve found a few sites with popups. (I’m not sure, how “Block popups” was disabled in Firefox. I just fixed that.)

It may be possible to offer fine-grained control of blocking ads, but I really can’t be bothered. So here’s my new system: I browse with AdBlock Plus disabled. But if I go to a site that I know has invasive ads — popups, noisy ads, content-obscuring ads, etc. — I turn AdBlock Plus on, which blocks all ads. The sites I frequent also have AdBlock plus set to not run, so that even if it’s on, I still view the ads.

A quick note, by the way – “I don’t click ads, so they’re not losing any revenue anyway” is incorrect. A lot of sites get paid for impressions (“CPM”), not clicks (“CPC”), so whether the ads are clicked on or not is irrelevant. If you block ads, you are depriving the site of revenue. Hence my compromise: I’ll view your ads in return for the free content you provide, unless your ads are obnoxious.

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