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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/7149/whats-wrong-with-blocking-ads/

What’s Wrong With Blocking Ads?

September 15, 2007 by

Ever since the first banner ad found its way online, there has been a virtual arms race between ad placement technology and ad blocking.

The latest chapter in this ongoing saga revolves around Adblock Plus, an extension that can be integrated into the Firefox browser that essentially blocks all ads. And in short, due to the fact that tools like this exist, several webmasters are now refusing to allow netizens to access their respective websites via a Firefox browser.

The New York Times recently weighed in on the issue as did Chris Soghoian of CNet, who suggested in part that,

In the end, a few things are clear: Users of advertisement-skipping technology are essentially engaged in theft of resources.

There is nothing ethically or morally wrong with an ad-blocker. It is no different than using any other technology to filter language or explicit content. No one is being harmed nor has property been destroyed or stolen (the owner was not deprived of their property).

Plain and simple: if you do not want to pay for the bandwidth and hosting charges, don’t put material online. Just because you are trying to make a living does not mean anyone should partake in your business model. After all, should everyone that visits your site be required to click on one of the ads?

Furthermore, if you can’t survive off an ad-based revenue model, try something else – like subscriptions – or perhaps find a different day job.

Addendum: I think there is a little confusion about my original post. I was simply criticizing the notion that content theft was occurring and not criticizing the practice of blocking those with ad blockers; there is nothing wrong with anti-blocker blocking. Therefore it would be fallacious to think either group has the moral high-ground for their specific actions.

See also:
What is click fraud anyways?
Hosts File


RWW September 16, 2007 at 1:30 pm

See, it is not freely available. Not the ad supported sites anyways.

You don’t get to make something accessible to anyone with an Internet connection and then say “You can only read this if you also read something else that you’re not interested in.”

It is a business model that lets you “pay” by the way of looking at ads.

Then is it wrong to view a webpage without looking at any of its ads? If not, please show me the moral/ethical difference between doing so, and simply not loading the ads at all.

RWW September 16, 2007 at 1:37 pm

This is the central question: Is it wrong to load a website, in its entirety, and purposely not look directly at any of its ads? This act is completely equivalent (other than the extra strain it puts on the ad servers) to using an ad blocker. Would you honestly argue that it is wrong? If so, you have no right to use “socialist” as an epithet.

Adi September 17, 2007 at 3:14 am

If a user knows how to use AdBlock (not very difficult), then he also knows how to “fake” their browser signature to a website.

Look for “firefox user agent switcher” in Google.

Problem solved!

Erabulus September 29, 2007 at 1:14 pm

I often access the web using a text-only browser (lynx), which means the only ads I will ever see are text links.

I have no problem with site owners choosing to block me. My browser provides them with a correct identity string which they can readily use to identify me as a user without support for their ads. If they choose not to, that is their problem.

The whole theft argument is inane. There is no contract, either express or implied when I access a web page. I have not agreed to view their ads, they have not informed me that there will be ads. There is no way for me to know before accessing the content whether or not I will be exposed to advertising, at which point it is too late for me to withdraw my consent.

I think the author has hit the nail on the head with this article. There is no reason I shouldn’t use an ad blocker. There is no reason they shouldn’t ban me if I do.

anon March 22, 2008 at 8:57 am

If you use ad blocking software, you are leeching off the free web without giving anything back, and depending on those who do not leech to keep your favorite websites free. I discuss a potential solution in this article:


qen birqeni March 27, 2008 at 9:54 am

I’m not sure I agree with this post. It is not right to claim that blocking ads is theft of any kind, whichever you way you dice and slice the argument. An internet user must have the right to bypass any communication he desires from whatever entity he choses to disregard, same as each ad agency has the right to present any content to whomever they want. Regarding electronic communication, the argument in this post is rather mute – there can be no parallels to traditional methods of advertising. One cannot simply go and destroy a physical ad, but, given the opportunity, one will decide not to view any physical adds. How many of us have ever changed the channel when commercials begin during a game or newscast or whatever? Of all the time I’ve been reading this blog, this is one of the few arguments I recall that has me at an opposing view.

March 6, 2010 at 7:05 pm

This is a pattern I see quite frequently:
1) I load a page, and find that the ads are not blocked. I don’t care, but I’m also not interested, so I scroll by.
2) I encounter an animated, moving, popup, or (God forbid) audio/Flash ad.
3) I block the ads as far up the tree as possible (the entire ad server/directory if it’s separate, the filename pattern if there is one, or simply all images), and/or don’t come back to that site anymore.

This is so simple I can’t understand why people have so much trouble with it. People block ads because they’re annoying. What’s the solution? Don’t make them annoying. If you instead try to further annoy your readers by interfering with their browser’s functionality, hampering their ability to read the content, or blocking them entirely, they’re either going to find ways around those annoyances, or just leave and find another site.

Is that a bad thing? Three words: word of mouth. When someone leaves your site because it’s annoying, they tend to tell their friends, and then when they find another site to replace it, they tell their friends about that too. You’re essentially driving people to your competitors.

There will always be those people who don’t care about ads at all, those who actually like them, and those who block everything that even resembles advertising. Ignore those. Focus on the people who currently don’t mind the ads, and keep them that way.

Mixing relevant product endorsements and recommendations with the content? Most people probably won’t even realize it’s an ad, but will take your endorsement seriously. Of course there is a limit of advertising:content ratio before it gets annoying and people just stop reading.
Text ads next to the main content area? I’ve been known to add exceptions to blocking rules to preserve those, out of respect.
Text ads in the content? Starting to be a bother.
Static graphical ads? If they’re distracting, very large files, or appear inside the content, they go byebye.
Animated ads? Popups? Instablock. Always distracting, always annoying, nearly always huge files. (I frequently see GIF banners in the 3-4MB range just so their animations look smooth.)
Ads that move around the screen? These are what drove me to install an ad blocker in the first place.
Ads with sound? There is a special place in hell for you.

TV is the same. When someone in a show is talking about paint, and recommends their favourite brand of paint, I don’t mind, unless they go on for a good while about it. When the show is interrupted for ads, I leave the room to get a snack, or just mute it. When ads start appearing over and drowning out the content, I turn the TV off. In fact I haven’t turned it back on since.

tl;dr: If your ads are annoying, people will ignore them, block them, or leave entirely, no matter what you do. Being more annoying is not the answer.

Recent Convert Blocker March 7, 2010 at 2:07 am

I actually ran across this old post by accident while surfing other content . The reason I responded was only very recently did I finally get around to installing both an ad and a script blocker on my browser . For several years I resisted doing so even though I knew all about the technology . I felt like “free” content would disappear if I took away the only means many authors have to subsidize it .

That attitude was finally crushed even in this holdout as ad after ad converted to the annoying splash across the page every time my mouse accidentally ran near it . I started enthusiastically blocking with a vengeance entire ad networks the first time even ONE single ad exhibited that behavior .

Satisfied I was still allowing “considerate” sites and networks to ply their trade I never the less was pushed even further by scripts that would try to hijack my browser into staying on a site or some other jackass behavior . I added a script blocker and now run it in full mode as well UNLESS I see that a site isn’t run like that . I could now care less if the entire Internet goes pay or goes away for that matter . Push even the most tolerant user far enough and they WILL change their behavior and attitudes .

Curt Howland March 9, 2010 at 8:52 am

I do computer consulting. If a client asks me for advice about how to stop the annoyances, especially pop-ups, I help them. It is their choice, just as it is the choice of the web site owner and ad marketer.

While it is “conventional wisdom” in the ad biz that “in your face” works, I think the fact that Google has made their fortunes specifically with small, unobtrusive ads should serve as half a lesson, the other half being the proliferation of ad blocking software.

Maybe, just maybe, people don’t like “in your face”?

Bandwidth March 10, 2010 at 6:06 am

“Plain and simple: if you do not want to pay for the bandwidth and hosting charges, don’t put material online. Just because you are trying to make a living does not mean anyone should partake in your business model. After all, should everyone that visits your site be required to click on one of the ads?”

Plain and simple: if you do not approve of what other people put on their property, don’t visit their property. Just because you are trying to get free bandwidth does not mean anyone should give you free bandwidth. After all, any site that you visit will be required to pay for the bandwidth you consume.

Alan March 15, 2010 at 2:31 am

“Plain and simple: if you do not approve of what other people put on their property, don’t visit their property. Just because you are trying to get free bandwidth does not mean anyone should give you free bandwidth. After all, any site that you visit will be required to pay for the bandwidth you consume.”

1) Just about any web hosting plan has a fixed monthly payment and a allotated monthly transfer cap. You don’t pay for each byte transfered, ffs.

2) The bandwidth is already there if anyone can surf to that site, so stop incorrectly postulate that some people are trying to get something for free. Most people have to pay for their Internet connections, so they are in fact paying for a certain allotment of bandwith.

3) It is the responsiblity of who ever owns a website to pay the web hosting bill, and seeing as good business level plans can be under $30-25 a month, and similar level plans in the $10-15 range, anyone with a job would have no problem paying that or easily splitting it with other staffers; most of what comes from ads tends to be money made on the side and not really crucial to the bill. Combine that with regular donations and/or su scription fees in some cases, and ads really aren’t needed as much as some people are lead to belive.

4) Finally, what gets downloaded to a user’s computer is the user’s choice and NOT anyone else’s. Period.

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