Advertising is devastating to my well-being

There's an interesting article on Ars Technica about how blocking ads is somehow unethical, and "devastating to the sites you love". The idea that I have a moral obligation to stare at an advertisment, the thought I have an ethical obligation to voluntarily annoy myself for the sake of a company's profits... it would be hilarious if it wasn't so repugnant.

Let's talk about ethics. How about some ethics for businesses?

  1. Stop making the world a garish and hideous place to live by flooding it with ads.
  2. Stop trying to grab my attention, evoke emotional responses in me, manipulate my mind, and trick me into spending money on crap I don't need. This is what advertisement is. Stop disrespecting me and insulting my intelligence. Stop viewing me as an anonymous, money-spending piece of cattle.
  3. Stop trying to track my every move online. How many people understand tracking cookies? How many companies make it clear that every click is being recorded and data-mined? How is this ethical?

Here's the state of the world today: I can't drive down the street without seeing billboards everywhere. The radio is literally 25 to 50% ads, which is why I don't listen to the radio. Television is what, 20 minutes of commercials per hour? Which is why I haven't had television in 6 years. Newspapers and magazines are saturated with ads, and of course I don't read them either. Even then, ads are nearly unavoidable.

(By contrast, books (for example) are awesome. I pay for a book, and then I read the book start-to-finish with no ads, no distractions. A few pages at the back maybe, but I can ignore those. Books are nice.)

The internet is also a wonderful thing. FIRST a person or company puts a lot of information somewhere that everyone can read it effortlessly for free, and THEN they sometimes expect me to look at their ads. And I can simply choose not to.

If you want to force me to look at your ads, make me sign a contract or consent to an agreement before you display your site to me. Otherwise I owe you nothing. If your business is about to go bankrupt, and your business is so important to me that I want it to stick around, I'll give you money. Real money. I've done it before. But I will never give you my attention for free. No business has a right to that.

Businesses are not your friends. Businesses are not ethical entities. Businesses do not deserve the benefit of the doubt. Businesses exist to milk you of as much of your money as possible. The only sane reaction for the average person is a similar one: I want to deprive businesses of my money. I want to get as much from them as I can, while giving up as little as possible.

If I politely suggested that it's "unfair" for a business to have such a huge profit margin, and "if they cared about their customers, they would lower all their prices", I'd be laughed at. Why would a company do anything less than the absolute most they can do to bleed money out of me, after all? I laugh at any business (e.g. Ars Technica) which says the same thing to me. I will bleed you of product, as far as it's legal to do so. It so happens that advertisements are devastating to my well-being. Up to this point I have rarely read Ars Technica, and from now on I'll make it a point not to. If I do read it, I will block ads with the greatest feeling of malice I can manage.

I run my own website(s) at a loss specifically because I'd rather pay out of my own pocket than force people to look at ads. Admittedly my sites are so small that it's not much money. But there you have it. If I had to generate revenue to keep my sites going, I would find a way other than advertising to do it. Or I'd shut them down.

I love my ad-blocker. The only thing better would be an internet where I didn't need to use it.

March 06, 2010 @ 6:10 AM PST
Cateogory: Rants

101 Comments

Anonymous Cow
Quoth Anonymous Cow on March 06, 2010 @ 6:42 AM PST

You are NOT arguing against anything the Ars article said.

You are unfairly portraying the Ars article as if it said that ad-blocking is unethical, and then arguing against that point.

Nat
Quoth Nat on March 06, 2010 @ 6:51 AM PST

Is this where I register for the straw-man convention? I'd like a non-smoking room.

n0wak
Quoth n0wak on March 06, 2010 @ 6:51 AM PST

The radio is literally 25 to 50% ads, which is why I don't listen to the radio.

I love my ad-blocker. The only thing better would be an internet where I didn't need to use it.

Here's a possible solution. Instead of the adblocker, how about not visiting those sites that offend your sensibilities with an ad? I mean, if you can ignore the radio you can ignore those few sites that seem to be ghastly and offensive to you, right? And if you can't be arsed to stop visiting this site, because it DOES have value to you, then maybe you can repay that value by paying for the ad free version? I'm at a loss at figuring out what exactly you are arguing for/against here.

Brian
Quoth Brian on March 06, 2010 @ 7:08 AM PST

Anonymous Cow: The article starts off saying that ad-blocking is not unethical, but then goes on to strongly imply that it is. e.g.

I think in some ways the Internet and its vast anonymity feeds into a culture where many people do not think about the people, the families, the careers that go into producing a website.

And:

And anyway, my point still stands: if you like this site you shouldn't block ads.

As though implying that ad-blocking people are stealing food from the mouths of workers and their families. A "should" is an ethical statement in my mind.

I may be reading more into the language of the article than is warranted, I admit to feeling very emotional about this topic. But that's how I read the article. "You should not use ad-blockers because it's wrong."

n0wak: It is impossible to use the internet without seeing ads. Just checking now, Ars itself has large animated flash ads. I am arguing against the existence of ads in any form. At the very least I'd like to see fewer of them in the world.

Kent Brewster
Quoth Kent Brewster on March 06, 2010 @ 7:36 AM PST

One of my favorite places in the world is the Presidio, a former military base in San Francisco that's been restored for use as a conference and business center. The Internet Archive is out there, if you're interested.

There is no visible branding ANYWHERE out on the Presidio. (I did find one corporate logo, but it was on a pay phone.) It's a completely different kind of quiet; you are not being shouted at by every single flat surface, and that low-grade stressed-out feeling you didn't know you had goes away. There are townhomes available for lease out there; if I was young and having kids again, I'd go in a heartbeat, to give them the experience of growing up away from brand-space.

bonsaikitten
Quoth bonsaikitten on March 06, 2010 @ 7:36 AM PST

You know what's really hilarious?

I can't read that article because their broken forwarding crap displays the article for about 1/10th of a second, then tries to show me some ads. And because the ads.doubleclick.net server at 127.0.0.1 doesn't work I only see a blank page. No way around it.

Why is that server specifically blocked in my hosts file? Because (1) they annoyed me with blinking distracting blinking crap and (2) I dislike tracking cookies.

So the marketers are pessimizing my internet experience to the max - if we could agree on non-blinking non-offensive ads I might just ignore them instead of actively blocking them.

Jay
Quoth Jay on March 06, 2010 @ 7:37 AM PST

Some good points, however your premise is pure ignorance.

Think about the ramifications of your wishful thinking. If every web company in the world took all of their ads off tomorrow, do you have any idea how many of them would go out of business? 50%? 75? 100%?

Now take that percentage times the number of people employed by these companies.

Think about that. Think about how many people today are employed by these ad-revenue based companies.

Sure, you think they're "annoying" but how selfish are you? Can you honestly say wish there were no ads on websites at the expense of millions of people losing their jobs? YES, MILLIONS.

Obviously, ads are here to stay. So no one is going anywhere. But your selfishness is just ridiculous. All over some fucking ads. GET OVER IT.

Rogério
Quoth Rogério on March 06, 2010 @ 7:38 AM PST

The internet is becoming full of crappy ads. This breaks the user experience and annoys people out.

Asking people to not use AdBlocker is the most ridiculous thing I've seen lately. It's like: "Oh, don't use antivirus because it hurts the computer stores that charge people for hard drive formatting.".

I thought I was the only person with this opinion. Thanks for sharing.

Brian
Quoth Brian on March 06, 2010 @ 7:55 AM PST

Kent: That honestly sounds pretty awesome. I am moving to a place in Canada that has a low population density, and similarly there are many places that aren't "branded" to death. Unfortunately even some places there are becoming strewn with billboards, but it's not nearly as bad as most places I've been in the US.

Jay:

Think about that. Think about how many people today are employed by these ad-revenue based companies.

The same argument could be made for telemarketing firms, sweat shops, patent-troll law firms, tobacco companies, or any number of businesses that operate on the borderline of being ethical. I'm not saying that I believe those businesses are unethical necessarily, just that an argument could be made that they are borderline. It's not my duty to keep companies in business. I am upset when people lose their jobs, but people choose to go into advertising or other fields voluntarily, and they have to live with the consequences. I don't demand that you yourself do anything to keep me in business as a programmer, do I? I would be wrong to demand it of you. You would be wrong to demand that I do anything to keep ad companies in business.

I say this as someone who was forced to be a telemarketer in college to make ends meet. I lasted two months before I could no longer look at myself in the mirror and quit. It would've been better for me had I never gotten that job to begin with.

bonsaikitten: Flash ads murder my browser on linux. There are many technical arguments against online ads even beyond the other arguments, yes.

Anonymous Cow
Quoth Anonymous Cow on March 06, 2010 @ 7:56 AM PST

Right on!

Joe
Quoth Joe on March 06, 2010 @ 8:05 AM PST

All the Ars article is saying is that if you don't want to look at their ads don't come to their site. Just like Brian does for every other medium where he dislikes ads.

@Brian: Why don't you vote with your page views and go to sites that are ad free, or contain manageable ads? It seems like you don't torrent TV shows to get them without ads, so why ad block websites (it's the same thing)?

Gabriolan
Quoth Gabriolan on March 06, 2010 @ 8:08 AM PST

Thanks for a refreshing read. I'm glad I'm not the only one who feels this way!

My approach to television, radio, newspapers, magazines and books is almost exactly like yours. I just don't see the point of having advertising in my life, so I don't.

I use two ad-blockers to keep the crap off my screen when I browse the web. If I had to stop doing that, I'd just stop using the web, or I'd restrict my browsing to sites that don't have ads.

(And yes, I have given money to support websites I love, and will continue to do that, if they choose to remain ad-free.)

I run my own websites at a loss, because there's no way I'm going to inflict advertising on anybody. I want my blog readers to know that I'm blogging for the fun of it, and not trying to make money by selling them anything.

alxx
Quoth alxx on March 06, 2010 @ 8:08 AM PST

Your points 1 and 2 don't apply to arstechnica as the ads aren't big and flashing and don't grab your attention.

Daniel Jomphe
Quoth Daniel Jomphe on March 06, 2010 @ 8:09 AM PST

That Ars article convinced me to whitelist in my adblocker all those sites to which I come back often. I think about it this way: it's the only way I can somehow thank them for their content. (Of course, in Ars' case, I could also pay a subscription to remove ads.) As for all the other sites on the web, I'll keep my default policy of blocking their ads, for mostly the same reasons as you said.

That said, I'd like you to bring more balance in your reaction by choosing to do like I chose to do. But I know I won't be able to convince you, and, well, that's ok. Thanks for your opinion.

(I have strictly no interests in any web site's revenues.)

Anonymous Cow
Quoth Anonymous Cow on March 06, 2010 @ 8:10 AM PST

The same argument could be made for telemarketing firms, sweat shops, patent-troll law firms, tobacco companies, or any number of businesses that operate on the borderline of being ethical.

Yes, because advertising gives you cancer and makes children work 16 hours a day.

To even attempt draw an equivalence is ridiculous.

If you don't like ads, stop looking at content whose entire existence is predicated on ads.

The article you link says nothing about being "unethical". It just says that adverts are what pay for the content that people evidently believe to be worth reading. Since looking at ads generally costs you nothing, that's a damn small price to pay (the most likely situation where it'll cost you something is when viewing from a mobile platform, and there's an ad-free mobile site for such users anyway).

You don't even have to pay attention to the ads, so don't give us that crap about "you don't get my attention for free". You don't have to look at them or read them or click them or anything like that. Just not block them.

stanley choad
Quoth stanley choad on March 06, 2010 @ 8:15 AM PST

@bonsaikitten: Look at Readability (http://lab.arc90.com/experiments/readability/). Not only is it a really comfortable way to read text on the web, but I also use it to get around exactly the same problem with blackholed ad redirections.

Malcx
Quoth Malcx on March 06, 2010 @ 8:15 AM PST

By contrast, books (for example) are awesome. I pay for a book, and then I read the book start-to-finish with no ads

Thats the issue, you paid money for the book, it's the business model the author used to make writing the book worthwhile.

Historically the Internet doesn't seem to support content producers this way.

Brian
Quoth Brian on March 06, 2010 @ 8:16 AM PST

Joe: As I said, I'm willing to take as much as I legally can from companies. They don't deserve my respect and certainly don't deserve my charity. Companies disrespect me every time they throw an ad in my face, I'm happy to return the favor. But yes, I am going to make an effort not to go back to Ars from now on, that's fine.

I'd ad-block TV and the radio if I could easily. Tivo isn't worth the money or the hassle. Do you know of any websites that are ad-free? I'd go to them if I knew of any. My alternative is to lock myself in a closet and not use the internet.

The majority of companies are apparently OK giving away their content for free and living with the tiny population of ad-blockers. Lots of websites seem to be making lots of money and staying in business. If sites start using scripts to block users who use ad-blockers, that's perfectly fine by me. That's their right.

dude
Quoth dude on March 06, 2010 @ 8:22 AM PST

@Anonymous Cow:

If you don't like ads, stop looking at content whose entire existence is predicated on ads.

That's an option. But there's another one, use Adblock.

Anonymous Cow
Quoth Anonymous Cow on March 06, 2010 @ 8:31 AM PST

That's an option. But there's another one, use Adblock.

Sure, and I hope more sites start taking countermeasures to stop ad blockers. If you block 'em, fine, I guess, you just don't have any entitlement to read the content that you're not doing a thing to support.

dude
Quoth dude on March 06, 2010 @ 8:43 AM PST

Indeed, if they block me from viewing the content at all I will happily go somewhere else. Until adblock gets an update and circumvents those measures, anyway.

Anonymous
Quoth Anonymous on March 06, 2010 @ 8:51 AM PST

Ads aren't that bad, are they?

⬡
Quoth on March 06, 2010 @ 9:02 AM PST

Thank you! It's nice to see someone else with an even semi-reasonable response to all this "ad blockers kill the web" nonsense.

I, too, completely stopped watching TV and listening to radio because the ads overtook the content and became too annoying to bear. But you know what I did before that? I watched it, and sometimes even watched the ads, because they weren't annoying enough to drive me away.

The Internet is nearly the same: use ads that annoy people, and people won't look at them. The difference is we can avoid even loading them, rather than simply ignoring them.

To all those complaining about the damage ad blocking does to their sites: here's something to try. Use ads that aren't annoying and distracting. I know it sounds insane, but try it. When you're talking about cola, take a sentence or two to recommend your favourite brand and state why you like it. At the end of your article, thank the sponsors. Stick some text ads next to the main content box, that blend in with the page, and maybe even some non-animated banners at the top or bottom. DON'T ANIMATE ANYTHING. Don't distract people, because that's annoying.

Trying to interfere with peoples' browsers (including the ad blockers) or hide the content from them is just going to annoy them more, and then they'll either work around that as well, or just leave. Then they'll tell their friends how annoying your site is, and how great the new site they found to take its place is. You want to think about it from a business perspective? Think about the "customers" you're driving directly to your "competition" by doing this.

Ars used a restaurant analogy: would it be right to leave the restaurant without paying? (Or in this case, consume the content without "paying" by viewing the ads?) I ask you: would you put up with someone trying to cram some other food into your mouth while you eat? It's one thing if before/after the meal they recommend something else, or while you eat they stop by once or twice to suggest a drink. Popups, animated banners, sound, etc are like grabbing your head and stuffing their suggested product down your throat.

dude
Quoth dude on March 06, 2010 @ 9:02 AM PST

Multiple flash ads on a page is a serious performance problem. Honestly, use an adblocker for a few weeks and try to go back -- the difference is quite amazing.

That's why I couldn't care less about google's text ads and amazon referral links and all that, they don't ruin my browsing experience.

If you have ads that do, you get blocked, deal with that fact however you want/can:

  • don't have annoying ass ads
  • find some other way to monetize
  • block me if you find a way (this might be temporary)
speaksm
Quoth speaksm on March 06, 2010 @ 9:25 AM PST

I say this as someone who was forced to be a telemarketer in college to make ends meet.

It's not as if everyone has a choice, especially these days with the economic turmoil. Just as there are people in the third-world countries who are practically cornered into slave labor, just as there are those in their early 20s who recently graduated from college with a journalism degree and simply cannot find a job other than writing articles that will be inevitably furnished alongside the most heinous ads one can imagine.

Anonymous Cow
Quoth Anonymous Cow on March 06, 2010 @ 9:38 AM PST

Excellent post Brian! I really don't understand why anyone would defend these shitty ads. Well, I actually do, but it's not a good one. (: In fact, I can imagine what one of those whiners over at Hacker News is thinking right now:

"B-b-b-but, I made the 392nd Twitter Feed clone, and my site is going to die if you don't help me make ad revenue! That's not fair!"

Also, I love the lot of you who are making it sound like I'm stealing every time I visit a page and don't immediately reimburse them for their bandwidth costs. From some asshole at HN:

"Ars isn't demanding that you pay attention to the ads, they're asking you to simply render them, so that their ad provider counts the impression and pays them the tenth of a cent that covers the bandwidth you just used to load the page. That doesn't seem like much to ask."

Fuck this guy, and fuck Ars Technica. If you don't want everyone accessing your page due to bandwidth costs, then don't put it up in the first place! Dumbasses.

Bowlby
Quoth Bowlby on March 06, 2010 @ 9:39 AM PST

I feel more or less the same as you do, Brian.

Also, one of the worst things about the ars' article is that it is, in fact, saying that using Adblock is wrong, but without saying it:

"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."

"Imagine running a restaurant where 40% of the people who came and ate didn't pay [implying that those who use Adblock are stealing and, hence, doing wrong – my words]."

Also:

"Why Ad Blocking is 'devastating' to the sites you love"

"As for our business model sucking, we've been here for 12 years, online-only... Let me stop and clarify quickly that I am not saying that we are on the verge of vanishing from the Internet."

Clearly "devastating". So devastating, in fact, that they've survived all this time and are apparently confident they'll be here for quite a while longer.

I think what rubs me up the wrong way is this implied favour I apparently owe ars – "an ethical obligation", as Brian puts it – to view their ads. It's laughable. If ars is a business, they should start acting like one and quit their whining.

Karen
Quoth Karen on March 06, 2010 @ 10:54 AM PST

I have only clicked on (1) internet ad, ever. And that was by accident.

When I shop online, I know where I'm going and what I want from them. If not I use a search engine.

Does Ars argument hold true for the non-digital world? In particular I'm thinking of those businesses that pay to have their info show up on the blue interstate highway informational signs. I pay taxes to use the interstate, just as I pay for access to the WWW through my IP. The mortar and brick businesses pay hefty fees to put their info out there for me to see while traveling. Those fees go to highway upkeep and directional signage. Am I obligated to eat at Arby's or at least drive through the parking lot because the govt. needs the funds to keep the Interstates signs accurate and up to date?

While the analogy is not exact, the point is the same. If I don't eat at Arby's....ever, why should I drive through their parking lot? Because they put an ad on the road I was traveling on which helps to pay for the road's upkeep? .....ummmmm.....No.

gbowles
Quoth gbowles on March 06, 2010 @ 11:07 AM PST

Here's my take on this situation, I too found that article annoying, since it was complaining about ad blocker, a program you yourself choose to use (and I'm guessing most people don't use it). Also, I hate guilt trips so there's that too.

In this article, I think you brought up a lot of interesting points about advertising. I agree that it is unethical to some extent, but this is the system we are living in, so.... What has happened with me, is that I have learned to mentally block out advertisements, or just laugh at them because they are so stupid, over the top, desperate, etc. I don't use an ad blocker, because I have learned to do that just walking down the street, etc.

And it doesn't even matter for me, because when I buy something, I research it first, and use real information to decide what to buy (plus I don't like excess clutter so I have lost the weakness of the impulse buy, which I admit when was younger and less wise, I succumbed to more than a few times). What I am getting at is 99% of advertisements are a joke, and when I'm online and websurfing, the last thing I am going to click on is an advertisement, when there are so many other interesting links and things to read that the advertisement has becoming totally uneffective to me. So I don't know how these companies are making money on the adverts these days, but I suppose there must be something to it otherwise they wouldn't be on there, heh.

So what I would suggest is doing the same, I think you realize what the advertisements are, now just ignore them and let the dumbies click away and waste their cash.

me
Quoth me on March 06, 2010 @ 12:18 PM PST

Good article.

Christopher
Quoth Christopher on March 06, 2010 @ 12:27 PM PST

Um, wait. So, advertisers have a "right" to clutter up my world? So... does that mean that the press has a "right" to poke into my life when something bad happens to me? Or something good, for that matter?

It is entirely possible that I am way off base, here, but I equate Ars Technica's passive/aggressive accusations of theft and deprivation (and their seeming assumption that advertisers have a right to beleaguer me with their bullshit) with all those asshole journalists who scream about how "the public has a right to know!" Show me, in the Constitution of the United States, exactly where it says that the public is guaranteed a right to know anything-- then, MAYBE (just maybe) I'll disable the ad-killers I have and use constantly.

There is no such thing as "rights" for an advertiser -- not when it comes to me choosing not to see it. The idea is ludicrous, asinine, and something that I might expect from the mind of a retarded pork chop.

Or maybe an advertising executive....

phlage
Quoth phlage on March 06, 2010 @ 1:34 PM PST

@Christopher: Yes, you are way off base, here. It's not your world that they're cluttering up. Advertisers have the right to clutter up the website, because the website sold them that right, in an effort to support the content that they give away for free. Your sense of entitlement is completely misplaced.

I wonder if people felt this kind of outrage when magazines and newspapers first began selling ads, however many decades ago.

And comparing Ars Technica to asshole journalists is simply ludicrous.

chelate
Quoth chelate on March 06, 2010 @ 1:40 PM PST

Christopher says: Um, wait. So, advertisers have a "right" to clutter up my world? So... does that mean that the press has a "right" to poke into my life when something bad happens to me? Or something good, for that matter?

Excuse me, YOUR world? If you don't like the ads, DON'T VISIT THE CONTENT. PERIOD.

People like you and the whiny author of this blog are killing the internet.

gbowles
Quoth gbowles on March 06, 2010 @ 1:56 PM PST

the internet cannot be killed. long live the internet. advertisement are stupid, and it's stupid to believe that people should stop using ad-blocker, because those who are using it do not care about those advertisements anyway.

Anonymous Cow
Quoth Anonymous Cow on March 06, 2010 @ 2:25 PM PST

Sure, and I hope more sites start taking countermeasures to stop ad blockers.

Aesthetically, I vastly prefer cat and mouse games to paternalistic, moralizing windbags.

Anonymous Cow
Quoth Anonymous Cow on March 06, 2010 @ 2:41 PM PST

Those who preach ad-blocking without caring about its impact on others, should at least also give their view on sites using countermeasures (such as hiding the main content from people using ad-block software).

This way the rest of us can tell whether you're advocating a self-centric dog-eat-dog approach for both sides, or just one of the spoiled brats that think it's your god-given right to have everyone cater to your preferences.

JANE
Quoth JANE on March 06, 2010 @ 2:59 PM PST

Of course, if we all just ignored the Ars article & continued to block or not (as each of us sees fit), then they'd get no publicity for their guilt-trip, you-owe-us post. Without publicity, at least half of the 710 people who have posted responses on the Ars site would never have known about this issue and would not have been guilted into "whitelisting" the site. Continued blocking would mean Ars would actually have to DO something -- either give up on the ads or start charging for content -- instead of just whining and pretending that the site owners are so, so concerned for the readers that they just had to point out that some readers are "stealing" their content either inadvertently or maliciously.

Think about it -- why are we furthering their cause by publicizing it?

Brian
Quoth Brian on March 06, 2010 @ 3:01 PM PST

If a site wants to hide content from non-paying users, that's their right. I have no problem with it

Anonymous Cow
Quoth Anonymous Cow on March 06, 2010 @ 4:09 PM PST

I run my own website(s) at a loss specifically because I'd rather pay out of my own pocket than force people to look at ads. Admittedly my sites are so small that it's not much money.

Your sites are also substantially devoid of content. I mean, hell, before this entry you hadn't posted anything for about two weeks! I can't see how you think that your experience is even remotely comparable to a site churning out original content 5-7 days a week, written by people who work full-time creating that content.

A site like Ars Technica can't be run as a hobby with its minimal expenses paid out-of-pocket as a homage to its owners own vanity--the expenses are too great--and writers certainly cannot afford to write full-time without compensation.

It isn't at all clear to me how the world would be better off without the content being produced, either, which is what would happen if there were no funding for that content.

Perhaps you might make one of those vague "well they should choose a different business model" claims, but without describing what such a business model might be. Granted, the site has a number of subscriptions, but I doubt it is substantial (relative to the ad revenue) or else they would cut over to an entirely subscription-based model. The infrastructure does not exist to enable, say, micropayments, so that isn't an option.

Have you any practical ideas, or is the purpose simply to whine?

You also fail to make any kind of a reasonable case to explain why you feel advertising is such an unethical affront to your well-being. Advertisers might be showing you things that you turn out to have no interest in (although I cannot believe that you have never, ever seen an advert for a product or service that you have some interest in), but so what? I have little interest in seeing ugly people, but I certainly would not claim that it is unethical for them to exist in public.

An Internet without ads would be an Internet consistent substantially of corporate brochureware and e-commerce sites, government and education sites, and occasional vanity sites like this one. There would be no way of finding anything--no Yahoo, no Google, no Bing--just islands of sponsored content. I fail to see any meaningful way in which that represents an improvement.

As I wrote above, no-one is demanding that you give the advertising any attention, so don't give it any. You're not a magpie, inexorably drawn to anything shiny that catches your eye. Exercise a little discretion. Read content, not advertising. You know--just like you admit you do for books. You don't cut the pages out of the book; you just skip over them. Why not do the same for online advertising, just like everyone else does?

Mikey
Quoth Mikey on March 06, 2010 @ 4:42 PM PST

I use Ad Muncher which is probably the greatest windows application ever made.

Surfing the web has become a safe and enjoyable experience because of this application. I will never give it up.

I read arstechnica articles all the time, the ads will remain blocked.

I will not be tracked against my will.

Thanks for not having ads on your site Brian.

You are a scholar and a gentleman.

Brian
Quoth Brian on March 06, 2010 @ 4:51 PM PST

I can't see how you think that your experience is even remotely comparable to a site churning out original content 5-7 days a week, written by people who work full-time creating that content.

Yes, I specifically said it wasn't comparable. My sites are small. I wasn't suggesting that all sites could do this.

Working 5-7 days a week on something doesn't automatically entitle you to be paid. A lot of people work really hard on a lot of things, and if no one is willing to buy what they're selling, that's too bad for them: they wasted their time. I never signed a business agreement with any site that I'd do anything in exchange for their work. If they make the agreement explicit (legally binding), I'll follow the terms or leave the site. Until then they're giving away content for free and begging for charity after.

No company has done anything to earn that respect from me. As I said, companies aren't our friends. Companies exist to maximize profits at the expense of customers. I'm happy to return the favor.

Perhaps you might make one of those vague "well they should choose a different business model" claims, but without describing what such a business model might be.

Why do I have a duty to come up with another business model? I honestly don't mind if Ars or the vast majority of sites on the internet go out of business. I'll pay money for the sites I care about. If that doesn't work, too bad I guess. If corporate presence on the internet fades away, I won't miss it. I understand that others disagree.

Many websites (Facebook?) are pulling in millions of dollars per year. Someone must have a business model that works in spite of the existence of my ad-blocker. I don't know or care what that model is. Maybe it's ads. It's not from me looking at them myself though.

You also fail to make any kind of a reasonable case to explain why you feel advertising is such an unethical affront to your well-being.

Ads are manipulative and dishonest. They play on people's base instincts: fear, desire for status, sex appeal. They drive brand names into your brain via repetition. Flash up a baby or a puppy dog or some dorky college frat guys or a scantily-clad female or a discussion of "germs", and you can sell nearly anything. Catchy music, humor, whatever. This isn't information. This is manipulation of people's feelings to bulldoze past the rational part of your brain that says "I don't need to buy this crap". It's propaganda.

My 12th grade math teacher did a nice experiment. He gave us a grid of around 25 company logos with the names removed, so they were just geometric shapes and outlines, and he asked us to name the brands. Most people could do most of them, obviously for the common ones like Nike or McDonald's, but even for the obscure ones. There's Chevrolet, there's Kellogg, there's some cigarette company. I find it creepy and disturbing. Do you realize how infested our brains are with this crap? And did you ever ask for it? I surely didn't. Are we better people for having had this done to us? This is not a matter of "just ignore it". It's designed to be un-ignorable. It's designed to infect your mind like a virus.

I drive down the highway in British Columbia in what used to be a pristine forest by the lake, and I see a half mile of billboards selling lawnmowers and Burger King. Can you not understand how this could be disturbing to some people?

Advertisers treat users like animals at worst, as nameless money-spending entities at best. I picture a bunch of suits sitting in a room discussing how "since we got this girl with huge breasts to say something stupid on TV, we've increased profit margins by 15%!" It insults my intelligence.

That's not to mention the privacy implications of tracking cookies for online ads. Thank God for cookie blockers. And companies complain about the bandwidth costs of serving content; what about the bandwidth costs and hard drive space and CPU time I waste downloading huge Flash ads and banner images?

So yes, my purpose is "to whine". More specifically to state my opinions and see if people agree. Many don't, as expected, but some do, which is nice. I don't expect the world to change to suit me. Most people are complacent and apathetic and will happily swallow whatever ad companies shovel into their mouths; the status quo isn't going anywhere, it's probably going to get worse from my perspective. Have fun with that. Meanwhile I'll have fun trying to minimize the bullcrap that passes in front of my eyes every day.

Some Buddhist saying: You wouldn't drag garbage off the street into your house, so why would you do the same thing with your mind?

Hope that explains my feelings better.

Stefan
Quoth Stefan on March 06, 2010 @ 4:58 PM PST

I am not hating ads per se but I am wondering who is clicking on all those ads that made Google rich? I rarely do - and then only to take a look at what my competitors are offering.

Fred
Quoth Fred on March 06, 2010 @ 5:39 PM PST

The "Ars" article made me switch off my ad blocker for a minute right there on the page, and reload. I was promptly slapped in the face by two hyperactive, animated, flash ads for IBM and I had to switch the ad blocker back on before I would get a seizure.

I am sorry. As long as ads make me puke all over my keyboard for their sheer annoyingness, and keep me from reading the things I came there to read in the first place, I will keep on blocking them. My time and attention is too valuable to be wasted like that.

MM
Quoth MM on March 06, 2010 @ 7:01 PM PST

People like you and the whiny author of this blog are killing the internet.

This just made me laugh. The Internet wasn't meant for marketing, it's meant to share information. When you, pointy hair dudes, put up content in public space, you give us the rights to view your content. If you want to get paid for it, restrict access to it and use subscriptions. If I want I can chose not to view content from ad sites and it's my choice and I shouldn't feel bad about it and I don't. When you send your html document, I am by no means required to fetch all links enlisted in it.

While I too saw that Ars Technica article in Hacker News, I skipped over it. Why? Because anyone who could come up with title like that isn't worth my time. But after reading this article and comments I was tempted to at least look at Ars Technica website. So I pulled out my FireFox which I only use for web development, installed my favourite ad blocker from the time when FF was my main browser and took a look. About 50% of the content I had read in my RSS reader from other sources (no ads there) few days ago and I don't really care about the rest of the content. They produce below average (nothing new, nothing special or exclusive) content and think that they are entitled to receive money for their publicly available content? Ha!

The funny thing is that websites with really amazing content don't have ads. How do you even dare to expect money for those copy-cat 1h articles when there are passionate writers out there who really care about what they write and put multiple days worth of effort researching and producing their articles and yet use no ads on their sites?

I had stopped using ad blocker since I moved to chrome, but I will install it after I post this. If I happen to bankrupt companies which are making most of their money from ads by doing that I'll be happy. It's a shame that ads even bring profit, they should die.

If you want to earn more money from your yet-another-news-site-or-shitty-seo-tips-site take it to the next level - produce above average content and use subscriptions. Most scientific websites do, though to match the quality of their articles you'll have to work for it, hard.

There is no question about ethics or whether or not we can visit your site using AdBlock (we can, legally).

If your site needs support put up donations, ask for help and because the Internet is such a wonderful place you will get it if your site is worth it.

Harleqin
Quoth Harleqin on March 06, 2010 @ 7:21 PM PST

Thanks for the article. I agree with you.

Why should I mutilate myself in order to pay for reading something, if I can avoid it?

Besides, the people paying for advertisements should be glad that I do not see them, because I have come to hate advertisers. It would really have an adverse effect for them.

Peter
Quoth Peter on March 06, 2010 @ 8:21 PM PST

"I run my own website(s) at a loss specifically because I'd rather pay out of my own pocket than force people to look at ads."

Yes, that's a good point and I'm feeling the same way with my sites/blogs - I've the feeling that the quality of my blogs would suffer big way if I'd clutter them with ads, questening my integrity and independance in writing what I want (and not looking at ad revenues).

Rich
Quoth Rich on March 06, 2010 @ 8:55 PM PST

I could not agree more with you. Nice to know I am not the only one in the world who thinks this.

SMC
Quoth SMC on March 06, 2010 @ 10:11 PM PST

I agree completely. I have avoided television and radio for exactly the same reason. Advertising is insulting and annoying, and I will make no space in my consciousness for this intrusive crap.

If a web site honestly believes their content has value, there's a simple way to confirm this: charge for it. If visitors aren't paying, you have your answer. But fuck the ads and the companies who run them.

Bret Piatt
Quoth Bret Piatt on March 06, 2010 @ 11:57 PM PST

If you're using a 100% ad based revenue model you have to account for ad blockers the same way the people that give away the local circular have to account for somebody grabbing 20 copies to use to line their litter box without ever reading it.

Business owners need to stop whining about how because of X they don't make money anymore -- if because of X you need to figure out a new Y or go out of business. See the blog post linked in my URL for more thoughts.

Away
Quoth Away on March 07, 2010 @ 1:25 AM PST

Ever had a satellite dish and no satellite subscription? That's where we're headed if you keep on with your way of thinking. Every site will be a pay site. The others will be amateurish -- like this one.

"Carper" is the right name for you.

Anonymous Cow
Quoth Anonymous Cow on March 07, 2010 @ 1:34 AM PST

Working 5-7 days a week on something doesn't automatically entitle you to be paid.

I didn't say it did. I said that since they work full-time on producing content, they can't afford to do so out-of-pocket. If people want to continue to be able to read that content--which many do--then those people producing the content need to be funded somehow. I'm not suggesting some moral imperative here, just economic reality.

Why do I have a duty to come up with another business model? I honestly don't mind if Ars or the vast majority of sites on the internet go out of business.

It seems peculiar to me that someone would deem it worth reading content on a site (which you acknowledge you do, at lest occasionally), and make such a song and dance about how valuable their time and attention was, but deem that same content to be worthless.

Many websites (Facebook?) are pulling in millions of dollars per year. Someone must have a business model that works in spite of the existence of my ad-blocker. I don't know or care what that model is. Maybe it's ads. It's not from me looking at them myself though.

Facebook uses advertising and pulls in millions in investments from other corporations--who want to use the site to advertise on and to mine personal data.

Advertisers treat users like animals at worst, as nameless money-spending entities at best. I picture a bunch of suits sitting in a room discussing how "since we got this girl with huge breasts to say something stupid on TV, we've increased profit margins by 15%!" It insults my intelligence.

Humans are animals, and advertising for the most part works. I don't see how acknowledging this reality is is insulting to your intelligence. It seems to me that the issue is that you believe yourself to be a particularly special and significant snowflake, and you resent being lumped in with all the unthinking proles. Well, too bad: you ain't that special.

Sure, advertisers make certain kinds of generalization, and not all generalizations are going to fit everyone perfectly, but I can't see how this can be construed to be as offensive as you make out.

And frankly, I would say that we did agree to it, by consuming ad-funded content. People read magazines and newspapers. They watch ad-funded TV stations. They listen to ad-funded radio. They have all agreed that the trade-off is worthwhile. The advertising is not unsolicited or some gross intrusion. It's the price people are willing to pay to get access to content.

Some Buddhist saying: You wouldn't drag garbage off the street into your house, so why would you do the same thing with your mind?

What remains unclear to me is why you have this problem. What is it that is compelling you to consciously consider adverts such that they cause you such stress? Why do you not simply ignore them?

I grant that even if you do so there will likely be some subconscious effect of raised brand awareness, at least for advertising that carries a strong brand identity (not all does). But you know what, I don't think my brain is going to overflow any time soon. I have ample capacity and I am not harmed by knowledge of brand identities.

Most importantly, I trust that my own judgement is sufficiently rational that I won't be unduly swayed by branding when it comes to making purchasing decisions.

Brian
Quoth Brian on March 07, 2010 @ 4:43 AM PST

We are animals, but we're also rational beings. Honestly I prefer to be treated like the latter. Most of our morals depend upon people looking at others as more than objects to be exploited. If people are OK being led around by the nose like a donkey chasing a carrot, that's fine, but I'm not particularly.

I don't consider myself to be special or significant. Advertising does work on me, which is why I want to avoid it and why I'm not content surrounding myself with it and trying (futilely) to ignore it.

It's the same reason I don't become friends with people who constantly lie to me or steal from me. Is it that silly to try to keep my environment clean? I do like to try to look out for my own well-being. I'm not sure how this is different from anyone else in the world.

Away: You win for the most clever ad hominem so far. Well done. :)

gbowles
Quoth gbowles on March 07, 2010 @ 5:46 AM PST

the fact remains that ars technica need to be writing better content or else they won't make money. there is no issue here, people using ad blockers are not breaking any law, just as people who are advertising or allowing advertisements are not breaking any law. advertising needs to evolve and be more interesting or captivating or people will use ad blockers. I don't think ars technica is anyone's favorite website, nor is it all that interesting. there are other ways to get info on the internet (personally I like the variety of going to sites like metafilter.com or fark.com allow, and I have never had to pay for content).

Anonymous Cow
Quoth Anonymous Cow on March 07, 2010 @ 6:23 AM PST

the fact remains that ars technica need to be writing better content or else they won't make money.

It doesn't matter how good the content is if people block the ads.

there are other ways to get info on the internet (personally I like the variety of going to sites like metafilter.com or fark.com allow, and I have never had to pay for content).

It surprises me that you do not see a difference between site like Metafilter and Fark, which produce no content of their own, and Ars. You do understand that the majority of sites that the aggregators you mention are ad-funded, right? And that if ad funding dries up, they'll have no-one to aggregate?

What you're saying, in essence, is that you have no need for TV producers actually making shows, because you can read a TV guide instead. Of course, you would say that is absurd--what good is a TV guide without any TV shows?--but then I ask you, what good is an aggregator with nothing to aggregate?

importing
Quoth importing on March 07, 2010 @ 6:25 AM PST

I am amazed how many people defend ads.

Yes companies have to survive, but I do not want them annoying me with their ads.

I am not willing to sacrifice my time,attention, sanity so that someone else is keeping a job.

If someone suggests otherwise, please let me know what you are willing to give up right now, since I am out of a job.

gbowles
Quoth gbowles on March 07, 2010 @ 6:58 AM PST

does cow work for ars technica? lol

the aggregators lead me to articles, I read them, I ignore all the ads on both the aggregators (metafilter doesn't really have any, just ignorable google ads) and the sites they lead to. as someone mentioned above, the only ad I've clicked on was on accident.

I suppose I am one of the lucky ones who realize that they need to do research before buying things, rather than being led by an advertisement into buying something you don't need.

but if you don't have the additional expendable income, what good is an advertisement anyway if you are not going to buy the product? yawn

FrostRaptor
Quoth FrostRaptor on March 07, 2010 @ 7:57 AM PST

To those who are saying "don't view the content" - not my problem. The internet is a public venue; if you publish content, and don't take measures to protect it from 'free' access, that's not the viewer's problem, it's yours. It doesn't matter if it costs the lung of a small child every time someone reloads the page; that's your cost as a business, not mine.

If you can't generate a sustainable business model, then fail. If you can't generate enough revenue from subscriptions, then fail. But publishers on the Internet want the best of both worlds; they want the low-capital publishing costs, without the risk of that public exposure.

It's darkly humorous that they are bitching their 'business model' being undermined, when they killed the hardcopy circulars with the logic that ad-blockers embodies.

SpeakerForTheDead
Quoth SpeakerForTheDead on March 07, 2010 @ 8:03 AM PST

My first reaction to Ars' article was-"hey, good old Clint and Aurich are just asking for me to not take food from their table-and who would do that to good old Clint and Aurich?"

But then I remembered. Ars isn't some two guy (or three guys and a girl) enthusiast site. Never was. It is a corporate web site owned by one of the major old-school media players. The fact that "Clint" and "Aurich" and "Jackie" write for them doesn't change that reality that Conde Nast wants to make money from it.

The ads on that site aren't just for some guy trying to blog and make a living. They also have to make money for a huge corporate for-profit infrastructure, which quite frankly, has no business depending on a bunch of banner ads to support itself-that model has been shown to have been broken. It works for small, one-man shops like Gruber and Kottke-which makes some sense. And if it were just Clint, Aurich, and Jackie, it would work for them too, Adblocking and all. But it isn't, and it can't.

To pretend that its a couple ad blocks that are the difference between success and failure for a Conde Nast website just seems a bit naive, and is preying on the "hey, its just us here makin a livin" rings a bit hollow, even if you personally like the players making the plea.

Kawika Holbrook
Quoth Kawika Holbrook on March 07, 2010 @ 9:20 AM PST

Brian, you write: "The idea that I have a moral obligation to stare..." while the original article stated: "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."

Neil
Quoth Neil on March 07, 2010 @ 12:07 PM PST

Agreed 100%

At the end of the day, it's not my job to prop up their business model. As FrostRaptor above notes "If you can't generate a sustainable business model, then fail. If you can't generate enough revenue from subscriptions, then fail."

Or more generally speaking, if Ars can't find a way to generate revenue to sustain what they are doing, then perhaps not many people see value in what they are doing. If Ars is really so valuable to people, then they will pay money for it. If it is not so valuable to people, then they will not subscribe and will continue to use ad-blockers.

Idiots like to proclaim this scenario as the death of all professional media...everyone will go out of business and the world will end. Stupid, and absurd. The market will bear what the market will bear. At the end of the day, people vote with their money and someone will always be there to start up a business to supply those people with something in exchange for their money. If many sites disappear and people again begin craving good news sites, they'll pop up again. And people will pay for those sites if they really want them. And if they don't really want them, they won't pay for them and the site will go out of business. And nothing anybody says or does will change that.

It's funny watching all these online media companies freaking out over the low subscription rates, complaining that nobody subscribes and so they can't sustain their business. For me, it's the human equivalent of watching an idiot with inflated ego slowly realize they're not actually as important as they think they are.

addicted
Quoth addicted on March 07, 2010 @ 12:28 PM PST

So you say books are awesome, coz you pay for it and there are no distractions.

Well, Ars gives you that option too. Pay $50 for 1 year of content (the cost of maybe 2-3 hardcover new bestsellers) and you get a year's worth of content, with no ads. Oh, and you also get PDF's for that content...

Also, subscription to wired, live discussions with famous tech folks, etc. etc.

All you have done is erected a straw man and knocked it down. Your post is not at all a response to Ars.

gxdia
Quoth gxdia on March 07, 2010 @ 8:00 PM PST

Was browsing reddit on my iphone and came across your incredibly well written blog post. I surely hope that you never decide to create your own product, business or other venture with the explicit goal of making money to support your family, because you would inevitably be faced with the task of advertising said product, venture or business, which at this point would probably be a hypocritical thing to do given your previous comments. I can also gather that you're most likely already a hypocrite, however, because if you don't own your own business, then you must work for someone else, who probably had to at one point advertise the very business you work for. I bid thee well and wish you much success with this blog that you write on a computer you purchased with money you received working for a company that would cease to exist if it were not able to advertise.

Brian
Quoth Brian on March 07, 2010 @ 9:40 PM PST

I work for a non-profit scientific research organization. I build my computers out of parts. Computer companies would exist if online ads did not exist. Nice try though.

Anonymous Cow
Quoth Anonymous Cow on March 08, 2010 @ 1:30 AM PST

Ever had a satellite dish and no satellite subscription? That's where we're headed if you keep on with your way of thinking. Every site will be a pay site. The others will be amateurish -- like this one.

You say that like it's a bad thing! :')

Seriously, the logical end-result of everyone running ad-blocking software that works is that the ad-based internet economy for paying for content will go away. And then, yes, if you want content, you'll have to pay for it. And a business model will arise that makes that happen.

But as long as we "ethically" decide to allow ads to appear on the web pages we view, that economy will not appear, because the ad-based economy is functioning. So the most ethical thing you can do as a web surfer is to run an ad-blocker. By doing so, you are creating a brave new future in which there won't be ads on web pages.

Concrete example: right now, if I want to watch TV on the Internet, my only real choice is Hulu, which is ad-supported. This is emphatically not what I want. What I want is reasonably priced TV episodes that I can buy and download. When I say "reasonably priced," I mean priced at a price that makes it a no-brainer for me to download it, not $3 an episode. If I hesitate before buying, you priced it too high.

Is it seriously the case that Hulu is paying the TV networks more than Apple? I don't think so. Are the TV networks getting $0.25 every time I view an episode on Hulu? I don't think so. So why is it that I can't buy the episode for what Hulu pays for it, instead of watching ads on Hulu?

It's because people are accustomed to paying for things with their attention instead of with money. How can we stop that? By using ad-blockers. So I would say that from that perspective, running ad-blockers is very much a positive, ethical act.

phantomadvantage
Quoth phantomadvantage on March 08, 2010 @ 5:56 AM PST

No company has done anything to earn that respect from me. As I said, companies aren't our friends. Companies exist to maximize profits at the expense of customers. I'm happy to return the favor.

Pure gold.

Brian, you write: "The idea that I have a moral obligation to stare..." while the original article stated: "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."

And yet the entire article screams "Pity us, what you are doing is WRONG!" which feels like a moral judgment to me.

Jason Denizac
Quoth Jason Denizac on March 08, 2010 @ 11:18 PM PST

Two quick points: what are the real impacts? What percentage of the audience is using Ad Block? Probably a small minority. The predominant model in online advertising is CPC, or Cost per Click, rather than the traditional CPM, or Cost per Impression (each time the ad is seen, or by total reach of a magazine, for example). Various marketing studies have shown that a minority of Web users account for the vast majority of ad clicks.

My assumption would be that people who go out of their way to install things like Ad Block are not inclined to click on Web ads in the first place. Given that assumption, these Ad Block users are not costing the publisher money in lost ad revenue, and are increasing the site's reputation and mindshare. The reader, now that he's not angry at the site for what he might have considered intrusive advertising, will be more likely to read articles and, if he finds anything interesting, pass it on to a friend (or several thousand), thus generating increased pageviews and therefore an increased likelihood of someone, somewhere ultimately clicking on an ad.

TL;DR - an adblock user might link to a site, thus generating more traffic/ad revenue than if he just didn't read the site.

Anonymous Cow
Quoth Anonymous Cow on March 10, 2010 @ 6:04 AM PST

I wish I could thank you for excellent arguments.

grump
Quoth grump on March 12, 2010 @ 5:21 AM PST

@Anonymous Cow:

If you don't like ads, stop looking at content whose entire existence is predicated on ads.


Wouldn't you at the same time cheat advertisers of money they pay to the website owner for a specific reason that user will see and look at their ads? So should I also care about that? Ad blocking

uuuuuuuuuuggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
Quoth uuuuuuuuuuggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh on March 14, 2010 @ 2:40 PM PDT

Yeah fuck sites we like, lets bleed them, because you know what? Adds are annoying.

How dare you call me unethical, let me rebuttal you by blaming society!

Plain and simple
Quoth Plain and simple on March 15, 2010 @ 12:53 AM PDT

Why do I block ads?. 'Cause I can.

End of story.

Noah Dverts
Quoth Noah Dverts on March 22, 2010 @ 9:40 AM PDT

I completely agree with the author. Ads suck and help make the world a bad place. Their contents and message are almost always nothing more than an annoyance. They are stupid and assume their audience also is.

I do block ads - all I can - and do not feel guilty about that.

Noah Dverts
Quoth Noah Dverts on March 22, 2010 @ 9:56 AM PDT

Brian,

I posted a comment moments ago agreeing with your point of view, and I had not read all the other comments.

Now, as I read further, I am "upgrading" my agreement from 100% to 150%+. I completely share your points about companies not deserving our respect, polluting the world, manipulating, etc., etc.

Thank you very much for your post and your comments. Let's hope more people see the disservice the everything-goes-in-business mindset is causing to everybody.

Brian
Quoth Brian on March 22, 2010 @ 3:43 PM PDT

As long as I'm not the only one who thinks this way, I can't be 100% crazy. Right?

...right?

Peegies
Quoth Peegies on March 26, 2010 @ 4:16 AM PDT

Hai. Your frontpage is broken on IE6. <3

Seriously I'm going to play a little devil's advocate here. I don't like advertisements, probably less than you, but I definitely would agree with everything you say on the matter. I however don't think I have a right or even legal ability to ban advertisements.

Several reasons:

1) freedom of speech / expression [I think this is most important] 2) lots of $$$ is spent on marketing / advertisements 3) companies are still private entities as far as I'm concerned so they can do what they want.

I won't address #2 because I don't want to, but for #3 - a company shows advertisements. You hate ads, so you don't buy from that company. Company is less successful because of the demographic that boycotts them due to advertisement. How do they improve their public image or tell others about their products? Advertisement.

I'm not trying to say you don't know why advertisements exist, but I'm curious why you seem to hate them so. Bringing #3 with #1, are they doing anything unconstitutional or illegal? According to my understanding of freedom of expression, advertisement would be completely and unequivocally allowed in any capacity (can you incite violence in USA? I think Westley says you can); The point is I imagine USA to be this cesspool of speech -- so much so that nobody has any capacity to discern good speech from bad. It sounds bad, but that's the price you pay for rampant free speech.

A more prudent response to any claim that you shouldn't go to spam....advertisement filled sites should be mocking laughter. I change channels during commercials, switch stations when commercials go on, and I block youtube advertisements (or I did until I reinstalled windows 7). So what? It's an arms race between advertisers and market demographics (ie us) - we'll always try to ignore them and they'll try to force us to listen.

Peegies
Quoth Peegies on March 26, 2010 @ 4:18 AM PDT

addendum - do what they want in terms of free speech

Brian
Quoth Brian on March 26, 2010 @ 5:06 AM PDT

Hai. Your frontpage is broken on IE6. <3

By design.

Freedom of speech means freedom to speak, not the right to force people to listen. People do have the freedom to advertise, I have no problem with it, but they have no right to force me to read it. Lots of money is wasted on ads, sure, but why should I care? Private companies can do whatever they want, including advertising, sure, but so can I. Do companies have more rights than I do?

If you hand me a newspaper and say "Here, this is totally free with no strings attached, but we strongly ask that you read all the ads on the bottom of each page because we make tons of money from companies placing ads", and I take the paper, rip the ads off and throw them away without looking, is it wrong? I don't think so. It might be a jerk move from the perspective of the person giving out free papers, but why should I care? If you don't want something to be free, don't give it away for free. Say "Here, read these ads while I watch you, then you get your paper".

A web site is a server sitting somewhere that gives bits of information to every web browser that asks for it, for free, no strings attached. Some of those bits are ads, and I direct them to the trash without looking. How is this wrong?

If I bought a sandwich and said "Here, I'm paying for the sandwich, but I strongly recommend that you give me a free drink", do you think any company would? No, they'd laugh in my face. Do you ever expect a company to act in your best interests when it costs them something? No. Why should you as a consumer act in the best interests of a company when it costs you something?

Giving your products away for free and then begging people to subject themselves to ads afterward is a stupid business decision. It relies on people being gullible, acting against their own self-interests out of guilt. Companies don't feel guilt.

Dot
Quoth Dot on April 02, 2010 @ 5:15 AM PDT

Oddly enough, I'd never even heard of Ars Technica until I read this post. I'm sure there's some sort of amusing irony in that somewhere.

Eduardo
Quoth Eduardo on April 05, 2010 @ 12:35 AM PDT

Just wanted to chime in and say I agree completely with you on this matter.

Perhaps on a tangent, I think that often the very same people that postulate the utmost importance of having a free market sometimes disregard the freedom of individuals as something minor, when in any case it should be the other way around (in my opinion).

Nice reading you.

Paul Legato
Quoth Paul Legato on April 05, 2010 @ 4:25 PM PDT

Awesome article. You hit the nail right on the head.

It's really subtly disturbing how every common area surface in our society is being appropriated for advertising in proportion to the number of people around. I pumped gas the other day and was bombarded with an audiovisual sales pitch from a TV monitor embedded in the pump. The subway in downtown San Francisco now even has ads on the STAIRS leading up to the street, both on top and on the side. It's only a matter of time before LCD screens and speakers are cheap enough that they'll be plastered onto the stairs, too.

What's even more disturbing is that few people seem to care that they're being subject to a nonstop barrage of obnoxious touts hawking face cream or vacations every time they step out of their house.

Adblock Plus (http://adblockplus.org/en/) is an amazing Firefox plugin that blocks out 99% of the crap.

And to the ad supporters.. let's get a little perspective here and remember how the perception of advertising-supported media used to be in ancient times before the Internet was pervasive (say, 10 years ago):

If you are watching a free ad-supported TV show, would you also say it's unethical to get up and go to the bathroom during the commercial? Or mute the TV, or change the channel, or get up and get a drink?

Suppose you recorded a TV show. Remember VHS? (Ok, you can imagine it's a Tivo if you're too young to remember VHS.) Is it unethical to fast-forward through the commercials?

If you're listening to the radio in your car, is it unethical to change the station when commercials come on?

If you're reading a magazine or a newspaper, can you just read the articles and ignore the ads, or are you required to spend time studying the ads, too?

Does viewing the program OBLIGATE you to sit there and pay attention to every second of advertising?

Of course not. That proposal would be widely ridiculed by almost everyone. People have been widely ignoring advertising for as long as there's been advertising.

I think what's really going on is that advertising and marketing slime always assumed that people were far more interested in their ads than they actually are, and their whole view of what they do is now shattered by the sudden availability of precise ad effectiveness metrics like clickthroughs. Just look at ad rates in a traditional newspaper versus ad rates for online media - the latter are not even a fraction of the former. They can also compare content views versus page views; when they notice that the former is larger than the latter, they complain.

Using ad blocking software is no different than muting the TV and going to get a drink when a commercial comes on or changing the radio station in your car when the commercials come on. Internet media is no different at all in principle; it just has metrics for advertisers to complain about. As long as there are ads, people will ignore them.

Cheers, Paul

Josh D
Quoth Josh D on July 06, 2010 @ 9:12 PM PDT

Vermont has a statewide ban on billboards; indeed, on signs bigger than (I think) 15 square feet. Having grown up there, I'll probably never get used to commuting past several dozen of them every day.

Zach M
Quoth Zach M on July 06, 2010 @ 9:42 PM PDT

I really don't mind ads as long as they don't interrupt viewing, and aren't obnoxious. I don't listen to the radio or watch TV either for that very reason. The ads on TV and Radio are at a higher volume than the program itself many times and it's horrendous. I typically avoid websites that bring ads into the center of the screen, or make you watch and ad before you view the real video or the webpage. I also can't stand the webpages that have an audio ad coming from a hidden spot in the webpage. What advertisers don't realize is that it makes the consumer resent them and not buy their product just to spite them, well at least that's my behavior. However, if there's some pleasant ad on the side of the webpage that wouldn't induce a seizure or deafen you it's fine for it to stay there in my humble opinion.

hypest
Quoth hypest on July 06, 2010 @ 10:09 PM PDT

Many of your points remind me of Fravia's reality cracking essays...

http://www.searchlores.org/realicra/realicra.htm

Sachin
Quoth Sachin on July 06, 2010 @ 10:37 PM PDT

agree to some extent..but money is NOT bad at all....

euromix
Quoth euromix on July 06, 2010 @ 10:51 PM PDT

thanks for this reply i like it.

At the end of the day if a majority of people don't want to see ads, the business model of website relying on them will fail. If it's only a minority that feel bad about ads, the model is working.

There is no "natural law" that says the only business model must be to flood people with ads.

It's logical that people living from advertising defend the model, and not surprising that they use persuasion tricks as advertising do. After all, what else can they do but try to make people feel guilty about avoiding ads ? because there is little positive to support actually reading the messages of the ads. I just tried while writing this, it's awful.

Nathan
Quoth Nathan on July 06, 2010 @ 11:38 PM PDT

I just want to point out one key difference between the web and other mediums: when you go to someone's site, you are incurring a cost on them. To contrast, listening to the radio does not marginally increase their costs at all.

Now, of course they are making themselves open to that cost by hosting a publicly accessible site. They are inviting anyone to visit and they can take down their site if they cannot afford the costs associated with it. But it is still a difference and deserves to be noted.

So I'm not sure it has much to do with anyone's rights or advertiser's rights or any of that; I think what Ars was getting at is that by reading with an Adblocker you are incurring a cost without any compensation.

Obviously, since that is just how web technologies work, that is not illegal. Is it unethical? Well, that could be a different answer for different people.

For me: Adblockers are not ethically wrong at all, but I do think people should at least think out the consequences for themselves.

I used Instapaper to read the Ars article, so I'm not even sure what ads they show on the site.

Mike
Quoth Mike on July 07, 2010 @ 12:24 AM PDT

Agreed. I can't stand commercials and my family doesn't understand why I want them to mute the T.V. between show segments. I was at a movie early, watching commercials that run BEFORE the trailers when I thought to myself: I can remember before all this crap, when it was quiet in theatre before the movie, and there were only a few previews to get through.

I think the big problem is over-saturation of stimuli. Yes, I know that sounded fancy. I just mean there's too much shit to see and hear everywhere you go. A new shopping centre opened up recently and there's not a square inch in it including the parking lot where you can't hear some shitty song being piped in over speakers. I thought this wasn't too bad until the last time I was there they played an advertisement over the speakers.

It sickens me how much advertising there is now and how little people seem to be bothered by it. This means advertisers have to constantly one-up themselves. So now we live in a world where an apartment complex is forced to put cleavage on their marquee just to get anybody to look at it.

anonymoose
Quoth anonymoose on July 07, 2010 @ 12:39 AM PDT

While I dislike advertising culture, you must remember that those free websites you're visiting don't owe you anything either! If they need to put advertisements to cover their costs or turn a meager profit, so be it. This internet doesn't run on air -- someone's gotta pay something.

Quoth on July 07, 2010 @ 1:03 AM PDT

I run an ad-supported web site. It has relatively few ads, usually one (small) Google adsense block per page. These are plain text ads, no animation, no garish colors. If you show up at my web site with an ad blocker, and I can detect that you are using an ad blocker, I will (politely) tell you to fuck off. There are billions of web pages out there; if you are so offended by ads go look at those pages that don't have ads. Don't tell me that I shouldn't place ads on my web pages because they offend your delicate sensibilities.

g-reg
Quoth g-reg on July 07, 2010 @ 1:05 AM PDT

Great article, I totally agree.

Ads are a nuisance, and are psychologically designed (for the most part) to elicit emotional reactions. These emotional reactions, at least in me, add up to a whole lot of extra stress throughout my life. Since dropping TV and radio, and using adblockers, I've actually noticed a stress level decrease.

This may not be the same for everyone, but my quality of life has definitely improved.

anonymous hamster
Quoth anonymous hamster on July 07, 2010 @ 1:06 AM PDT

Thank you for this article. The title of your article says it all, end of story. if profit oriented companies have the power to make and essentially forcefully display ads despite my well-being and the well-being of the people that i care most about and manipulate our collective perception of our place in this reality, i have the right to block them if thats in my power and if thats how i feel. ...

http://lifehacker.com/398139/edit-any-web-page-with-a-bookmarklet

robert seaton
Quoth robert seaton on July 07, 2010 @ 2:04 AM PDT

Hi, Brian.

I gather from the number of comments that your stance on this is controversial. I find this surprising, especially considering the tech oriented nature of this blog. I imagine that the dissenters have some type of stake in online advertising (say, a blog that is powered by ads) and are naturally defensive of their choices.

Personally, I feel that ad-supported content is great as long as it is done thoughtfully, which is rare. Sites like arstechnica and most others simply go overboard with distracting advertisements: flash banners, blinking ads, etc. These types of advertising simply distract away from the main focus of the website: content.

My solution for obnoxious online advertising has been to avoid such sites. Such advertisements, in my opinion, indicate a lack of pride in your work, and why would I want to consume content that the author isn't even proud of?

Obnoxious ads are more than just distracting and a nuisance, they are actually degrading one's ability to focus. Blocking ads is good for your mental well-being. Unethical? Hell, it's self defense!

Mnmlist has an interesting piece of finding contentedness through limiting desire. The author suggests that one should avoid manufactured desires by avoiding advertisements.

Jeff Flowers
Quoth Jeff Flowers on July 07, 2010 @ 2:47 AM PDT

I really don't mind advertising but I do have an issue with animationed and flash graphics. Personally, I would love a news site where everything was just plain text, including the advertisements.

Scott
Quoth Scott on July 07, 2010 @ 2:56 AM PDT

"Show me, in the Constitution of the United States, exactly where it says that the public is guaranteed a right to know anything--"

Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.

Not sure I see what that has to do with adblocking advertisers, but there you go.

Michael Stroeck
Quoth Michael Stroeck on July 07, 2010 @ 3:01 AM PDT

Look, people, if ads really affect your well-being so much, you have bigger problems than "HORNY GIRLS IN YOUR CITY WANT IT NOW!".

Quoth on July 07, 2010 @ 8:09 AM PDT

You don't go to a bookstore and steal a book, so don't use adblock. Seriously, it isn't that big of a deal. If these ads are really so obnoxious, just grow the fuck up. How do you think the rest of the users deal with ads? They aren't that fucking bad. Seriously, quit whining. It's pathetic.

It's disgusting how people just think they're intitled to stuff for free. It takes money to make websites. It takes time to write articles. You're forgetting one very important thing: people who create wealth decide how much to charge for it. If something is too expensive, don't fucking buy it. If a website has ads that you don't like, don't fucking go to it. It's as simple as that.

Quoth on July 07, 2010 @ 8:41 AM PDT

and by intitled, I meant entitled :D

Ed Marshall
Quoth Ed Marshall on July 08, 2010 @ 3:31 AM PDT

Brian, I came across your post via Hacker News, and agree completely. I was inspired to make a few comments; since it became pretty long, I posted it over on my my blog.

@Quoth: I'm sorry you think we feel entitled; it means that at least my position has been misunderstood. I don't feel entitled to anything at all, but I will make it clear that I'll only consume online content in a particular way: without distracting advertising. If there's no content available that I'm interested in that can be consumed in that manner, I'll excuse myself from the table, just like I've done with other forms of media that became too offensive for me to continue partaking of.

The content industry can do whatever they'd like with that information.

(I wonder if there's a correlation between people who use ad-blockers, and people who consume news via syndication feeds rather than visiting sites directly?)

Ed Marshall
Quoth Ed Marshall on July 08, 2010 @ 3:37 AM PDT

A follow-up comment, as a point of curiosity: do those who complain about people blocking ads from their browsers also complain about people filtering spam from their inboxes?

annonnymouus
Quoth annonnymouus on July 09, 2010 @ 1:21 AM PDT

In sum, the mass media of the United States are effective and powerful ideological institutions that carry out a system-supportive propaganda function by reliance on market forces, internalized assumptions and self-censorship, and without significant overt coercion.

Stan
Quoth Stan on July 30, 2010 @ 6:58 PM PDT

"The idea that I have a moral obligation to stare at an advertisment, the thought I have an ethical obligation to voluntarily annoy myself for the sake of a company's profits... it would be hilarious if it wasn't so repugnant."

This is great stuff! I agree. Companies that provide content for "free" have the right to put ads on there site, but we have the right to modify the end result as well. I used to feel guilty about blocking ads after reading a simillar article a few years so, but after I noticed a lot of sites have several flash ads that bring my dual core CPU to a crawl, I decided that they are getting too intrusive. Also, I've read that more sites are moving away from regular cookies to flash cookies, which are harder to remove. I wouldn't mind the ads if they were all text or small jpeg's, but they just keep pushing the boundaries, and therefore I don't trust advertisers anymore, and no longer feel an ounce of guilt for blocking ads.

PST data reader
Quoth PST data reader on March 25, 2012 @ 7:35 PM PDT

This article is in fact a fastidious one it assists new web viewers, who are wishing for blogging.

Speak your Mind

You can use Markdown in your comment.
Email/URL are optional. Email is only used for Gravatar.

Preview