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There are no acceptable ads (github.com/fivefilters)
226 points by k1m on March 6, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 278 comments

I want high quality content, and I'm willing to pay for it. Wired recently starting blocking ad-blockers, with an offer of $4/month for access. I decided it was time to start putting my money where my mouth is.

I'm tired of low quality content, I want to be supporting serious, intelligent journalism that goes a bit further than the click-bait we're stuck with at the moment. Even the content traditional newspapers are putting out online has become vapid, they need to start shooting for the standards they used to and become comfortable with charging for it.

I've got £50/month waiting for quality content. Maybe not everyone does? But then again plenty of people were happy/able to pay for their daily newspaper. It feels like there's a gaping hole in the market at the moment, I'm hopeful that we're seeing the start of the return to journalism.

> I want high quality content, and I'm willing to pay for it.

Now if only the other billions of people on this planet felt the same way.

That's why I don't like this sentence. Every time the topic of ads come up here or on reddit, people always say "I'd pay for high quality content". And it gets upvoted, dozens of children comments of people agreeing with them, and everyone pats themselves on the back for such an easy and obvious solution.

Unfortunately, that's simply not the reality we live in. The vast majority (95% or more) of internet users would rather have their content subsidized by ads than have to pay. This has been proven time and time again by the countless subscription model failures over the last decade. Sure, some sites have found success, but those that do are the extremely rare exceptions, not the rule. And none have found fantastic success. How many subscription model websites are in the top 10? Top 100? Top 1000?

Subscription models just don't work. Nuff said, really. There's 10+ years of data to back it up.

I've struggled with this myself. A while back, due to linkage from here and other sites, I had used up my free allotment of free nytimes stories and thought, "hey, let me see if I can pay a bit to raise the limit, because I'm willing to pay a bit for journalism." So I checked out their subscription plans and could find nothing even remotely close to worthwhile for me.

There were disconnects between how they viewed subscriptions vs. what I wanted:

* They offered access to all of their content for a price that would have been fair if I would be reading some significant fraction of it. But I wanted to raise my cap from X stories/month to 2X stories per month and have it cost something reasonable. Or something close, like 5X stories. They need to get over the idea that the way people read news today is by going to a single site and reading through a fair amount of it, like people used to do with a physical newspaper.

* The subscriptions were for what I'd call "odd" time periods like 6 weeks. WAT. Why not 5 or 7 weeks, or multiples of 10 days? What happens when my 6 weeks is up? I start getting renewal emails? Quit messing around and quote a recurring monthly rate with discount for longer commitments.

Anyway, I went there intending to give them some money even though I only occasionally go over the free limit, and left without signing up, slightly bewildered.

There's an obvious reason subscriptions don't work, and that's that whilst $4/mo is affordable for many people, that's only for one site. If I had to pay $4/mo each for all the random sites I visit each month... I wouldn't visit those sites any more.

What's really needed is a workable, simple, micropayments model where users can pay just one monthly fee and the sites they visit are compensated automatically.

(And, as an incorrigible cynic, I always wonder whether comments like mahranch's are made by people with a vested interest in the online advertising industry. They certainly wouldn't stand to benefit if the Internet switched to micropayments.)

I think Google's "pay not to get ads" service is a good first step. Handling contnet at the ad-server level makes a ton of sense, given that they are already in the business of maximizing CPC/CPM. If users could "bid" on NOT seeing an ad against an advertiser bidding to show you an ad, you disrupt the content creators as little as possible.

Average CPM on a banner ad is $2.80. Let's say you can replace the four most obtrusive banners on pages by out bidding advertisers at a $3.00 CPM. Each pageview then costs you 1.2 pennies.

Of course, CPM's are going to vary wildly depending on the site, but the ad networks can determine this stuff easily enough and you could set your own CPM threshold.

A bidding war could be a scary scenario, but ultimately advertisers will be battling ROI as well and likely lose in the face of new competition.

I love Google's Contributor program and i'm actually at the max contribution now (I started at $1 a month, and over the last 6 months or so gradually increased it because i liked the results i was seeing) The problem is that i've found most people want an "all or nothing" system. They want to see NO ads for their payment, and not have the possibility for some ads.

For those who don't know, Contributor's "thing" is that you pay anywhere from $1 to $15 per month to google, and they basically "bid" in ad spots for you. If you win the bid, then either the ad is removed completely, or a custom image/pattern/element is shown there instead.

Plus it gives you a rundown of where your money went each month, with site-by-site control (you can say only use contributor on these sites, or you can say use contributor on all sites except these). And at the end of the month if you haven't used your entire "contribution" of money, you get it "refunded".

man, why isn't this advertised (ha) more heavily? This sounds fantastic!

There was some pretty big pushback when it was first announced and i think they went into "let's fix this before trying again" mode.

Originally your contribution wasn't refunded, so if you "pledged" $5 a month and only visited a few sites, google kept the rest. They have fixed that, but i don't think they've made any "relaunch" posts or anything. Maybe they are planning something else before that?

Also it doesn't solve the issue of tracking scripts, so many people won't even consider it, and they are very vocal about it.

Oh, and it only works for google ads. So sites that don't use doubleclick or adsense aren't included.

Probably because it didn't work so well for Google.

Premium ad slots on premium sites -- eg the ones most people are actually seeing -- can sell for 10x your $2.80 cpm example. Just adding that it does make the math more challenging

Absolutely not. The only thing that does is drive up ad prices. If I am paying I want NO ADS. Not a bidding war, not less obtrusive ads. NO ADS.

>What's really needed is a workable, simple, micropayments model where users can pay just one monthly fee and the sites they visit are compensated automatically.

You've described a multi-site subscription rather than micropayments. Something like this could work if enough quality sites signed on. I'm not going to pay Wired $4/month. (Heck I think I only pay something like $1/month for the magazine.) But I might consider paying $4/month for a subscription covering a wide range of content.

One problem then is that you're putting loads of content behind some sort of paywall. Which means, among other things, that every time someone shares a link of HN for example, people complain. You do some variants of this with digital magazine subscriptions for example, but none of them have taken off.

In addition, if this approach really succeeded at the broadest scale, you're effectively talking about making a large chunk of the Web subscription only.

True micropayments have their own problems. A lot of people have taken a run at this going back to Web 1.0. The transactional friction associated with getting someone to plop down that penny or nickel to read just seems too great--in addition to the issues with a cross-site subscription.

> Heck I think I only pay something like $1/month for the magazine.

That's because magazines are heavily advertiser-supported, the very thing you're trying to not have online.

I'd say there's an even more obvious reason than that; most content simply isn't valuable enough that people would pay for it. Can you support high quality journalism with a subscription model? Possibly, but the audience will be far lower than the audience on todays ad supported sites, and perhaps not even big enough to support two or three seperate ones.

Meanwhile, the vast majority of the world will simply look to any free source of news or information or whatever else that they can get.

And if everyone becomes part of a subscription model, it then leaves a gap in the market for whoever is willing to offer their services for free as a loss leader. As long as at least one person or organisation is willing to offer their services for free (even as part of a short term plan to get a large audience behind them), a subscription model will remain non viable for most sites and publications.

The core of the problem is that's easy and cheap to copy content(while rephrasing, for legality). So unless you need the content right now(or need it from a reliable source, say for your job/investments/etc), you could probably find most of what you're interested in offered for free, or something similar to it, which is good enough.

>There's an obvious reason subscriptions don't work, and that's that whilst $4/mo is affordable for many people, that's only for one site.

That's because we need a platform, not per site subscriptions. They have a quite succesful such platform in the Netherlands from what I've heard (for their local media).

Spotify, Rdio and the rest absolutely work -- and it's a similar model, only in this case the "mediator/platform" should be neutral.

>> They have a quite succesful such platform in the Netherlands from what I've heard

Is it the Correspondent? Does 40K members paying 65euro/year, and their achievements doesn't sound that differentiated from what is available on the web, for free(although it might take a bit of effort to filter) [1]:

"we broke the news of a major European bank’s involvement in illegal land grabs in some of the poorest regions of Europe; in another piece, our Technology and Surveillance Correspondent warned readers about the security risks of using public wifi networks; and our Hacker Correspondent demonstrated why you might want to think twice before posting photos of your children online. With these and other stories, we strive to provide readers with new perspectives for understanding how the world works."

Reading the rest, it seems the major reason for their success is their "expert community " and the access to that you get via subscription - altough i wonder how do they compare to other web based communities.


>Is it the Correspondent? Does 40K members paying 65euro/year, and their achievements doesn't sound that differentiated from what is available on the web, for free(although it might take a bit of effort to filter)

No, it was an aggregator, not a news outlet itself.

Can't find the original article I've read about the service, but it seems it is this:


That said, 40K paying members for something like this, considering the Dutch population is quite an achievement. That would be like 1 million people in the US.

But still, this Correspondent thing is nothing like what I described (and think will work as a solution) which would be an easy to pay, ad-free, aggregation platform.

Thanks. Very interesting.

But(from an article in business insider): "It may well be that Blendle has been so successful in the Netherlands because the publications that have signed up have been Dutch language, rather than English, in which articles are often replicated hundreds of times over. But Klöpping[the founder] believes the Netherlands is no different than any other country"

I'm from Israel, a country about half the population of the Netherlands. And there's a really small amount of blogs worth reading and a small amount of indie newspapers/magazine like sites - so most of the time when i do read in hebrew, i use maybe 2 of the large sites.

On top of that, if you want to replicate content in hebrew, you're probably an Israeli, you have more lucrative jobs. But many poor people in the third world do know english pretty well, and the english market is bigger, so there are enough people willing to do that job,

So the situation is very different. But sure it would be interesting to see how the u.s. expansion goes.

EDIT: one thing though - i see their most popular piece is an in depth analysis of how will middle east will look in 2035. Seems like something that might not fit ad-based content(it's too long, making it both hard to copy well, and not fit for ads, and also credibility of the author matters). Now i really want to see what kind of content this produces in english.

>I'm from Israel, a country about half the population of the Netherlands. And there's a really small amount of blogs worth reading and a small amount of indie newspapers/magazine like sites - so most of the time when i do read in hebrew, i use maybe 2 of the large sites.

Depends on the country I guess. I'm from another small country in the area, comparable to Holland in population, and we have tons of news sites (commercial) and lots of blogs. That said, we also had in the past 3 decades an overabundance of print outlets, so we might not be that typical.

That sounds like Brave's bitcoin protocol they are working on.

Thing is, if sites are automatically compensated once users visit how does that change the motivation away from click bait?

Bitcoin? Uh, no thanks.

Just need a way of putting a little real money into some service, and then painlessly transferring a little of it into sites when they ask for it (and I want to pay it). "This page costs x" or "stream y minutes of video for x" or "24 hour access to this site for x" etc.

Sometimes the solution is out there but it's not been made simple enough or is not adopted by enough high profile sites or whatever. There's flattr, a popular one, apparently, although I've never actually seen it used in the wild. You'd need a paywall but where the wall is only a few pennies or a fraction of a penny high. My objection to a paywall is not the need to pay, but the need to sign up for a site ("great, another site i have to trust with my credit card details") and the high cost ("you want £20 now for a months access? I only want to read 1 article"). You'd not buy anything in a real shop if you had to pay up front, in each shop, separately, before you'd even decided you wanted anything from that shop.

It doesn't. Does it need to?

I think it's up to the user to avoid click-bait. Possibly, knowing that they're directly (or very nearly directly) paying for visits will make some users think twice before following a click-baity link.

But TBH, I'm not convinced people in general hate click-bait as much as people on HN seem to. People buy magazines like National Enquirer, which to me are the print version of click-bait dross.

I don't see how clicking on click bait means you pay/nearly pay. You're only paying if money leaves your bank account. You're just wasting a little time (not much though; just click the back button) and feeling a little stupid for falling for it. Just don't click on linkbait, and make a note not to ever visit that site again. Actually, it'd be nice if adblockers let you blacklist sites and turned their urls into the text "linkbait url removed". I think people DO hate linkbait generally because nobody likes being lied to, which is essentially what's happening.

>People buy magazines like National Enquirer, which to me are the print version of click-bait dross.

Just that? "People", "Cosmo", "Men's Health", all the most succesful print titles are hardly better than BS clickbait...

Well, there's really no reason why Bitcoin should/would be a part of it. Bitcoin is no better at microtransactions than any other payment solution, it's actually worse. So you're left with solutions that involve "off-chain"-type transactions and even then, you have a MAJOR adoption hurdle with Bitcoin that you don't have with credit cards and ACH.

I guess the reason Bitcoin is used is because the payments are to be decentralised and without opt-in from the site's that are getting paid. As opposed to services like Flattr that require signup from the site's before hand.

How about they are not? Radical I know, but what about having a button on the bottom of the page where you could click to say "this was a good article, flattr it"?

Now you might say very few people would pay for it, but if we assume something like flattr, then your money is already spent. All we are talking about is who gets the booty. And if you aren't a flattr user, then you just get an excert and a signup button.

That version kills click-bait, because who really likes those kinds of articles?

> What's really needed is a workable, simple, micropayments model where users can pay just one monthly fee and the sites they visit are compensated automatically.

It's quite amazing that the 6 years old flattr (https://flattr.com/) didn't emerge as the solution

That is exactly how Spotify Premium's payment model works. The nearest equivalent in journalism might be a wire service like the AP.

> Subscription models just don't work

I'm not disagreeing with you, but that still doesn't refute the argument that you're selling your audience to someone else without their consent (and before you say "then don't use the site", you don't get to choose whether or not you're exposed to the given sites ads until you go on it, in which case it's already too late. Unless, of course, you use an ad-blocker -- which is why I'm of the opinion that people should use ad-blockers, but I disagree with the article in that I feel there can be cases of responsible, acceptable advertising. Things aren't so black and white, from either side)

> but that still doesn't refute the argument that you're selling your audience to someone else without their consent

You watch the big bang theory and they play an ad during the commercial break for colgate. Did you get sold something without your consent? It's literally the exact same thing.

When you browse the web or when you watch TV, it's inherent to the media that you will see ads and that ads subsidize that content. Admitting to anything else but that inherent truth is (to me) just technicalities and/or pointless pedantry. Unless it's your first time on the 'net, you understand ads subsidize the content you see. Pretending like it's some injustice is almost laughable. It's like you're saying commercials on TV are taking advantage of you every time they cut to a commercial break.

Laugh all you want. Laughter doesn't change facts.

And facts are -- nobody is indebted to companies who snuck themselves in the content we're interested in. I didn't ask for them there. Did I sign a contract mandating me to not use ad blockers? No. Your move then.

What's so hard to comperehend here?

No there isn't anything inherent in the way commercial TV happens to work in the US. There are many other models, including, but not limited to:

- Taxpayer funded television (ala BBC)

- Direct viewer funded television (ala PBS)

- Subscription television (ala HBO, Netflix, etc.)

- Television subsidized by some organization that doesn't advertise but wants to produce content (probably doesn't currently exist, but could)

- Community produced television (ala cable access)

- Any other model you'd like.

Just because the current model exists doesn't mean nothing else could work, and doesn't mean that I should assume anything when I turn on the TV. There's nothing inherent about advertising.

TV ads are not tracking you, taking data from you and/or providing an attack vector for malware or other cybercrime.

So literally not the exact same thing.

That's an argument against a certain type of advertising. The link explicitly rejects the distinction between ads that monitor and track you and ads than are entirely passive.

I agree with the position set forth by the link. I don't want to be advertised to at all. I cut the cord, I no longer watch TV, I've stopped following sports, I run uBlock Origin... Any site that decides to block ad blockers will simply no longer get a visit from me.

I think advertising is one of the lowest, most pernicious forms of psychological manipulation out there. It simply cannot be done in good faith, by definition.

Some content creators even try to level with their audience about it and say "I'm just putting up this ad to get paid, just ignore it (or click it but don't buy anything) if you want." That's not dealing with the advertising company in good faith.

To me, the only good faith relationship between content creator and audience is the patronage model. This model has endured for centuries and some of our culture's very best artists have relied on it.

Is there such a thing as an entirely passive online ad? Any clickable ad at least knows which site you were on when you clicked; TV advertisers don't know what I was watching when I saw their ad.

That aside, the crucial difference is still this:

TV ads cannot be removed. If they could be, they would be.

Since online ads can be removed, and since doing so provides an enhanced user experience, and since (passive or not) online advertising facilitates the gross pollution of the internet by financing endless numbers of splog, malware and other content-free junk sites, that nobody would ever pay for directly, why not block them?

> That's why I don't like this sentence. Every time the topic of ads come up here or on reddit, people always say "I'd pay for high quality content". And it gets upvoted, dozens of children comments of people agreeing with them, and everyone pats themselves on the back for such an easy and obvious solution.

I'm willing to pay for high-quality content, it's just that whenever a "pay" option is offered, it's usually overpriced. The standard Netflix subscription costs ~$10/month; the online subscription to Wired costs $4/month. Is accessing a single random website (Wired) worth 40% of Netflix to me? No, not really. Am I going to spend hundreds of dollars a month to individually subscribe to every website I use? No, I'm not doing that either.

Add to that that I'm extremely wary of subscriptions for obvious reasons.

I'd gladly pay for content if I could subscribe to most websites I use with a single service at reasonable prices (or better yet, buy credits/access-triggered weekly passes for them).

Netflix and Spotify might argue with you. Subscriptions might not work in all case, but as these threads demonstrate, there are many alternatives depending on your content (micropayments, or sponsored content for newspapers).

Ads of today don't work, the widespread and increasing use of content blockers back it up.

Spotify isnt really making money. The other music services have all failed.

Netflix is the only streaming service seeing some success, and they don't own or produce most of their content or the delivery systems. If they did, their business wouldn't be viable either.

Given that Spotify is private, how would you know if Spotify is making money? How about Pandora Radio? They have about 80M users; is that a failure?

What exactly is meant by Netflix not owning their delivery system? That seems like a rather specious argument. HBO GO, Hulu, MLB, Sling TV and the 100s of other OTT services seem to be missing from your industry understanding.

>Given that Spotify is private, how would you know if Spotify is making money?

Industry observers see the financial numbers from Spotify filings in the UK and Luxembourg and can piece together that they spend more than they take in. Another source of information about Spotify health was the Sony email leaks[1] revealing the unfavorable terms to license the Sony music catalog.

Lastly, CEO Daneil Ek has been on record[2] saying, "we believe in the business model of Spotify, and believe that ultimately we’ll become profitable at some point..."

It is not wild speculation that Spotify is losing money.

>How about Pandora Radio? They have about 80M users; is that a failure?

Pandora is also still losing money.[3] Whether it's 80M or 800M users, it's a failure if the business can't turn a profit. (Otherwise known as costs exceeding revenue.)

The overwhelming "costs" in both music streaming services is the royalty payouts for licensing music. So far, not enough people can be convinced to pay $9.99/month. Or, the people that are willing to pay something-per-month are not willing to pay higher amounts such as $19.99.[4] So far, the financial numbers are not working.





I think the key is so far. It might not turning a profit, but ~1bn in revenue is still a strong argument that you can get the subscriptions model working for online music streaming and is not doomed to failure from the very beginning.

> Given that Spotify is private, how would you know if Spotify is making money? How about Pandora Radio? They have about 80M users; is that a failure?

There are plenty of public reports of Spotify revenues and losses that show they're having trouble. Pandora has had continual losses and the stock isnt doing well either. There's only more drama coming with artists and studios demanding more money so it's a very tough market and isn't going as well as it might seem on the surface. User counts don't matter if the business can't sustain itself.

> What exactly is meant by Netflix not owning their delivery system?

Traditionally there were cable companies that owned the delivery infrastructure and studios that produced the content. Netflix is neither (although they're getting a little into the production business). They will continue to feel pressure from both sides as the traditional companies start to compete much more strongly with digital offerings. Regardless, if Netflix was actually producing all the content they have, they wouldnt be in business today.

My point in response to the GP reply is that subscriptions aren't easy. Netflix and Spotify were named but both have issues and arent clear winners. Leasing content doesn't show the true cost of that content and while it might work for audio/video resellers, it's not going to help all the major web content/news publishers.

>> Regardless, if Netflix was actually producing all the content they have, they wouldn't be in business today.

Sure, but that's just a growth phase, right ? Once Netflix becomes fully global(and as successful it hopes), won't it revenues fully support the content ?

People pay for plenty of content on Kindle Store, for example.

But "books" are on a higher shelf compared to the "content" that people consume mostly out of restless boredom, for which they perhaps are reluctant to pay because they don't really care about it that much anyway.

At least as big an issue I think is that for Kindle books, the analogy is roughly "Amazon = the Internet".

If there was a single vendor who knew my payment information and transparently and simply just made it all work, I'd be far more likely to consider paying for one article here, one article there, etc.

People will pay large monthly bills to read stuff on the Internet -- they do so today to their ISP. But for a variety of reasons, no one is going to pay 750 individual monthly bills for $0.06 each to all the different pages they've stumbled through during the month, even if it works out to be about the same amount of money.

I don't want to pay $0.06 for anything because what could possibly be simultaneously interesting and worth so little?

On the other hand, I gladly pay $5 through the simple checkout thing on LouisCK.com because I trust and respect him and want to support his business.

This is kind of why I'm so lukewarm about the idea of micro payments. It seems to assume a world where everybody gives tiny tips to little blobs of semi-worthless generic content that they probably consume on the bathroom.

I've paid for downloads of independent ebooks too and would happily do it again. If payments are really tedious then that's a general problem and, like, Stripe could just make a browser extension to make it utterly trivial. VISA works pretty well after all, no?

For me, the overwhelming problem seems to be that I'm only genuinely interested in a small subset of high quality things (books, videos, articles) by people I have real respect for.

With most news articles, I'd pay for the privilege of never even hearing about them. But if someone made a plain text newsletter with coherent, intelligent news commentary, I wouldn't think twice about filling out a Stripe pop up for that. I've paid for dumber things in my life.

There needs to be some sort of combination between subscriptions and "pay as you go." I pay for The Washington Post, since I tend to read it almost every day. I won't pay $4/month for Wired, since I'm not a regular reader. I'd pay say 50 cents an article, though, if that were an option. That goes for The Economist, Scientific American, and a number of other sites.

The main issue with this type of payment model isn't the money; it's the mechanics of it.

If something behind the scenes automatically took my $0.50, kept track of the fact that I was entitled to read it on any device and browser I might use anytime in the future, and didn't bug me about it ever again, then it might be workable. I don't have a problem paying a few cents for an article. I have a problem manually entering into the transaction to pay a few cents every time I want to read an article throughout the day.

I think this is related to the importance of defaults. If a site charged $4 per year, and then, in an unrelated transaction a user could opt-in to advertising to cover that $4 fee, you'd see a tiny fraction of people expressing the "preference" you think they are expressing.

>Now if only the other billions of people on this planet felt the same way.

Anybody asked them?

> Subscription models just don't work

he said and looked at his torrents

> Subscription models just don't work. Nuff said, really. There's 10+ years of data to back it up.

The subscription model has worked for 20 years in the adult industry, even though free online porn has existed since the invention of the GIF.

>I'm tired of low quality content, I want to be supporting serious, intelligent journalism that goes a bit further than the click-bait we're stuck with at the moment.

The thing is, historically speaking this kind of content has been free. The goal of the world wide web was to provide people with the ability to publish for themselves, and it was a smash hit success because it turned out that when you give people the ability to publish their work, they may only write two things in their entire life but they care so much about those things they're a lot higher quality than what you get out of forbes today.

With a whole internet full of people only writing (or filming, or recording, or coding, or whatever) one or two things, there's a world of fantastic content out there. Lots of it is in old forums, some of it has been monitized by ads (youtube), but most of it is still free as the authors intended.

But then the notion of earning an income on ads came along, and with it came the concept of clickbait. Quality took a dive and formerly free content got jailed up behind paywalls or plastered with ads. The amazing conceit was that the people who did this think because they did the work, they deserve to get paid. It never crosses their mind that we might wish they hadn't done the work in the first place.

The honest truth is, I'm tired of low quality content too, so I'm blocking ads to try and kill of the companies making it.

> But then the notion of earning an income on ads came along

That's unfair, and almost flat out wrong. Content and ads pretty much evolved hand in hand. Sure, there was some content up before ads came along, but ads came up almost immediately after. There was also practically no content on the 'net compared to today. The net back then was... almost non-existent. It was a ghost town. You had sites like prodigy and compuserve hosting a large chunk of the 'net and they did have ads. This was in the mid 90s.

I've been online since 1994, and that's not how I remember it.

There was plenty of amateur content put up for fun before the ad explosion. There were search engines for the content. And there was a lot of academic and technical information.

Then the business types moved and tried to turn the entire web into a strip mall. To some extent they succeeded. Twitchy pointless banners invaded a lot of pages.

To a large extent they failed, because the purveyors of twitchy little banners pretended they have the same user impact as print and TV advertising - and that idea has always been demonstrably wrong.

The problem is that the twitchy little banners created an entire economy of user sharking, which completely fails to understand that the best ads give real value to users - either by providing truly useful leads, or by being beautiful and interesting. Networked web ads are none of the above.

Occasionally you'll see sites that sell space to a narrow targeted niche relevant to readers of those pages. Those tend to do much better.

But the scatter-shot nature of web advertising puts it on the same level as email spam. It's not useful, it's not interesting, it's not beautiful, it's just distracting and annoying. Most of it provides no user benefit at all.

It deserves to die until that changes. If it can't exist without being parasitic on content, then the market needs to kill it off until it works out how to pays its way.

And the content industry needs to get over itself and start producing outstanding, irreplaceable, content that readers genuinely want to pay for. If it can't do that, it needs to die out too.

Ads have been funding content for centuries, and that includes newspapers, magazines, radio and TV. In most cases, people have never had to pay the full cost of producing the content they consume, which may well have resulted in them undervaluing content across the board.

When commercial content providers (newspapers, magazines, radio and TV etc) moved on to the web, they naturally brought their ad-funded business model along with them.

> " In most cases, people have never had to pay the full cost of producing the content they consume"

That's debatable. It's worth remembering that before the Internet, many traditional forms of media had multiple income streams, of which advertising was only one. Would it have been possible to produce TV and radio content based on a subscription-only model? Seemed to have worked out fine for the BBC. Newspapers and magazines would have taken a hit, but if revenue was based on sales alone then it's certainly possible some of those institutions could have survived on this.

In other words, it's not a case of working with zero money it's a case of working with less money.

Newspapers and magazines, for example, had multiple income streams, but as the cost of printing newspapers climbed, an increasing percentage of the cost shifted onto advertising. Many reached the point where it made more sense to give the product away free, so advertising paid for 100%.

Subscriptions can work, but usually that's only for small quantities of high-value content, aimed at specialist audiences.

Go to your local stationer and find out how much it would cost for 200-300 sheets of high quality paper, then ask a printer about the cost of printing content on them.

The BBC has police to enforce its subscriptions - a model not easily reproduced by private companies.

Nonsense. Sky offers TV subscriptions without 'police to enforce its subscriptions'.

Sky encrypts its content, and its subscriptions are certainly enforced by the whole legal system. Try forging some Sky cards or even using a personal account in a public setting, such as a pub, and you may well find out....

You're missing the point. The point is that it's possible to deliver subscription-type models for broadcast media without needing close ties with the state. Public broadcasters like the BBC could use the same type of encryption as Sky, for example.

You're missing the point. Rule of law applies just as much to Sky as it does to the BBC.

> "The BBC has police to enforce its subscriptions - a model not easily reproduced by private companies."

If you're going to reply, at least consider the context in which the comments were made. The original point I was responding to was that subscription models only work in state supported media outlets. My assertion was that Sky proves that subscription models are possible outside those restraints.

Furthermore, even if there was a case where a company was not supported by the law, subscription models can still exist. There are examples online of subscription services for illegal content. One could argue that Usenet subscriptions in the broadband era fall into this category, the chances that people are currently paying a monthly fee to access the discussions is somewhat slim.

I pay for a lot of content, but individual subscriptions doesn't scale. I have subscriptions to Stratfor, The Economist and NYT. Nothing else has enough for me to buy in bulk. I would probably pay for 538 too.

There are Wired articles I would pay to read, but I don't want the whole corpus.

Micro payments cannot come soon enough.

On the topic about scaling, I'd give serious thought to a "Spotify model" for it if there was such a service that included enough sites.

> Micro payments cannot come soon enough.

I know I must be missing something here, but what is actually preventing a service where a number on your account (which you have funded with $10, because lots of quality news and content sites are signed up to it) decreases by 00.10 and someone else's number (whose article you just paid to read) increases by 00.10?

One the face of it, this seems like the easiest thing in the world to accomplish, particularly for already established, trusted and extensively used payment-related companies like Paypal.

> Micro payments cannot come soon enough.

Any idea how to encourage quality content with micropayments? The naive implementation would be to charge on opening the article, but I suspect that would just encourage more click-bait headlines. Short articles can still contain good content, so just tracking reading time wouldn't be sufficient either.

Blendle allows no-question refunds, and it seems to be working very well. I think you'd have to do it that way.

For the Bitcoiners, there's the nano-paywall from https://satoshipay.io/ . (I'm part of the team working on this). We're currently trying to integrate fiat payments too, which would make this a browser wallet of sorts that can be used to pay micro-amounts to publishers. Still early days, but think we're on to something with a lot of potential.

Pay a fixed amount every month to a third party that redistribute money to all the articles that you "liked" with a button.

That's the model of Flattr. I have no idea how successful they are though.


I have a Flattr account, but I only use it for regular contributions to a couple of open source projects, since I never see a button anywhere.

Being in the content game, it's because it's totally not worth littering pages for the 5 cents a month it'd make.

I'm hyperbolizing, but even if it were $100/month, it wouldn't be worth the space. What this space needs is someone with deep pockets to subsidize the publisher growth until the critical mass of users is reached.

Micropayments have been the obvious - to me - solution for this problem since I got on the internet in 1997. Still never seen it employed anywhere. Yes, heard of flattr. Never seen a single site that uses it.

I feel like unless it's opt-out per article, you'll forget to click often enough that the price of clicking will have to be high

If you look at the amount of money going into ad businesses, everyone would need to put in about $150/month for there to be no drop in revenue.

There's a reason why NYT is so expensive (and, of course, still carries ads) per month compared to what one might think

Sounds like you'd be interested in Brave:


From the homepage:

"With Brave, you can choose whether to see ads that respect your privacy or pay sites directly. Either way, you can feel good about helping fund content creators."

So you could choose the ad-free option and have Brave pay the sites you visit.

I really, reallly wish there was an AdBlock software with a proper acceptable ads. Get a few people to inspect websites with lets say 10-20-30$(cheap for any website which actually wants to make money) application fee to cover the cost of the inspection and whitelist that website. OF course give us plain and precise information about what is acceptable with a few levels of control from the user, plus a button to report a website that is actually not doing good. Once you lose your privileges, you pay double/triple or more to apply again.

This is actually what I do for myself, have over 300 sites which i visit semi-occasionally, that have disabled ads because I like those websites and those ads are actually something worth my connection, a nice way to pay out to the website. If AdBlock had done this, I really believe it would have been so much better than as it is right now.

In most cases the website has little to no direct control of the ad content. The evaluation would need to extend to the ad networks, as well.

Consider theguardian.com, you can become a supporting member for €49/yr (probably $49 in the US), even though you can freely access the content without paying.

The Guardian is still heavily dependent on advertising and turning more and more to shady native advertising deals. They took oil money for example at the same time as they were running a 'keep it in the ground' campaign. Media Lens have a good piece on The Guardian here: http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2016...

An increasing number of Guardian pieces seem to be thinly-disguised advertorials.

When Adele's last album arrived it ran pieces about the awesomeness of Adele for days without a break, until it became a running joke in the comments.

Of course it's impossible to prove the content was bought and paid for, but unless the editor is the biggest Adele fan in the world in the history of ever it's hard to imagine the staff at an international daily spontaneously filing Adele puff pieces without prompting.

There was so little high quality, original content even in the old days. It was mostly opinions, simplifications of scientific papers, excerpts from press releases and press conferences, or something someone (usually not a journalist) caught on camera.

With the communications technology we have now, it's hard for anyone to add significant value in the middle between the source of the news (scientists, inventors, politicians, entertainers, witnesses, etc.) and the public.

For example, 25 years ago the media spent a lot of airtime and ink on the beating of Rodney King, and indeed we only heard about it thanks to the media. Now, we can watch similar videos on YouTube, read court documents and the police departments' press releases directly, and hear thousands of diverse opinions on social media. That role of the old media is obsolete.

But I'd still pay for accurate, unbiased investigative journalism.

Did they really earn $4 a month per user when they used ads? I guess they raised the price a lot because they realised they would lose lots of people. One way to lose lots of people is to immediatly start with a high price. It's going to be hard to get people back once they left.

I'm not convinced that subscriptions per property is the correct model, there's room for innovation here.

Yes, there is lots of room for innovation. Too bad the big media companies have no feeling of need for innovation. They lobby for laws against adblockers. They look to blame the customer and the ability of the customer to block their ads.

It would be interesting to have a convergence of apps, community, shopping, and content. A lot of niches benefit from all those things but are separated across different platforms. Packing that together could make the combination feel like a premium product and justify a monthly payment (or gift subscription). It also requires less effort from the user to discover the various elements.

There's no lack of high-quality content around the web. True, it's a bit hard to discover it amid the noise. And most often, larger communities are gathered around click-baity content, and that's why we go there. And yes, maybe it's not fresh from the ovens but a bit late.

So even if there may be a need in money, maybe it would be better spend on solving those problems first ?

I agree

Monetization of content is a business opportunity waiting to happen. Something like a network where you put, I dunno $10 per month and every article you read is charged for $0.10, as an example. Or unlimited during the month for $1

If news sites can allow us to Tweet or Fb an article it might be possible to 'coin' an article as well in a seamless manner

I like the concept of micro payments, but I am worried about the notion of a single large party providing this service. Can you imagine the worth of all those user profiles correlating topics, interests, articles, and websites?

Payment would have to be anonymous for this to work.

I am willing to pay about half that, but only on a one of basis with articles I like. Something like flatter, but universal and most importantly very simple to cancel.

The reason is simple, I no longer read a particular newspaper, I read whatever I get linked to on twitter, hn or facebook. Somehow newspapers don't seem to get this.

This. I'd take OP's link seriously if it said something like this.

> If ad blocking continues to grow, which we hope it will, other ways of funding will be found.

This is one of those ways, so not sure why you think our piece shouldn't be taken seriously.

I agree entirely that there are no acceptable ads. I have only one life and the entirety of the value I derive from it comes from that which I pay attention to. Thus I highly value the extent to which I can control my attention and the thoughts swirling around in my consciousness (and in my subconscious, since that has a significant effect on what ends up being promoted to conscious thought.)

I consider advertising to be robbing me of ME. I understand that this is a cost I am incurring as payment for a service, but I consider it an extremely high cost, and exploitative of the fact that it is difficult to see how high the cost is.

This view is informed largely by popular books on how the brain/humans work, like Thinking Fast and Slow and Consciousness and the Brain and podcasts like You Are Not So Smart, etc. It is also somewhat informed by meditative experience, which I think has given me at least a little insight into the workings of my mind.

I'll note that I do think there is some amount of informational value in advertising. But as long as advertising is created and funded by people working hard to drive me to a specific conclusion rather than to inform me, I'm not interested. I'd rather pay services like consumer reports to deliver this information to me.

>I consider advertising to be robbing me of ME

Okay fine but the alternative is working longer hours to produce the money to pay for your consumption. Which is as much robbing you of you as advertising is with the disadvantage that you can't consume concurrently.

If that's true, I think I'm willing to accept it. I'm much more capable of evaluating how much to consume vs how much to work than I am of evaluating advertising.

I'm not sure it's true, though. Advertisers are confident they make money from me by taking my attention. Like everyone else, I don't directly perceive that to be true -- but, amazingly, it is.*

Advertisers split those profits with the content creators/distributors.

I'd rather that money come directly from a conscious, informed choice on my part rather than by intentionally manipulated behaviors. That does mean I'll consume different things than I do when I'm advertised to, but it also frees up money. I believe this just from looking at "sinks and sources" -- removing advertiser profits is removing a big sink (and a small source of informational value, which I've mentioned I'd rather get elsewhere.)

I don't know what the solution is for getting that money into the hands of content creators and distributors, but I'm sure there is one.

* And this apparent contradiction, where basically nobody directly perceives the cost, but advertisers realize the value anyway, is consistent with everything psychology tells us about the myriad of systematic human bias, and is a big part of the reason I say the cost of advertising is difficult/impossible to evaluate from an experiential perspective.

>Okay fine but the alternative is working longer hours to produce the money to pay for your consumption. Which is as much robbing you of you as advertising is with the disadvantage that you can't consume concurrently.

I already pay much more for my consumption than I did 20-30 years ago (adjusted for inflation), in all kinds of direct, round-about and sneaky ways (e.g. diluted news value from infomercials and paid posts posing as content). Stopping all these BS and paying a normal rate for consumption again would be fine.

You also forgot that 10-20% of a product is often advertising costs. If without ads the products had their prices lowered accordingly, then that's more than enough to cover my consumption...

That's one alternative, but by no means the only one. You could:

- reduce consumption

- consume the same or more, but of content that costs less to produce (say modern day dramas with fewer special effects and less well-known actors instead of high-end special fx driven or period-driven narratives)

- reduce consumption of something else to make up the difference and consume the same amount of media for a higher cost

- Other options I haven't thought of

provided you would consume that content anyway, another alternative is that advertisers making less profit

Also advertising typically uses negative tactics to try to get you to buy. "Look at this guy/girl, so much better looking, so much happier with their XXXXX". It saps moral.

I agree, I wouldn't have these people round my home to talk to me about this. I don't want to see them.

Lots of people say that if we all start blocking ads, then lots of content will go away. I'm perfectly fine with that, as the majority of 'content' is complete rubbish. The web used to be populated by hobbyists who made their own websites not expecting compensation, and they were generally high quality. Now it's ruled by clickbait and ad infested contentless garbage, I'm happy if it all dies.

> Lots of people say that if we all start blocking ads, then lots of content will go away. I'm perfectly fine with that

Except it's more of a butterfly effect than people realize. Not just "article" type content, but also innovation. I doubt sites like reddit would exist (at least in their current form) without ads. Hell, they barely get by with ads. Google wouldn't exist without ads, etc etc... Sure those sites exist now, and you take ads away, they're already entrenched, but what about the future google or reddit or facebook?

A lot of innovation has been spurred from people's passions and their hobbies, but much more innovation has taken place as a result of people trying to make a quick easy buck. And that's what ads promise.

Everything from your favorite news website to your favorite android app wouldn't exist (or likely wouldn't exist) if not for ads. I don't think people (hackernews users) really have thought about how much innovation on the internet is directly and indirectly related to ads. If you actually stop and think about it, the complexity can boggle your mind.

So Google, Facebook, and Reddit might not exist, so what? Other services and models will take their place. It reminds me of this Jack Black clip on piracy[1] where he essentially claims if artists can't make loads of cash, there will be no more art.

This argument is simply a scare tactic employed by monopolies of every kind. "Too Big to Fail" banks say the economy won't exist without them. The MPAA claims art won't exist without them. Advertisers say internet content won't exist without them.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-LkWKvMCzqA

> Other services and models will take their place.

You're missing the point. You fail to grasp the scope and size of the reach that ads have on the internet. I saw what the internet was like before the masses arrived, I was here online back in 1995 and while the lack of ads was nice, "the internet" was a ghost town. Those sites wouldn't, couldn't exist without ads. Hell, google isn't a search engine, it's first and foremost an ad company. That's where 95% of their revenue comes from! Their search feature is just a vehicle to display ads. Literally.

> This argument is simply a scare tactic employed by monopolies of every kind.

Except it's not a scare tactic and it's not an argument, it's a fact. Even if it it was both, it doesn't make it any less true. Advertisements actually do spur innovation and there's tons of data and studies to back it up:

PDF warning: www.voez.at/download.php?id=1152

> Lots of people say that if we all start blocking ads, then lots of content will go away. I'm perfectly fine with that

I don't think people (hackernews users) really have thought about how much innovation on the internet is directly and indirectly related to ads

Both excellent arguments.

"Innovation" that harms society (such as anything dependent on advertising) isn't actually innovation we want. I'm very aware of all the supposed "innovation" that is largely greed cargo culting other successful businesses, or simply a scam.

I'm perfectly fine with all of this pathological "innovation" finally going away.

Please explain how advertising "harm"s society?

In my experience, well targeted advertising is highly beneficial in connecting you with products you may want. I have bought a handful of things I never would have known about from Facebook ads. Good advertising isn't intrusive and isn't harmful, it's genuinely wonderful.

> Please explain how advertising "harm"s society?

While I feel of often does, that's not the claim I made which was about the harm from when you are dependent on advertising.

If your product is only profitable as a vehicle for advertisements, there is a conflict of interest between your goals with the product and advertisers goals. As we have seen in many cases over the last half-century, eventually the interests of the advertiser take over. The slide of TV shows from having only a few commercials between shows to the current idiocy of literally having more commercial than show on some channels is an obvious example of this trend.

> In my experience

I suspect you're engaging in selection bias. Most people don't even notice costs associated with advertising, because they already have high tolerance. Try isolating yourself away from any advertising for about two months; I doubt you will look upono advertising so favorably after that.

Wouldn't you have found these products by research, from people sharing the same interests, or through independant reports?

Every product I saw through an ad that looked remotely useful was either unactionable, critically flawed, overpriced or sub-par compared to the rival products.

For the harm to society, my go to example would be ad reads on podcasts. There will be products that the hosts of the shows have been personally using for a long time and happens to sponsor the show. Naturally the ad read will be overall positive, but if you followed the host for a while on other shows, it becomes clear that they are more or less stuck with the product for now but are looking for alternatives because of some critical shortcomming. It also means that any discussion surrounding the sponsor's field (other rival products, or problems occuring peripherically to the product) won't be happening.

Overall the more relevant the ad becomes, the more perverse effects it generates.

I'm not going to say advertising harms society in and of itself but too much of anything is harmful. Unchecked, advertising serves to create an insatiable consumerism where enough is never enough and a general feeling of discontent in the target audience.

"Google wouldn't exist without ads, etc etc... Sure those sites exist now, and you take ads away, they're already entrenched, but what about the future google or reddit or facebook?"

Allow me to point out that you have just posted this comment on the future reddit.

Or some facsimile thereof.

> Allow me to point out that you have just posted this comment on the future reddit.

Hah, this place is not the future reddit. Not remotely close. This place has been around just as long as reddit and has never tried to be reddit. In fact, they work towards trying hard not to be reddit. This place is the old reddit. This is actually a lot like how reddit circa 2007 was. Reddit evolved, HN did not. Reddit and hackernews serve different purposes. HN isn't trying to grow larger like reddit was. Reddit became about community building while HN is trying to remain a tech oriented link aggregator.

> A lot of innovation has been spurred from people's passions and their hobbies, but much more innovation has taken place as a result of people trying to make a quick easy buck.

I'm not sure I believe that, but I do believe a lot more pointless/useless/malicious garbage has been produced by people trying to make a quick easy buck than people motivated by their passion or hobby.

> Everything from your favorite news website to your favorite android app wouldn't exist (or likely wouldn't exist) if not for ads.

If making money from ads is the primary motivation for a site or app, then it shouldn't exist.

If they need to make money to survive they should charge people directly and honestly, rather than cynically whoring eyeballs to the highest bidder; if it's something genuinely worth paying for, people will pay.

> If making money from ads is the primary motivation for a site or app, then it shouldn't exist.

So you're saying anyone designing a website or an android app needs to be creating their wares purely altruistically? And if not, their products shouldn't exist? Because that's essentially what you're saying.

Sure, some people create content or products because they are passionate about that particular thing. But those people are a tiny minority. Most people make things and create content for a paycheck.

Seeing it as anything else is a bit naive and idealistic. It's far removed from the reality in which we live.

I no longer visit websites that block people who block ads. Not out of spite, but because the content they produce is of such low value that I have no incentive to pay for it if offered (either with money, or with my attention for your ad supplier). And this is my contention with 99% of content produced on the internet in general.

Could we move beyond adblocking and start blocking such sites directly? I don't want to even visit websites that only grab content from other sites. From bots making nonsense pages for getting in your search results to news sites grabbing a story from another news site and rewriting. I've seen plenty of sites that just copy Wikipedia or StackOverflow content to show it with ads and with no added value on top.

In theory, Google should be penalizing these sites left and right, however, since many of them appear to slip through the cracks, this would indicate that the problem is much more difficult to solve than it seems.

I don’t have a problem with ads per se. I have a problem with profiling. Besides been scary, I also find it annoying. If I’m visiting a site about video games I’d rather see related ads, not an ad about a product I happened to search a couple of days ago. Just because I searched for shoes doesn’t mean it’s the only product I’m interested in. I also have a problem with web pages that load half a dozen ads that eat too much space and make readability a pain in the behind.

I’m not naïve to expect that a $50bn industry will just disappear. What I’d like to disappear though is the gazillion of sites that steal content from major venues and monetize through AdSense. Which begs the question why Google accepts them in the first place. In the long term I don’t think there will be tectonic changes in the adverting industry. If publishers start serving ads from their own domains the whole ad blocking thing will become obsolete, or we’ll have to think of more aggressive ways to block ads. I would though like to see some adoption of micropayments. For the time being no publisher seems to be heading that way, they all ask for ridiculous subscriptions of something like $1/week which if you read a couple of articles per month becomes too expensive.

The other thing that I also don’t like and I rarely see it mentioned, is affiliate marketing. I wonder if there’s a plugin to render affiliate links obsolete by stripping away the referrer part. I don’t like when sites become salesmen because it gives me the impression that the whole purpose of the content was to promote a product.

> If ad blocking continues to grow, which we hope it will, other ways of funding will be found.

What ways can you imagine? Within a few minutes I came up with:

1) Someone else paying for you seeing ads.

2) You paying for using the site or an associated service.

3) Someone else paying for influencing what the site does for you.

4) Someone else paying for your data on that site.

And, the one that people rely on too much:

5) Someone else paying for nothing, hoping the site can be sold later at a profit.

One that can realistically cover only a small portion of sites:

6) The site being run as part of a charity.

Do you find one of those generally more preferable than 1), or can see a point I'm missing?

Most companies charge people money for goods or services they value and gladly pay for. For them ads are an adjunct to marketing, not a business model. Some other people host stuff for free, some sell content slots (like the job ads here on HN), some give content away to attract other business. That diversity is great, and none of it is threatened by ad blockers. There's more to the world than ads, a lot more.

In contrast the rise of ad companies like taboola is actively degrading content and experiences and debasing previously respected sites. If you insist on showing intrusive advertising, users will go elsewhere. The failure of that business model based on ads is simply not the reader's problem to solve.

Most companies charge people money for goods or services they value and gladly pay for

That's the whole problem. Most of the pablum you see on the internet isn't worth enough for people to pay for it.

Sure I'll read it if it's free (ad subsidized) but if it wasn't there I probably wouldn't miss 90% of it.

7) The site closes and we have one less click bait news blog in the world.

Most precise comment in the entire thread. Thank you.

7) you doing an MTurk-like task for every site you visit once per day (or per 6h), with an option to bypass by paying a subscription. Payment for the task goes to the site. Cloudflare already has the necessary infrastructure (requires Tor users to do Captchas, for example)...

Number two is the obvious answer. There are several alternative models being explored involving micro-payments or revenue share. Two off the top of my head:

- Brave browser, blocks/replaces all ads by default, ran by one of the founders of Mozilla

- the Dutch company Blendle provides an ad-free, pay-per-article service: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blendle

- Beacon is a crowd-funding platform for journalism https://www.beaconreader.com/

Think of music streaming services and how you don't need to listen to a barrage of ads on the radio anymore.

Some writers could be compensated by some combination of basic income, scholarships, crowdfunding, patronage, and freelancing.

It's a similar problem as how to fund high quality open source development.

Number ② might actually be feasible if micro payments can be implemented in a sensible manner. That is something I would like to see, but it seems hard to get right.

An option missing from your list is sites providing free access to the first few articles in order to generate interest in their paid offerings. Newspapers sometimes do this; on their own sites and at aggregate services providing paid access to the articles from several newspapers and magazines.

-) Other users paying for the premium version

Or rephrasing it a little, in a way that explain why it makes sense to let you use the free version

-) The x% probability that a free user will create a paid user (either my becoming one or by referring other free users that become one)


Brushing over the core issue as if someone else is certainly going to solve it in a timely fashion through sheer pressure in a way that is going to turn out preferable to advertisement.

Is that really all you have to offer?

Yes, a mix of 2) and 7) sites being run by hobbyists (like blogs) or as side-activities (like HN).

Ads are the lazy way to monetise anything. I love Duolingo's example, where they've built out a translation service on top of their language-learning platform: while learning a new language, people contributed to the translations Duolingo could sell to their clients. I bet they make %% more than by running any amount of ads.

>> Ads are a lazy way to monetise anything

Ads can be also a way to monetise something that doesn't reach the value threshold where people will pay directly.

E.g. Niche blogs sometimes have a lot of visitors (they are providing some value) but not enough to get paid directly. Even patreon most times doesn't work.

Many interesting niche blogs are essentially job ads for the writers.

Talk to Google/Facebook about that. Maybe you think subscription is better way for...search?

> Talk to Google/Facebook about that. Maybe you think subscription is better way for...search?

Google gets to crawl all the web for free for its search results. Maybe Google should start paying websites for crawling them hey ? Of course if you crawl google search you're now violating their TOS ... how does google make money again ? Ad networks like Google ( because that's what Google is ) can't have it both ways.

I disagree. The best monetized site I've seen had a direct relationship with the advertiser, no ad blocking as the banners were local content, spot on topic and tasteful.

Have to concur. Some time ago I wrote down a list of ground rules that would make display ads acceptable, at least for me: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10521930

When ads are served locally, avoid tracking, remain kept out of the way and are kept strictly within the topic of the content - then we are talking about a reasonable starting point.

Unfortunately the current ad ecosystem seems to be diametrically opposed to this. As far as I can see, the ad vendors brought this situation upon themselves.

EDIT: typofixes.

Those deals require business development / sales to happen, which requires time and/or money. Those are expenses that many sites can't afford. Slapping on SSP tags, on the other hand, is cheap and starts bringing in money right away.

This medium (Internet over HTTP) is built in a way that I can choose how I render that information using the programs of my choice or the code that I write. Those who wish to prevent this can create a new medium, device, protocol, file format, or program, to push their advertising so that there is no choice.

The Internet is not a one-way broadcast nor is it newsprint. The browser is not a television. This medium is new and it is different and we shouldn't put up with having the old forms and methods being forced upon us.

This is apparent in the formal name of the browser: User Agent.

The browser works on our behalf.

What's your view on websites denying access if an adblocker is detected?

I'm fine with that. I don't visit them, and these websites will find out the hard way that antagonizing their audience isn't going to work. The Ad revenue mana isn't going to last, people are tired of all these ads on the internet, the security issues, the ads killing the battery issues, the webpage performance issues.

Personally, I'm fine with that. I'm also free to disable javascript for sites of that sort, though.

I deny them audience.

There are few paywalled/anti-adblocked/etc domains I don't even bother clicking links from.

>"'Non-invasive advertising' is an oxymoron. Truly non-invasive advertising would be no advertising at all. Why should any of us put up with being advertised to when we have no interest in giving our attention to advertisers?"

I don't find well done advertising invasive, I actually rely on them sometimes, like when Adwords started... it made sense in the context.

The author say later that as ad blocking usage grow the websites owners would find other forms of funding. The thing is, we have been there already. The majority of the volume traffic don't want to pay, and the ones that do aren't enough to support a big website operation.

These articles are really getting tired. What people seem to continously miss is that there is no objective "quality" standard. Value to YOU is not the same as to someone else. While we can all subjectively say stuff like celebrity news isnt as important as the latest scientific breakthrough, people are free to, and will, read whatever they want to read - and it's their actions that determines what content holds value to them.

Now, regardless of quality, all that content does cost money to create and advertising is a great system to subsidize those costs. It's fast, passive, egalitarian, and efficient compared to any form of direct payment (where funds are transferred directly from you to the site). Giving the reader the choice is of course the best option, but short of that, it's far better to have ads then closed access.

The problem today isn't advertising the system but rather the implementation - it's the low barriers to entry, weak standards, lack of regulation or any enforcement and misaligned incentives that has caused this massive proliferation of crappy ad networks with bad code, scammy ads, malware and fraud.

Acceptable ads is absolutely the right start, it just needs to be done by an industry group or even the FTC/government itself so that it holds some power. Not an adblocking company that is paid to whitelist because clearly this leads to a conflict of interest as can be seen in what is already let through. Combine real regulation with a vetted list of approved vendors who do the right thing that advertisers are only allowed to use and we can finally move on from this silly war between readers and ads.

I don't agree with this.. I compare the internet ad situation with my TV (in the Netherlands): since about 10 years there's been more and more ads on many channels, and i stopped watching at ALL of them. There are currently about 5 channels (of 100+ total) that i still watch, the ones without ads.

And I don't mis much because in my opinion most of the commercial TV channels (the ones with ads) also have low quality content.

I really hope ad blocking keeps growing and all the bad quality content on the internet dies together with the ads.

And i'll hapily pay for quality internet content without ads, at an acceptible price, just as i buy apps in Apples appstore, and pay for Netflix.

I'm not sure what part you don't agree with...

If you don't feel the ads are worth the content in exchange, then you are free to stop consuming that content. Which is exactly what you're doing.

Again, there's no "bad" quality content. Bad to you might be what someone else is interested in. As for everything else, it's just an implementation problem with the market being flooded with shady advertisers and ad networks that operate without oversight. TV/radio/print all have much stricter standards which is sorely missing online.

Paying for content is a perfectly acceptable system, it's just not as scalable or equal to all users as ads are. Payments are a valid option, but it's far better to be a choice rather than the only option compared to advertising.

>> it's just not as scalable or equal to all users as ads are

I'm not sure that's true;

An example of what i would prefer instead, a Dutch newspaper http://vk.nl has about 70% free content (without registration or ads!), and 30% behind a paywall for paying customers.

This is a great example of how things should work in my opninion; check it out for free, and if you like it pay for the premium stuff.

If i'm not mistaken, there are games that do the same thing, like for example Team Fortress 2, which you can play for free, but then they have a shop for all kinds of extras.

> Again, there's no "bad" quality content.

But that’s wrong.

There is content that has purely no content, and which is engineered to make people click, despite providing no benefit.

Think about all the Buzzfeed upvoted etc sites, providing next to no benefit at all.

Those sites are read by lots of people who do like that content. Content is content, you can't just engineer constant attention without actually producing anything.

The fact is that the mainstream does like reading what Buzzfeed puts out and are getting plenty of value/benefit from it - regardless of your subjective judgement of it.

Mmmm nope. Not buying into it. Sorry.

Not buying what? I'm not selling anything. It would help if you had some objections that you could list.

Comparing ads to direct payments is false dichotomy, there are countless other ways to monetize content. Also, most ads as we know are not fast nor passive. Imho content blocking is just a harsh realization your content not worth as much you thought until you could force everyone to pay for it through ads, and now you have to play catch up. Let the market handle it.

Not really. When you get to fundamentals, it's either:

- direct payment (subscriptions, micropayments, donations, anything that involves you directly transferring funds)

- indirect (ads or another 3rd party subsidizing like the BBC by the UK government, which is just funded through taxes though so it might just be direct anyway)

That is the dichotomy and there's nothing false about it.

> Also, most ads as we know are not fast nor passive.

It seems you're referring to implementation problem I mentioned, nothing wrong with the concept of advertising itself. By fast and passive, I'm talking about the lack of decisioning needed to determine the actual monetary value of something. Figuring out whether you want to purchase every single page view will quickly cause mental friction far beyond the attention that ads take.

> Imho content blocking is just a harsh realization your content not worth as much you thought until you could force everyone to pay for it through ads

I dont understand how content blocking changes the value of the content. The fact that you are consuming it means that you attribute value to it. Nobody is being forced though so if you don't find it valuable or you think the ads demand too much attention in exchange then you are free to stop reading that content.

I feel there are some concepts washed together, e.g micropayments need not be direct in any way, and meaning a 3rd party subsidizing might just regarded as direct is false imho.

>Figuring out whether you want to purchase every single page view will quickly cause mental friction far beyond the attention that ads take.

Depends what you sell by the piece. Publishers do this with research papers, no problem. Or if you sell a stream for an event, go ahead. If you want to split your latest top10 diets to 10 pages, sure, you will have problems. Subscriptions might work for that. Again, there are many ways depending on your business, lets not paint it all the same color.

>I dont understand how content blocking changes the value of the content.

It does not. It presents a more accurate valuation by giving direct control to your users. It works both ways, imagine you have a paywall and no ads and your revenues start to skyrocket. But somehow very few sites are bold enough to take that bet.

Presenting the invasive nature of ads as an implementation problem feels a bit dishonest to me, as we have all the tools necessary to make them less obtrusive. See popups/modals. They are made to be that way and to me is clearly a design decision.

Still we just have to wait how things unfold, it is up to the content providers to react to blockers gaining popularity.

> Publishers do this with research papers, no problem.

Are you kidding? What's the first complaint you hear whenever a news article based on (and most likely distorted from) a new scientific study goes on Hacker News? "I'd love to look at the original study, but it's behind a paywall." Moreover, have you ever seen the à la carte prices of journal articles on these sites? Over $30 per article in many cases! The number of citations in an average journal article is in the dozens, not to mention the articles read but not cited. They might get a few suckers or truly desperate people to pay the à la carte price, but IMO the real purpose of those prices is to keep university libraries and corporations paying for already ruinously-priced journal subscriptions since paying for individual articles would bankrupt most research groups in short order.

This is how I fear a subscription-based model would actually work if it became more widespread -- you would end up paying hundreds of dollars a month to read the articles in Hacker News. The ability of advertising to support a habit of reading articles from thousands of sites is one of the great benefits of the internet. In fact, I would enthusiastically support an ad-supported version of Elsevier if it meant I didn't have to pay for individual articles or a subscription, even if the ads were as intrusive as those on 4chan or The Pirate Bay.

I can stretch as far as saying that if a blocker can detect it, it's too invasive. That includes, for example if it is served from an ad network.

I don't mind ad pictures in magazines. The same should be ok on websites.

Im not sure what fraction of the Internet is paid for by ad-network revenue, but I really don't care if half the content on the Internet suddenly dies in a fire because their measly income from ad networks dries up. I'm happy with only truly free, properly monetized (affiliate links, proper sponsoring), or paid for content.

Unfortunately, this gist is based on the same fallacy that the one it opposes is based on: the idea that visiting sites and consuming their content is a primary need for visitors.

The so-called "other ways of funding" are paywalls. If every blog, YouTube videos, online newspaper, start-up, etc, were behind a paywall, people would just nope out because it wouldn't not worth it, at all. Disabling ads wouldn't result in other ways of funding, it would result in people not working on creating content because they wouldn't be able to make a business out of it.

On the other hand, and for the same reason, content creator shouldn't complain that people block their ads. We don't need to visit your site, we don't need your content, it's a bonus. We don't care whether you make money or not. You chose not to make a paywall (and that's probably a good idea since nobody would pay) and hand over your content for free bundled with ads. We can technically cut out the ads. If you don't want us to do so, make them so that their annoyance isn't worth the effort of cutting them out.

This is ridiculous. I'll be first to admit a lot of the advertising models are broken, but there are acceptable ads. Many of the advertising structures on iOS, for example, work well. There are websites that do simple advertising, without trackers, like Daring Fireball that are more than acceptable.

Can we stop with the repetitive anti-advertising FUD, please?

There are acceptable ads. But has the internet's sites overall used best practices remotely? Nope. They've used auto-play video and audio, performance and bandwidth hogging schemes, even malware, and countless other things. The trust is lost.

I agree that this _is_ ridiculous. The fact some ads are OK doesn't mean the pool isn't poisoned and users are done with it.

Just because you can do something about it easily, doesn't mean you are entitled to it.

It's a lot harder to remove ads from TV so no one seems to think they are unacceptable, no matter how terrible they are.

Don't like the ads? Don't consume the content. Or at least treat adblocking for what it is: a hack made easily available to you by the Web. If you consider them as part of the content (which they are) you'll see that the argument for the entitlement to remove ads falls flat

>It's a lot harder to remove ads from TV so no one seems to think they are unacceptable, no matter how terrible they are.

I would disagree, as many others who do not even own a TV. Or people who record broadcast and fast forward ads. Streaming is huge. I go less frequently to the cinema, because I have to watch 20 minutes of ads (+trailers) before the actual movie.

I also don't own a TV, not because of the ads, but because the content and consumption model sucks.

I think it depends on whenever a person believes they have the right to control the machine(s) they own to behave in a way they like - even if this is about controlling of how third-party content is rendered - or not.

I do view ads as a part of the content. Whatever is served is the content. And I feel I'm fully entitled to control the UA that's rendering of any content (because it's my browser running on my machine). I make the tiny fonts larger, disable videos auto-starting, use "reading mode" if I feel like I don't like the design or contrast, and I tell my browser to render only what I consider necessary (by filtering out ads, social share buttons or whatever I don't care about). When I feel like my eyes are stressed out and I'm file with hearing some monotonous voice, I even dare to use TTS to read the content aloud.

From this viewpoint, ads are not something special in this scenario. It just happens that I find them anything from just unnecessary to maliciously noisy - so I instruct my machine to not bother to process those. As far as I decide about my machine's resources, it's fair - that's the idea.

That said, if someone had lost^W not gained money because I didn't do something they expected me to do - as long as I haven't promised (or was otherwise required) to do so, that's usually not my problem. One might say I'm ethically obliged to watch any ads bundled, but as far as I see, the opinions on the matter vary and I conclude there isn't any established "common sense" on this subject.

And, well, if some website owner doesn't like that they absolutely can ignore my requests - it's not like I'm entitled for their content: I've asked if I could get one, and they gave me some. Heard, Wired does this (I don't read Wired).

The argument that the content is rendered on your machine and therefore you should be able to control it as you see fit is fine, but I don't think it holds much ground practically speaking.

Netflix sends me highly compressed content that my computer must decode in order for me to watch it. I have though many times of applying a gamma curve to dark scenes or boost voice in some dialogs, but I never do it because it would be kind of hard and tools aren't readily available.

Ad blocking on the Web, on the other hand, is next to trivial, and that's why most people do it.

The only reason netflix is harder is DRM. The entire point of DRM is that you give up control of the client.

Stop supporting DRM and applying a gamma curve is easy (just give mpv the --gamma option). There are several dynamic range compressors that could be used to to the voice boost.

TV ads, especially in US, are far beyond unacceptable. I don't watch TV channels that have advertising in them (self-advertising excluded, obviously).

This is exactly what OP is saying - if you find the ads unacceptable then don't consume the content. That's completely fair.

I think this all boils down to whenever there's an implied contract between consumer and producer, that requires the former to consume the content exactly in a way producer had decided it should be consumed (i.e. with any ads bundled, kept intact - but not limited to this).

If you gave me a journal, can you expect me to read it in full? If you had sent me a video, can you expect me to watch it without skipping anything? If you had served me a webpage, can you expect me to render it as you expect it to be rendered?

> Don't like the ads? Don't consume the content.

No problem. I have stopped reading Wired, among others.

> It's a lot harder to remove ads from TV so no one seems to think they are unacceptable, no matter how terrible they are.

I think they do. And if it were as easy to strip ads from TV as it is for the web, you'd be hearing plenty about that too.

"The first digital video recorder (DVR) with a built-in commercial skipping feature was ReplayTV with its "4000 Series" and "5000 Series" units. In 2002 the main television networks and movie studios sued ReplayTV, claiming that skipping advertisements during replay violates copyright."


I use uBlock origin and love it. But I have a mental conflict. I run 135+ university web sites (for one university) with no ads and no flash. But we do use google analytics and include some 3rd party fonts on specific sites. Many ad blockers block google analytics and some block the fonts.

I haven't started counting how many users are blocking google analytics. I'm less worried about the fonts because the designers have accounted for that and they downgrade to something that is acceptable (at least to me). We are seeing a decline in new users to our sites but college applications are up. I'd love to know if that decline is false and is just because google analytics is blocked.

I think it is time to put some code in and see what the real numbers are for ad blocking on our main site.

Maybe move to a self-hosted analytics tool? I've seen some like piwik that use JavaScript just like Google Analytics, but I wonder if there's any that can simply be added as a plugin to Apache or nginx or as a middleware for node.js, etc.

There are plenty of web stats/analytics packages that you can install on your own web server, which ad blockers wont block, that will stop you from continuing to hand over your users browser history to Google.

And there's no reason for your fonts to be blocked by an ad blocker. Just serve them from your own web server instead of a privacy invading CDN.

Google Analytics (and other comparable services) will often be blocked by tools such as EFF's Privacy Badger. It depends on your audience how many users do this. If you want reliable metrics, analyse your webserver's access logs instead, or implement a usage logging solution that does not depend on calls to a third party domain.

Fonts hosted at a third party can be blocked, but not as often as analytics services. You could simply host the WOFF files with your website. As long as you configure the webserver to serve these fonts with the proper caching headers, users should only request them once.

If you "analytics" require javascript, you aren't including an entire class of user.

Linking to a github page is an (implicit) advertisement for github

Saying "no ad is acceptable" is just so out of reality it's not even funny.

I do use Ublock and I do deactivate it for sites I think are worthy.

There are no acceptable subscription fees. Why should any of us put up with paying for content when we have no interest in giving away our money?

I dislike nearly all ads and want the ability to block any ads I dislike.

But the fundamental question is: without advertising, how do you learn about products you might want to buy? Ad-funded search is not a good answer, and in the limit, proprietary search result ordering would be just another type of advertising.

Word of mouth is slow and unreliable, especially if you are looking for unusual things or if your preferences are often unusual compared with the people you ask for reviews.

The only thing I dislike more than ads is social media, so that's not an option.

When I personally bear a higher cost conducting a product search to fit my needs than the costs of viewing ads, then ads are better and they do add value.

This is not a heroic defense of the abject shit ads that litter the internet, the rampant malware or tracking, the creepy attempts at unnecessarily specific personalization, or content creators selling out.

But it's also not reasonable to say the Platonic idea of an ad is intrinsically unethical or intrinsically cost-ineffective.

I find it very hard to believe that ads out-perform your personal search of whatever you're looking for, even currently.

I have never, not once, found a product because of an ad that I wouldn't have found otherwise in looking for the solution to a problem I was having. I have, countless times over my life, especially when I was younger, bought something based on judgement directly based on ads, that turned out to be the wrong choice.

When you go to a mall, there's a directory. It'd be even nicer if there was an automated directory so you could peruse at arbitrary granularity before entering stores. Why isn't there a global directory of products, with a reputation system? Why is there no directory online for all the stores within 15min of my home, including people selling out of home, that I can search through? Isn't this driving everyone crazy?

I don't care that there exists some Platonic good side to ads, because that good side is not how they're used in the big picture, at all, anymore, and it's just looking the other way from a serious flaw in modern markets.

People buying stuff for no good reason other than that they wanted it, not needed it, has gotten an entire planet into a heap of trouble. Let's do less of that, maybe? And let's start making a system to enables people in need of a product in touch with those who can provide a solution, NOT the other way around.

Here's one example. I like listening to comedy podcasts from Ear Wolf. I heard an ad for Leesa Mattresses, and happen to need a mattress.

After buying mattresses in the past, one of the major pain points for me is actually physically hauling the mattress and carrying it up steps to an apartment.

Leesa sells mattresses that are compressed in a special way into a box the size of a mini-fridge, and can be relatively easily carried up steps by a single person.

This shipping detail alone makes me much more interested in their product, and I could potentially compromise some on price or quality to get that unique shipping service.

I didn't even know any brand did this, and basically had completely put it out of my mind. Some time ago I wrote it off as something I couldn't find, and the activation energy to get my brain to generate a desire to actively search for this feature became really high. Then, sometime later, Leesa came into existence as a seller.

My activation energy makes it unlikely that I will choose to search for this feature (I searched before, came to the belief it didn't exist, and don't want to deal with the search cost again under this belief).

Thankfully, an ad was pushed into my ears as I listened to a podcast I like, which alerted me to a new company with a new service that I did want, but for which it is extremely unlikely I would have thought to search on my own.

Even in the case when I did remember that I want that feature, overcome my belief that no one provides it, sluggishly open a new tab in Chrome, and type out that search, and I find Leesa via a Google search, that's really no different than an ad. It's a function of how many others heard about Leesa (originally through means other than themselves just searching directly) and successfully interacted with them, and the effect of increased reputation as a seller. However, it does rely on me sort of exogenously coming up with the cognitive wherewithal to do the search, rather to be passively advertised at. There's a ton of stuff where this trade-off between relying on manually searching vs. being passively advertised at is in favor of experiencing passive ads.

I was very happy to be passively advertised at in that case. Whatever research Leesa did to determine that audio ads through that podcast had a good chance of successfully reaching people who might want that service, it was good work on their part, and made a certain tiny corner of the economy slightly more efficient in a certain way.

There is every potential that online ads could be used the same way, and it seems efficient to me to place the research cost burden of how to best place ads onto the advertisers, not onto consumers who then have to overcome activation barriers to engage in searches.

Advertising is a spectrum.

A landing page for a product is advertising, but so are popups. The difference is that one is pull the other is push.

Same with offline. Junk mail is push, billboards are push etc... those are the things that people complain about.

I'm almost certain that nobody has ever complained about pull advertising - so the hyperbole of the article isn't that.

What you describe with searching would come down to pull advertising, because you are asking for it, not being shown it out of context.

The answer to your question though actually leads to a much less desirable future: A search engine would know you and your behaviors so well, that when you ask for something it knows exactly your preference and gives you the most relevant return.

In effect you end up with the same system we have now, only much more in depth.

> What you describe with searching would come down to pull advertising, because you are asking for it, not being shown it out of context.

What determines the "context" for what you are "asking" to be advertised from?

I'd argue that your choices about what to click, what content to read, etc., all also place as much context as what you explicitly type.

More importantly though, as I mentioned in my other comment above about Leesa Mattresses, the specific benefit of ads is for push ads, not pull ads.

The whole point is that there is something you want, but you've arrived at the conclusion that either it doesn't exist, or that you've already paid a search cost for trying to find it and you didn't find it and so you're less likely to engage in a pull search on your own.

You may still want to know about the new product.

Imagine it like an RSS feed. There are the "pull" subscriptions to the blogs you already know that you want. But what if you also want a certain kind of blog that you don't know about yet? If you only look at your RSS feed, it cannot ever possibly come.

There has to be another feed, of sorts, that pushes content at you that you did not previously explicitly agree to. A lot of it will be noise, but sometimes it will show you something you wanted that's outside your sphere of pulls, and then you can add it to the pulls.

I think this might even be the majority of things that I want. I don't usually respond to a direct need in my life and then say, "Hmm ... what are my options for solving this need?"

Normally, I have vague awareness of a whole bunch of things I might want, and they are at various states of being "filed away for later" in my brain, which determines how likely or unlikely it is that I would exogenously come up with the thought to search for it. Many times I benefit from something I never asked to have hit my eyes nonetheless hitting them and making me aware of something I didn't know about, or that I had filed away and would not have actively generated the thought to find it.

Whether the value-to-noise ratio is in favor of this arrangement is the big problem. The standard ads online have such a poor noise volume that it's almost never worth it.

But, in principle, it could be worth it. Which is why the idea of a push ad is, potentially, a very good thing.

I don't think most people learn about products through online advertising, rather just shaping their preferences. But if that is the case for you, just let ads through.

I think the more appropriate phrasing is that dodging specific content is not intrinsically unethical and providers are not entitled to profit from it. Customers are not the one complaining, they are taking action.

It is the case for me in a really small number of situations. I want to block most ads just like everyone else.

I only bring this up to point out that the Platonic idea of an ad can be a good thing.

The OP takes the untenable and extreme position that the concept of an ad is inherently bad, by definition.

I don't think that's a reasonable point of view, even though I also support the proliferation of great ad blocking tools and want 99.999999% of current online ad practices to go away.

Intrusive ads are not some new phenomenon. Print, radio, and TV ads are all definitely intrusive as well. I don't generally hear the same crowd advocating the end of all such advertising.

Indeed, using an ad blocker isnt new either. Most people always channel-surfed or muted the car radio or TV when ads come on. The only difference now is that advertisers can tell you didn't see their ad.

They're intrusive but they aren't violating your privacy, tracking you and/or being a potential security threat. That aside, there's also no way to remove those ads.

You would if it was as easy as installing an ad blocker.

No, I wouldn't. (Do I know you?) I don't even use ad blocker.

Advertisers are willing to pay more money for the right to put an ad on a webpage than website visitors are willing to pay to view the webpage.

Until that math changes, ads will prevail.

What about Privacy Badger? How does that compare? Is that OK to use?


I've used Adblock, Adblock Plus, Noscript and Ghostery. Since several months I've changed to Privacy Badger. The first time I tried it, I thought it didn't work, but it seems it needs a little time to collect info and start blocking. Since then I've had no issues with it. It's easy to unblock individual sites, if something doesn't work, and then re-blocking it again.

The only problem is that when I want to unblock one specific functionality on a website, it's very difficult to find out which scripts to allow. At first you see the PB has four items blocked. Easy you think, you can try four times, and then it should work. But those four items load another twenty, and then it gets complicated. This is not Privacy Badger's fault, just the complexity of websites nowadays. But if you could allow specific services, instead of specific scripts, that would be great.

I can't give a useful review, nothing more than that it works for me like Adblock and Ghostery have worked.

I use Privacy Badger and AdBlock and NoScript. But I feel like my secret weapon is self-destructing cookies.

I understand that ads going away means loss of jobs in industries supported by advertising. It means sites may no longer have ways of supporting themselves easily.

If lost jobs and less web content is the cost of having no advertising, it's a cost I am okay with. I think. It's an internal mental debate I have on this topic from time to time.

The one and only case that I have a hard time with myself is for people that really can't afford to pay for content, people who barely can afford internet in general. If suddenly most content online becomes paywalled (though this isn't maybe a given in an ad-less web, hard to say), then a lot of underprivileged people will be left out of access to the general web, and if we want the web to be a place of easily accessible information for everyone, then this becomes a problem.

Personally, I've had enough family members' machines affected by malware from ads, and I've been to enough intrusive ad-cluttered pages across the web that I will continue ad-blocking myself (and for my family's machines), despite any particular larger consequences for the web that my result. The performance, readability, and security differences between not-ad-blocking and ad-blocking are staggering.

If all of our ad-blocking eventually kills the web... well at least short-term I didn't have to deal with ads.

A selfish, short-term view. I don't deny that.

Acceptable ads maybe is some kind of special middle ground we can all arrive at, but the problem is that "acceptable" is arbitrary depending on who the arbiter is... and so far ABP's ideas of "acceptable" are not acceptable to me. Ads from something like "The Deck" ad network are closer to what I consider acceptable.

They keep changing the definition of "we" in this.

Why should any of us put up with being advertised to when we have no interest in giving our attention to advertisers?

But then admit that some people may indeed like and appreciate ads. Please don't speak for the universal "we" - some of us actually do enjoy (some, but not all) and appreciate (some, but not all) ads.

You can disable the "acceptable ads" in adblock plus. This seems like... an ad for uBlock Origin.

You can, but why not opt in to acceptable ads? Why do we have to opt out? uBlock Origin does the right thing - assumes you want all ads blocked.

By the way, we're in no way affiliated with uBlock Origin. Just think it's currently the best ad blocker out there for users.

"Adblock" that doesn't block ads is like a bank that looses your money. A fraud, pure and simple, no way around it.

It is merely a recommendation.

The adblocker test isn't very thorough. It just checks whether an image can be downloade from gstatic.com. It told me that I don't have an adblocker installed when in fact I have ublock origin with the setting that it can download images from gstatic.com

No, it consists of 2 tests at the moment:

1. Tries to load a file called ads.css which is usually blocked in default installations of many blockers relying on Easy List.

2. It uses gstatic.com to check if acceptable ads are being allowed - gstatic.com is whitelisted by Adblock Plus, so we test for it and warn users that acceptable ads are being let through.

We're going to be updating the detection to detect use of other blockers.

> There are no acceptable ads

That is laughably and trivially false. I'm in the market for a good and affordable house cleaning service. An ad that could hook me up with exactly what I want, when I want it would not only be acceptable, it would be fantastic.

> An ad that could hook me up with exactly what I want, when I want it would not only be acceptable, it would be fantastic.

It's telling that you don't seem to have found one.

Because how else would you find such a service? :)

There are acceptable advertisements as far as I'm concerned. Ones that are static and register the user in any way (including cookies) and don't get in the way of content consumption.

It's been a while since I've seen ads like that.

Can someone explain how Google makes so much money with their ad system and how its related to these kinds of ads? Google originally planned never to do ads. They changed course I think 2002 or so, and are now worth 500B$.

Through mail, search, youtube, android they control a huge amount of traffic. They also have a clever bids system for ads which encourages people to spend lots and gives them enough tracking to let them feel it's worth it. Mostly it's just the traffic though.

It's at the opposite end of the spectrum from taboola say, and is probably the most acceptable form of advertising I've seen. So both customers and advertisers like it.

Google is very unique. They get half of the ad market because they power search for so many people.

Advertising is about matching up your intent with what the advertiser is selling, and there's no clearer signal of this than what you type into a search bar because you're letting Google know exactly what you're looking for at that moment.

While Google does have a big ad network for banners and text ads across the web, their search ads are very well targeted by your search queries in addition to all the profile information they have about you. This gives them an amazing ad platform that works very well for pretty much all of their clients.

The only other company that comes close today is Facebook which works by mining all the data that is shared and estimating intent through your likes, updates and interactions.

I'd venture to guess: no looping GIF ? No video ads with auto-play ? That's why I use an ad-blocker. I didn't care about static images/text but animation prevented from reading the actual content. I am sure I am not the only one.

Even static images can be an annoyance.

Just because i occasionally browse gaming news do not mean i want a face full of glowing eyes or rotting flesh wherever i go.

Google control a huge share of the global ad market, they have every creative type you can imagine, autoplay videos included.

Meanwhile, everyone who pays for cable TV is shown ads, even on the premium channels. And, everyone who buys a magazine is buying a periodical stuffed with ads.

If anyone here believes that by installing yet another ad blocker, regardless of who made it or where it's hosted, that it will somehow curtail online advertising or improve you online experience, as Mr. Rourke would say, "Welcome to Fantasy Island."

using a content blocker improved my online experience the very first time I clicked on a youtube video

I think with computers we can make a system that makes it easy for website to charge a small fee (per article or per website) and that notifies/promts the user in a simple way with the cost. It doesnt have to cost much, since advertisers are not paying big amounts per pageview either. You can build a strong paywall, or you make it a gate where visitors can easily go through.

It won't work. This is the internet, it's not some single country or smaller community you can just push a transaction system onto at this point. It really just doesn't make sense.

The internet can handle it, there are lots of services that make payments across the globe possible. This system would be rolled out per website that wants it.

I think arguing whether acceptable ads is an oxymoron is just about semantics. Is there a notion of acceptable spam? Selective consumption is a reaction to ubiquitous and obtrusive content. Ad companies have to come up with an adequate response, or face decreasing revenues, it is an evolutionary process and will correct itself.

So is uBlock origin legit?

I'm not that opposed to ads, but browsing without blocker frequently brings my Computer to a halt.

Doesn't Google offer a way to pay instead of seeing Google ads?

First time I hear about uBlock Origin. Anyone has been using it?

Excellent work. Cloning it for my own website as soon as I can.

Thanks! :)

Now added (with tweaks to fit the static-site generator and templates I'm using.) I love the idea of turning the functionality of adblock-detection on its head.

To my mind, ads are, in the absence of my prior informed consent, an outright theft of the computing and networking resources I pay for. (Not to mention the attention thing and the propaganda/pernicious-psychology things.)

I could not agree more: There are NO acceptable ads.

I map Taboolah to in my hosts file.

this is fantastic!! Loved it.

I find discussions on HN about advertising very amusing. If advertising would magically disappear tomorrow, most of the people visiting this site would be jobless.

Something to think about.

I find them amusing because you get a hardcore of geeks thinking how they view the world (and advertising) as being the Right Way™ and that the general public secretly shares their opinions, even thought they don't.

It's on the same level of idiocy as thinking all the "brightest minds" are in tech or working in Silicon Valley, "print is dead", or that social media doesn't matter.

there is definitely a recurring problem with this sort of thinking... i think it actually hurts the whole of the tech industry.

i'm glad someone else notices this though and is willing to call it out as idiotic. that is exactly what it is. :)

If advertising magically disappeared tomorrow, someone would solve micro payments within a week, and we'd all have jobs again.

This is not a technical problem. It's a people problem. People, in general, don't want to pay for content. Never will.

Sigh - this fallacy is getting tiresome. Of course they use the "free" option when you don't actually offer them any other options.


Of course, there is also the possibility that the actual market value of a lot off "content" is zero. In those cases, deriving your revenue from advertising distorts the market.

I don't think its a fallacious viewpoint... although you are right that there are few alternative options in this case.

Generally people want to get the best value for their money - free things are the positive extreme of good value for money... and whilst people will pay more for something that is better than the free version, this is often a very small proportion of those who will use a free version. at least based on my real world experiences from working on apps that have both free and paid versions...

away from the extreme this logic is obviously faulty though. i've seen many cases where /raising/ a price increases the volume sold... which completely baffles me.

I have only glanced at this, but it seems that it is about optins for discounts at retailers. Not quite what we are discussing here, is it?

Also, I can make a study and get whatever results I wish. Talk about fallacies.

My challenge stands. Go ahead, start a search engine and charge people to use it.

>I can make a study and get whatever results I wish.

I don't think it is a fair way to argue at all when someone links to an actual study, and you assert that all studies are worthless?

He accentuates some research as the be-all, end-all authority on the matter. Of course it is a valid argument to point out that a study can be fabricated to give arbitrary conclusions.

Plot twist: the study is not actually on topic.

People pay for content constantly: they go to the theater in droves, they buy books, they subscribe to Netflix, etc.

People don't pay for low-quality content, and don't pay when a free _and simpler_ alternative is available.

That's ridiculous. People pay for "content" all the time, and always have.

Then start a search engine and ask people to pay per query.

Do you mean to imply that all forms of content are equally sensible as units of sale?

I imply that the marketplace will never allow you to charge money for something which can be given for free and monetized with ads.

Yeah, I would more or less agree with "people in general don't want to pay for content that they can easily and legally get for free with non-obtrusive ads."

Odd that Fastmail have a market, given Gmail, then

If I think really hard, I can find one exception to every rule.

Why would we need to do that? If Google (and all of its advertising-based competitors) disappeared tomorrow, something like YaCy[0] would take over. So many business models that exist today based on advertising and central hosting could be replaced by decentralized, peer-to-peer, free software projects. The main thing limiting these projects right now is lack of interest due to the non-profit property.

[0] http://yacy.net/en/index.html

If there's no other legal way, they will pay for content.

Indeed! This is probably why there are some personally invested negative responses to the idea of removing ads.

It's a basic protection of investment.

That, and most "techies" here are just working in traditional business fields, selling stuff, producing products, marketing things.

That's what I keep saying also (at expense of some downvotes).

As most people, I don't like ads. But this is capitalism, a system fueled by consumption. Without changing the system, ads will never disapeer, they will always come back with a different form, they are a necessary 'evil'.

[edit/disclaimer] I don't work on ads, I only curate a niche blog.

Consumption is the final purchase of goods and services by individuals. What other direction or purpose ("fuel") should a system have?

A system that doesn't end in consumption either doesn't produce anything, or produces for no reason, which seems wasteful.

One of the problems with pure capitalism is that it favours those that are buying. i.e. those with money. The direction of progress under a capitalist system is governed by the desires of the wealth-holders (whether that is millionaires, the middle class, or some other cross-section of society), not humanity as a whole.

That would be a lot more powerful argument if capitalism didn't so readily churn out ever-cheaper (ie, directed at the poor) offerings of, well, everything. Walmart and Spirit Airlines (to pick a few out of many such offerings) aren't exactly pandering to the rich.

Anyway, this was not the point the GP made, and thus not what I responded to.

That's not a counter argument - cheap products exist because there is a market for it (whether the market demographic is rich or poor, it doesn't matter). It still hinges on the exchange of money to decide what should be produced. It's far from perfect, but it does seem to have a blurry correlation with what humanity needs (in my opinion).

I guess it's not a counter argument as much as disagreeing with the premise. If the outcome is good (a wide range of products available to the poor) then why declare the mechanism by which it happens (exchange of money) problematic? At least, let's focus on concrete problems.

The problem with declaring something "far from perfect" is deciding what perfect looks like. The fact that even the poor has a Walmart-sized vote in what gets produced looks like a pretty strong vindication of the system to me. Sure, there are always areas that can be improved, I'm not declaring the current state of things perfect, but I'm appealing to a focus on specific, practical improvement, rather than a yearning for an abstract perfect state that epistemologically probably can't be known.

Consumption is necessary (as a mean) in all systems but it's not fomented as it is in capitalism. In advanced capitalistic societies comsumption exists mostly to feed the system and this over consumption doesn't seem to correlate to extra life quality.

If not consumption as the final purchase of goods and services by individuals is the goal (not a mean), then what is the goal?

Since the system is made of people producing goods and services for other people to enjoy (consume) what is the problem with feeding the system itself?

Absolutely, some sorts of production are destructive in excess of the consumption value of the goods produced, but most certainly aren't, so I don't see how that indictes the system as a whole.

In my opinion the goal should be the well-being of society and consumption should be just a mean to achieve it. After some level, consumption doesn't seem to correlate with well-being, becoming just a waste of resources that could be allocated more efficiently having in mind this optimization towards the well-being of society.

The problem, IMHO, happens when we don't 'fuel' the capitalistic 'society engine' with more and more consumption, strange things seem to happen: the 'engine' stiffs.

if this discussion makes people who work in jobs dependent on ads to reflect on their choices then so this goes the initial step towards a change, even if it's a change in career from digital marketing to a technology company.

Which company is not dependent on advertising?


Startups as we know them would collapse, yes. Look at how many of the top apps on iOS and Android rely on advertising -- hint: it's all of them

"If advertising would magically disappear tomorrow, most of the people visiting this site would be jobless" but really this is just a silly presumption with absolutely no evidence.

I think that most people in here build services rather than content.

Let's cross that bridge when we get to it. We're innovative, imaginative folks around here. I'm sure a solution will present itself.

There are lots of innovative and imaginative folks all over the world.

...and ads are still the best solution to certain problems.

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