Websites asking me to turn off ad blocker

When people complain about the death of a high-quality, independent media, they’ll only have themselves to blame. We used to have to pay a quarter or whatever and flip pages and pages of ads to get our news. Now everyone expects all this for free, and it’s no wonder why the industry is, for the most part, dying.

I used to see this rarely, but suddenly it’s all over the place. And it’s always for an unusual story I was particularly interested in, so there’s no good alternative.

The real problem was the development of the Internet as a place where everything was free. The world can’t work on free. Good stuff needs to be paid for one way or another. Good stuff is worth the money. Somebody has to figure out how to make micropayments work. Nothing else I’ve ever heard of makes any sense.

Added it to Chrome at your suggestion. Works nicely. Thanks.

See what I said about the malware discussion being one nobody wants to have? You could at least acknowledge the concept.

Salespeople are not paid to be reasonable.

Fair enough. I’m fine with paywalls as a solution to this problem. I have a feeling most people aren’t. One way or another, I see it as the slow death of a important industry.

You realize this is like walking into McDonalds and saying: “You won’t give me free cheese? Well, fuck you! I’ll go somewhere else and get my free cheese!”

And while you may very well be able to find your “free cheese” elsewhere, from the view of the Mcdonald’s owner, he couldn’t care less.

It’s more like “No, I won’t eat those free samples in order to help pay for my meal. The last time I did, I got terrible food poisoning, and nobody who could fix it is interested in guaranteeing it won’t happen again.”

Doesn’t matter if you tell yourself you’ll never click on an ad. Plenty of marketing research shows that just being exposed to a logo or company name increases the chance of you buying from them. Sure maybe you’re the exception but statistically it’s true. Especially re-marketing (eg showing you ads from a company whose website you’ve already visited) is actually very effective even if ads are not clicked, so yes the advertiser wants to make sure that the most people actually see them.

So to everyone saying “FU if you tell me to disable the ad blocker”, I hope you are paying for quality content then? Have you subscribed to your favourite news outlet to help them create good quality investigative journalism? Have you paid for the dope?

Ad blocking is not like asking for free cheese from McDonald’s. It’s more like McDonalds putting up a sign saying “free cheese!” and when you try to walk in the door, someone stops you and shoves a video screen in your face which starts playing very loudly (never mind you’re already talking to someone on the phone), you can’t find the mute button, and when you try to change the volume they move the screen so you can’t hit any controls. After 30 seconds of this they finally capitulate and move over, but now you see there’s a dozen other people flanking the aisle with sandwich boards hawking their own wares. One gets too close and when you try to push him out of the way he declares “oh you acknowledge me, we’ve entered into a business relationship!” and he whisks you across the street to his cheap cellphone store before you know what happened. After coming back to McDonald’s you’re relieved to see the video guy is bothering someone else, and you carefully make your way to the front counter without touching anyone. Then you notice only 1/4 of the free cheese is actually there. You have to go to the other McDonald’s next door which has a whole different barrage of people flanking the aisles, one of whom you know will dump you in a dark alley after stealing your credit card number. After going through this two more times to get the whole piece of cheese, which was just repackaged from Burger King, which itself was repackaged from Wendy’s, you notice all those folks are now following you around taking photos of where you’re going and phoning back to their businesses telling them what else you’re looking at and informing some of their cohorts to jump out in front of you on the sidewalk to advertise their cheap cellphones or totally not-fake cheese substitutes. Going out hidden by a cape, or bringing a friend to distract the video guy and all the others, to hold them back so they don’t bother you, is more a case of self-preservation than anything.

The internet did exist before ads, and unobtrusive owner-curated ads existed before the big ad networks and round-the-clock tracking. That the ad networks are more lucrative, even if they’re more dangerous for the end-user, doesn’t make it ok. Nobody said you’d be able to make a living posting YouTube videos or blogging, and nobody gave website owners or by proxy their advertisers the right to take over a visitor’s computer speakers or hog their processor. Besides, you can argue that there’s more value in letting the people who really hate ads block them, because it gives the remaining visitors a higher conversion rate. Yeah it goes from squat to squat and a half, but impressions are worth basically nothing nowadays. Even clicks are barely worth anything, it’s confirmed purchases that have value, but that’s where the offensively pervasive tracking comes in. Sorry, but I and many others don’t consent to that, or the malware risks. The free cheese is just junk food anyway.

I’m glad there’s someone else that thinks this way. In this particular case, the problem isn’t so much the basic concept of “acceptable ads”. I could live with that. The problem is that it fundamentally changes the alignment of the developer’s interests. An independent developer that’s sick of seeing ads has interests that largely align with my own. A commercial developer with a business model based on allowing certain ads through has interests that are largely opposite my own, even if the final product is superficially similar.

“Follow the money” is a good approximation for behavior prediction, but “follow the incentives” is an even better one.

If you only consume “junk food” eg trash articles that are just recycled from other websites that’s because of your choice in media. There are plenty of news sites doing real investigative journalism with original content. So if you choose to block their ads fine, but in that case either buy a subscription or don’t read their content.

Money is one kind of incentive, so “follow the money” is a special case of “follow the incentives”: It isn’t false, necessarily, but it isn’t the whole picture, and it fails to explain some things we see over and over again, such as positive reputation being an incentive for participating in gift economies.

My analysis is, from what I understand, straight-up economics, once you take the more academic view of economics as opposed to thinking it must be, again, all about money in specific. I’m not doing anything special.

Ad networks do have an incentive to try to stop malware, but it’s weak: Stopping malware is hard, and requires a lot of up-front work which isn’t going to pay off quickly, and it might even cost them legitimate advertising money if they have false positives, which they will, because solving the Halting Problem is legitimately difficult. Those incentives are overwhelmed by the incentive of a company offering cash now to get this ad out to people now.

Economics suggests solving the problem by introducing a countervailing incentive which is strong enough to matter. That’s why regulatory bodies exist: To provide and enforce those countervailing incentives so companies won’t go with the more immediate incentives to do bad things. However, all of this quickly runs into politics, which I’m incentivized to keep out of GQ.

One of the issues with paywalls is that payment is still based on the idea that people want to get The Paper delivered each day so they can devour the whole thing. There is no easy or reasonably-priced way to pay to graze. I’m not going to pay for a full subscription to every publication that I might read something from on a particular day.

Newspaper ads also generally didn’t spontaneously ignite, burning up your paper and the desk it happened to be sitting on…

And it’s not like they shouldn’t KNOW people hated that. The original HTML web had pop-up adds, and /all/ the web browsers added pop-up blocking. Javascript offers a different method for pup ups, which defeats the browser setting, and they couldn’t resist.

I hate intrusive ads, I don’t mind very much at all about ads that sit on a page cause no interference to my browsing. If that’s the way the site owner makes a bit of cash then fair play to them.

I have no objection when I pick up free copy of the “Evening Standard” or “NME” at a tube station and find that there are a lot of ads in there. I merely pass my eyes over it and flip a page.

Ultimately though, the site has to serve its core purpose of providing me with the content in a manner that is user friendly enough to keep my interest and not piss me off. The moment they start to make the ads a problem (pop-ups, autoplays, malware etc) is the moment I either get a third party to chop it out and prevent it, or I go elsewhere. And there is always elsewhere.

The problem lies, fair and square, with the provider. I’d feel no need for an adblocker if they didn’t place ads that needed blocking

So you guys realise that big corporate sites and the big ad networks are very very quick to take down ads that are against the terms of service or that contain malware.
If you’re getting popups, auto playing music and malware so much that you need an adblocker then you’re either going to pirate sites, illegal streaming sites, or porn sites.

Just saying…

Shortly after Forbes made that change, they were caught dishing out malware through their ads.

Or Forbes. Or the SDMB.