What's so difficult about just opening an incognito window and suffering the couple of seconds it takes for a computer halfway across the world to deliver you content while you sit at your desk? The WIRED thing annoys me too but when they've got a good story, I'm willing to give them the adnetwork revenue. Forbes, on the other hand...that whole thing with their infected ad network, I've just stopped going to Forbes articles, period, even when they're posted here. It's been a long time since I can remember Forbes exclusively breaking a story...most of the time, it seems their articles are from their "contributor" network just blogspamming someone else's story.
Maybe I'm just not enough of a techie any more, but "switching between Android and iOS" doesn't strike me as unusual enough that any one site is the only place with the right answer. So long before I break out curl and write little python scripts I'd hit at least two non-paywalled sites for an answer. Or in the case of Wired turn JS off and happily read all their content. Either is much quicker than the simplest scripting moment...
I'll save the scripting moments for the sites that appear to be the only place with an answer to something esoteric, like the single hit for a driver or kernel issue.
The whole point of the post was that I'm doing something inordinately ridiculous to access a little bit of good content. Scraping and incognito browsing are both anti-patterns that are symptoms of a sick media industry. A media that is sick cannot provide us with good news and content that we can use to further our critical thinking, and we should be worried and thinking about how we can possibly solve this problem instead of trying to bypass it.
No, the cause (and, well, symptoms, too) is lack of revenue, something which was set in motion long before ad networks came into play and were the devil that many publishers felt they had to sign with.
It's worth noting that in the early years, publications just threw up their content for free and went within the flow . Within the industry today, it's (pointlessly) debated whether that was the right thing to do , as now everyone comes to expect the content to be free (nevermind the problem of other sites just copying-and-pasting entire articles).
Either way, readers weren't offering to pay up back in the heyday when news outlets had plenty of money to do indepth journalism and offer it for free. Now news outlets have neither but they continue to offer their content for free. And apparently, those years of free, good content wasn't enough to convince consumers, years later, that it'd be nice to get financial support (via subscription). And so now the mechanism that many of them resort to to capture revenue -- third party ad networks -- is odious to people like you...and I sympathize...so you should do what you would be doing if those places threw up a hard paywall that requires a subscription: don't read their content.
Instead, you go out of your way to take their content for free. Then you complain that the content is shit, and finally, you complain that publishers should be making it easier for you to take their shit. OK, sure, whatever. But at least recognize that there are business mechanisms more complicated than "stupid publishing company is using stupid ad network to get money"
Micropayments are going nowhere. As I've pointed out before, the enthusiasm for micropayments comes from people who want to collect them. There's very little consumer demand for the ability to send somebody a dime.
Subscriptions work only for very high quality content. The Economist, yes; Wired, no. Newspapers with big reporting staffs, yes; pundits, no.
The trend we're seeing in advertising is that only Google and Facebook really matter to advertisers. The third-party ad industry is mostly bottom feeders, and it's getting worse. (See earlier article today about Forbes distributing malware.)
This has probably been discussed somewhere...
You definitely couldn't afford to interact with the financial system (ACH, credit cards, or even Bitcoin) for every pageview, but you'd have the same challenges to solve.
But probably the hardest part of creating any system like this is getting everyone on board at once. There's a big incentive not to join the system. (People who don't want to or can't be bothered to join will visit your site instead.)
Economist and FT, yes. Newspapers with big reporting staffs, I'm not so sure any more, unless everywhere ends up paywalled.
Haven't we all got used to getting our news buffet style? We'll take a few articles from the BBC, the Guardian, the NYT and the Washington Post? Twenty years ago I'd have a broadsheet paper to read on the commute and over lunch. Now I'll skim multiple quality news sites to get a similar amount and breadth of content. I believe, mistakenly perhaps, that I get a better spread that way.
Micropayments don't cut it a) because I don't want all your content like I once did, and b) you want far, far too much per article compared to the £1 or two to buy your actual paper output with dozens or hundreds of articles, but nowadays I might only read a couple a day, or even a week, instead of twenty+ daily.
The negative side of ads is much more pronounced amongst the 3rd party ad industry because there are easier attack vectors in the open market than in walled gardens. There are large 3rd party channels that have clean inventory, honest clients, and perform well for advertisers (Taboola, Outbrain, Criteo, AdRoll, etc).
As for facebook, I think it is overselling its ad business.
Facebook on the other hand has fairly strong lock-in, though I expect their engagement numbers would take a big hit.
If you're thinking making publishers handle ads will bring them back to the "good ol' days" of static print ads, you're mistaken. The only reason we haven't had these types of ads in the past is because the medium (print) didn't support it.
1. Most times, bad ads aren't written by the publishers at all-they are written by the advertiser. The flashing/movie/360/ugly ads are shown because they convert at a higher rate than "nice" ads.
2. Forcing publishers to run the ads would be even WORSE for for privacy since they would be considered "first-party" and have access to much more information.
3. Print publications that currently run ads don't even control 100% of the ad content. The only ones they control are the ones that look like text. Everything else is supplied by the advertiser.
2. They'd not be able to follow me around the net though, repeatedly showing me some car ad I accidentally clicked because it maximised on me.
3. Every print display ad I've ever run (quite a few) has been proofed by the publication prior to run. I'm not Pepsi so perhaps different rules apply?
99% of adblockers use rules that block anything that looks like an ad, regardless of where it comes from.
Also publishers running their own ads is an immense amount of work that requires a sales and adops team and does not guarantee any improvements in quality. The reason ad networks exist is because of the scale of the web and the challenge of trying to do direct deals between every website and advertiser.
If you ever look at these filters, you'll notice that domains aren't the only thing they block but rather things like checking the dimensions of images for standard ad banner sizes, etc. - so even if that banner was run by the same site, it would still be blocked.
In a few days at most, the filters will be updated to catch these images as well.
And therefore only feasible for very large sites.
I wonder if (d) could be a business idea - broker ads just like a regular ad network, but have the site itself host/deliver the ads. CPM is out due to needing to trust the site with accurate reporting, but you could definitely do CPC this way and have the click targets be centralized for the click tracking/redirect part.
Ads are hiding the content, tracking people, and even distributing malware.
Publishers need to make money, of course, but they need to find a way to do so that respects other people.
Because if the goal is to keep the doors open, that's a terrible strategy.
The phrase "the customer is always right" doesn't mean the customer is always literally correct, it means that if you try to tell the customer they are wrong, they'll go elsewhere.
Customers don't want ads. That's clear. Telling them they can't read your stuff without reading the ads means they won't read your stuff. Mindshare is hard to build and losing it is often a killing blow.
So I just reach behind the counter (technically quite easy) and take it out, without bringing cash into the equation. It's not my fault they make it so easy for me to leave without paying them. The fact that they have a broken business model isn't my fault!
How is it up to them to say "You can take this from behind the counter, but you have to let us take and handle your cash and then give you this dirty version" when I can just take the clean version myself!
In what way is it up to them to dictate what they will and won't serve me!
If they want me to stop taking their pastries without paying, they need to make it not technically possible.
(how I feel people sound when they talk about their right to use ad blockers over the wishes of the people who the ads would be paying and whose servers are serving the content.)
I don't have to look at your ads when you're giving away free pastries.
But out of curiosity, given your belief today, what if the TOS of the site states that you agree to look at ads in exchange for requesting content from the server (which entails reproducing it, requiring a license), or there is a click-through stating that you agree to look at ads?
In your current (wrong) opinion, do you think it's still not transactional, and people still have the right to click "Yes, I agree to look at ads in exchange for requesting the content on this site" while after doing so, blocking ads?
Curious what you think today.
But you didn't answer my hypothetical:
Do people have a right to click a button on a blank page with nothing else that says "I agree to look at ads in exchange for loading the content on this site" that sets a cookie "I-agree-to-load-ads-in-exchange-for-requesting-content-from-this-site", if, after doing so, they actually block ads?
(Or more likely, do they have the right to run a plug-in that clicks that agreement for them, while afterward blocking the ads anyway)?
This is a yes-or-no question about your world view.
However, I think most HN contributors would not agree with you that "if there were, then yes, you'd be breaking an agreement" - I would think most HN contributors would argue that the agreement would not really be binding legally or at least morally/ethically.
I'm okay with the position you take today, as long as it's clear this is a legal technicality as opposed to some moral imperative and right to view the content on servers, that applies regardless of any agreement in place, even explicit.
I'm generally happy to reply if I think a) the writer is willing to listen, or b) their comment might mislead others, so that a reply helps provide a balanced perspective. I don't think either is true here.
To make it more explicit, I suppose there could be a click-through or something that sets a cookie "I-agree-to-load-ads-in-exchange-for-requesting-content-from-this-site", so that you have to start by clicking that. It's rather moot, though, as that is precisely what sites do that choose not to serve those users who use ad-block. Those users typically still try to get the content from the sites anyway. So they would likely agree to the transaction, before failing to uphold their end.
It's not wrong, but it is irrelevant.
sadly, the implicit contract was broken on both sides. people didn't want to pay for content, but they also wanted to consume (pirated) premium stuff, rather than commons material, so there was never a concerted push to have better discovery mechanisms atop the freely-provided web. likewise, producers wanted to impose user-hostile measures like drm and geographic segmentation on a medium that was not conducive to them, making piracy the more attractive option even if you didn't care about free-as-in-beer.
professional producers had to go free because it was not a case of paid professional content competing with free amateur content; it was a case of paid professional content competing with free pirated professional content. that also sucked a lot of the oxygen out of the amateur ecosystem; who wants to dig through the virtual slushpile when you can get pre-curated professional material for free?
i'm sad about the whole thing because i was really looking forward to seeing if the creative commons would compete on its own merits as a mass entertainment option. once the reward of putting something up is not people reading and appreciating it, but money from ad clicks, though, the producer's incentives are suddenly misaligned with the consumer's, and we end up with the web of today :(
Married to Business model not their consumer: most of the content producer (music, video, tv, books, news etc) were trying to hold out with their old business model (think: buying album only or newspaper subscriptions). As new platforms emerged consumption patterns changed yet the model did not changed. In a leaked email by Jobs to Murdoch regarding e-books publishing, Jobs clearly warned that if books were not made available at price points, delivery methods and platforms to today's consumer behavior, we shouldn't be surprised to see a Napster moment in publishing industry.
Those who have held stedfast in their old ways have suffered. Only now we can see some revival of music thru subscription via Apple Music and Spotify--but it took years and a lot of failed startups to get here.
Ads: Head in the sand moment: Having worked in this industry i see a few common occurrences:
1_ ad agencies have made it a point not to learn about emerging tech, actively invest in them or be the agent of innovation. Just like content industry they are happy to pick u 15% of cut from the buyer and the seller of ads, just b/c they can
2_ over last 20 years there is a steady increase in marketing budgets as a % of revenue by everyone in some cases up to 20%. Obviously CEOs will expect the CMOs to be accountable and present a ROI model vs the traditional 'sunk marketing costs'. Thats where data came into play. However, in actuality data is really being applied with very little thought.
Combination of laziness and apathy are some of the reasons for shitty ads.
What i find it intriguing if the quality of ad content is good and delivered in a meaningful ways then people wouldn't mind it (eg: Super Bowl ads).
But then again it takes a lot effort and thinking. I'm however, hopeful.
for other media, such as music, video and animation, one of the problems is that there is a barrier to creating casual content with decent production values. likewise, something like a play or a movie requires a longer-term and more coordinated effort than just someone sitting in their bedroom writing a story. but i believe that if the means of production were more accesssible, people would put in the effort for the sheer joy of creation. (doctorow's "pirate cinema" is a good read in that regard; the protagonist's art form was creating movies stitched together from clips of other movies. a true creative commons would make that a perfectly viable art form.)
note that history has plenty of examples of really good writers and painters dying in poverty. they were moved to keep creating nonetheless; it's a very powerful human drive.
the one bleak aspect to all of this is that the ability to produce art for free is biased towards people who already have another means of support, and one that leaves them both comfortably-well-off and with free time and energy. yet another way in which a basic income would enrich the world.
edit: i also feel that money-as-a-reward has a deeper problem than the fact that it's currently shackled to ads. once you bring in money (and the implicit idea that the better and more popular your work is, the more money you'll make from it), your incentive is to impose access controls on it, because if there's a way to access something either by paying for it or for free, most people will go the free route. that adds an antagonistic note to the relationship between the producer and the consumer, as well as triggering a spiral of overreach with respect to "intellectual property rights".
That is not always true. Highly specialized content, which has tiny audience, can be equally profitable. In the end, money reflects the need for the content.
it's also possible that the desire to have everything be free will trigger a worse-is-better downslide where no one creates really good content because no one will pay for it because everyone is satisfied with good-enough free content, but i doubt that will happen; i just want there to be enough good-enough free content that people who can't or won't pay still have their needs met.
while we're dreaming, there are two things i'd really like to see emerge:
1. a true shared culture with a continuous gradient from pure consumer to prolific producer. something like tumblr is a good proto-example - there are people who just browse feeds, and people who reshare, and remix, and add their own writing, and write entirely new posts, and every now and then a truly beautiful post emerges and makes its way out onto the wider web
2. a thriving distributed patronage model, where people fund the creation of a work via kickstarter etc., but then the work is released freely, having made its money already
both these things are already starting to be experimented with, but they are badly in need of mindshare.
Nowadays, most people will get to a news article from a friend sharing it on facebook, or from reddit or hacker news, etc, not the Guardian homepage, and that means clickbait pays the bills.
Wut? They're bleeding money like a stuck pig.
But society as a whole needs more. If the available pool of profitable resources for quality journalism keeps getting smaller, then a) the number of stories that fall through the cracks get larger, b) the surface area for corruption gets smaller: now all I need is to influence one editor/journalist to get story x pulled.
Also, one of the best things about the Internet & the ad model is that it made content available to everyone. Someone from a relatively poor background, or someone who's just strapped for cash at a certain time, will still have equal access to information.
Basically, the app store model built upon the NYTimes, where you get the basic news from the New York Times and the niche stuff from content partners who the NYTimes will reimburse for page views, out of the subscription fee they are already collecting.
This would be so bold that I doubt it will happen from an existing print content vendor like NYTimes. Seems like something Amazon might do as a Prime benefit, though. Basically like Prime video, just for text.
I wonder if that's a litmus test to see if people finish reading. Great article, perfect sentiment, last paragraph has the only typo in the entire thing.
And I totally agree. There are shitloads of people on the internet making money from content. Hell, I make some sometimes. If you build a real audience, listen to them, then solve their problems. Then content isn't dead.
If you're trying to be mass media that appeals to everybody and nobody at the same time. Then content is dead.
I mean, shit, look at someone like GaryVee or Casey Neistat, or even Kim Kardashian. They all make shitloads of money from content.
And if you're looking for examples closer to HN home. Look at Amy Hoy, Brennan Dunn, or even Ramit Sethi. They might not make tens of millions, but they def print millions of dollars with their content businesses.
Even if you pay for a subscription to The Economist, you're still going to see ads, both on their website and in their apps. Even though I'm a subscriber and logged in, Ublock Origin is showing over 100 blocked requests on an article I just pulled up there, some of them coming from the same third party ad networks everyone else uses. And my $1 a week subscription only buys me access to three articles a week.
So while, as the OP points out, The Economist's Tom Standage  believes that ad revenue isn't a futureproof business model, they still appear to be heavily reliant on it.
I don't know anything about the Economist's overhead, but the reason subscribers are still subjected to ads is very likely that subscription fees come nowhere near covering their costs. The truism in newspaper publishing is that subscriptions don't even cover the cost of printing and delivering the paper to a subscriber.
Subscription-only business models have historically been tough.
A lot of people ask "why can't all advertising be like The Deck," but the trouble there is that The Deck probably doesn't bring in enough revenue for publishers to operate a large newsroom 
Personally (not speaking for my employers) I like Brave browser's idea, but they're already facing legal threats. And while they're promising publishers 70 percent of their ad revenue, but even if that's a larger percentage I don't know if that will work out to more than publishers get through the third party networks they use now.
In the future, we might see a viable micropayment solution but there are some fundamental problems with this approach.
Even a fraction of a penny. That's the sad truth.
I'm not against ads per se, I have quite a few sites 'white listed' but when they beg for ads like Wired, then it's an automatic nope!
There's always going to be garbage content sources that are more popular than the quality content sources. If you appreciate quality content, your duty is not to bitch about the garbage content but to support quality content.
The Wired iPhone2Android article is and was never designed to be content. You shouldn't expect it to be either honestly.
Apple has great content on the subject for free https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201196
The 3rd party link bloat however is spot on