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LA Times and ads (nelsonslog.wordpress.com)
434 points by catacombs on Mar 25, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 184 comments

I resisted using an ad blocker for many years; I kinda felt like if I wanted to use a site, I should be willing to trade for seeing their ads. I've changed my tune a couple of years ago, and this is a (small) part of the reason (but a bigger part of it now that I know how crazy usage for ads has gotten).

I'm on mobile data nearly 100% of the time most months. 14GB costs me $50-$70 (depending on which network I'm on, I have two) to download ("unlimited" plans actually aren't, when used as a hotspot, though T-Mobile now seems to actually have a mostly unlimited hotspot option, I haven't tried it yet). So, not only are ads intrusive, disrespectful of privacy, and generally of negative utility for me as a user...they're also ridiculously costly.

So, yeah, I use an ad blocker. Oddly, I tried disabling it earlier today for an LA Times article (because of their blocker blocker), but it didn't correctly detect that I'd disabled it, so I closed it and went elsewhere. Now I know I should never disable ad block for LA Times, no matter how interesting the story seems.

The LAT ads are so fat and intrusive, and their blocker blocker is so infuriating, that I recently just turned off JavaScript completely for their site.

It means I don't get images or videos, but I can read the occasional article without going through unnecessary gyrations.

It's not that I'm unwilling to pay for good journalism. I subscribe to the New York Times, Washington Post and The Atlantic. But the LA Times has chopped back their newsroom so savagely that they have very little investigative journalism or foreign corespondents anymore.

It's just not worth enduring their abusive ads and nagware to read what little content is worthwhile.

I just use ublock's advanced mode to block scripts. Nicer than having a separate extension to do it (on Safari and like to keep it light) and is more or less a permafix. If (when) it breaks the layout I just click that built-in reader mode thing.

I recently (past year) bit the bullet and began ad blocking myself. My primary concern is the recent proliferation of malicious content through the common ad networks. Supporting websites is great, but not at the expense of your own security.

Maybe we need smarter ad blockers.

Publications right now have little incentive to improve their ads with regards to security, readers' resources or quality – because if the LA Times motivates you to install an ad blocker, the NYT is getting hit as well. The tragedy of the commoners, so to speak.

If ad blockers would aggressively judge each publisher, ad network and/or advertiser and rewarded good behaviour by showing the ads, I could see publishers prioritising the user experience. I'm pretty sure the publishers and journalists themselves look at these websites with horror, and they'll jump at the chance to regain some quality.

The adblock+ model is tangentially similar, but charging the publishers is simply too close to blackmail to be acceptable.

> Maybe we need smarter ad blockers.

And maybe we ad purveyors who don't suck.

I occasionally do tech support on relative's computers and am appalled by how slow they are without an ad blocker.

I'll go even more extreme, if my browsing experience on your site invokes more than your domain and a single CDN domain, you FAIL.

If you want to serve ads, you should have to put your resources and the reputation of your domain at risk to serve them.

In other parts of the world they would find who is making those ads and who is in charge of those and burn their houses down or chop them with machetes. Suddenly the number of people willing to produce ads for clients and said clients is dramatically reduced.

I'm not suggesting this kind of extreme response, my point is there's no punishment for putting up those ads so there's no incentive to behave correctly and we're stuck in a spiraling vicious cycle. Breaking this cycle and turn into a virtuous cycle requires a paradigm shift and I'm afraid this is not going to happen by itself. Moving away from ads as a business model means wiping out google, facebook and a few others big players so whatever effort to emerge a new business model will be resisted by those who have the power and can burn money for years without even noticing it.

Until then I have two solution, the first is a combination of noscript[1] and ublock origin[2] in my browser and the the second is wallabag[3] which for the LAT page given as example gives this: http://share.pho.to/AegpU

[1]: http://noscript.net/ [2]: https://github.com/gorhill/uBlock [3]: https://wallabag.org/en and https://wallabag.it/en

Those are some pretty racist stereotypes you have of wherever you think people are going around chopping each other with machetes.

I don't think he singled out a specific race. I would say that it's not too far put though. The world is a pretty ugly place in some parts.

I think we in the tech community need to work on smarter ad blocker. The history goes that ad folks abused window.popup and then browser vendors blocked that. Then came chrome who is supported by world's largest ad engine, but they were nice to give us extensions. So we had adblock extensions that gave us a ton of CSS injected in every page. Now need smart js to fool the page thinking it has ads.

I would love to see browser support showing a big fat red icon when you're being tracked and page is misbehaving.

I've been using adblockers since they where a thing (and DNS blocks longer than that) since back then you could rely on the adnetworks feeding your malware at some point.

I'm trying to think if I've ever clicked an advert on the internet intentionally and it's probably under half a dozen accidentally.

I wonder sometimes, with the amount these advertisers know about me, how come they don't know I don't click on ads? It would increase their profits to not target me.

They do know you don't click on ads.

They just show you ads for people who are going for exposure rather than clicks, because you count as an impression even if you can't be used to generate clicks.

True. But if you've never clicked doesn't that mean something? Even if the goal is impressions wouldn't you prefer someone who has shown to be influence-able over someone who isn't? (Hint: I would de-target non clickers.)

Yes, if online advertising was strictly a deal between the media (online newspapers etc) and the advertisers.

But there's a useless middle-man industry that is the cause of all these problems: the ad-networks. They don't quite care that the impressions are no good to the advertisers, and they care only very little about the brand-damage to the media, caused by malware and bandwidth-waste. Or (dangerous) inconvenience to the consumers.

We wouldn't have any of these issues if the media were just to strike deals with advertisers themselves (like newspapers used to) (or maybe hiring out to an advertising agency, but still keep full editorial control, no newspaper would regularly allow an ad agency to inject their content last-minute before press, without any editorial oversight).

They would basically just self-host the ad banner, with a click-through link, self-hosted analytics for the advertisers, and everything would be fine. Ad blockers don't block self-hosted banners. No viruses, no malware, not as much privacy risk, no bandwidth wastage.

The ad-networks are really bad for all parties involved.

What makes you think people who don't click aren't influenced?

Repeated spaced exposure seems to have an impact on people, even if they don't think it does.

For me it's not so much about seeing ads to help support a site, it's the fact that ad companies use all sorts of crazy black pattern ways of tracking you all over the web. It's just not safe to have any ads enabled.

I genuinely do want to turn off my ad blocker and whitelist some sites, but the ad placement and intrusiveness is abhorrent nowadays. And now we have ad blocker blockers, as if that'll solve the problem. I'm in no way entitled to reading the article, but I've since resorted to just blacklisting JS from loading on some websites -- LA Times being one of them.

I happily disabled my ad blocker for the LA Times when they requested it, but I eventually closed the page when they decided to load enough ad content to make my Chrome tab unresponsive on my Xeon workstation. I won't be back.

I'm not even really adverse to ads, or to paying for content. (I subscribe to three newspapers, two of them in print.) I just want a browsing experience that isn't terrible.

> I should be willing to trade for seeing their ads.

So did you spend time looking at them ads on purpose of guilt???

No, on purpose of wanting to aupport the creatirs of the content being consumed.

I think maybe you're reading too much into it. I made no mention of "guilt". I merely stated that I was willing to trade seeing ads (not explicitly taking time to look at them or click them) for free access to content...when those ads were much less intrusive and privacy-invading and bandwidth intensive than they are now. Ad networks have since convinced me that was a mistake, but I feel no guilt about using an ad blocker.

> I think maybe you're reading too much into it.

how could I make that more clear than using ???

OTOH, you use the word trade which does imply guild on both sides

I develop software used by newspapers. This is a problem with the whole industry. It's amazing how much crap they load.

These sites all use a third party "tag manager" (Google Tag Manager, Tealium, Piwik etc.) to manage the scripts they load: ads, analytics, trackers etc. The people who use the tag manager typically aren't techies, so they don't understand that adding another tag will cause the page to slow down. Typically I've seen a single newspaper use 3-4 different vendors for the exact same thing, such as analytics. They don't actually use all of them; who knows why they have multiple overlapping ones.

Scripts are often badly written, and it's common to see lots of nonsensical errors spewed to the console. It's very annoying to debug your own stuff when you have that crap loaded, which typically comes from a header/footer combo provided by the customer.

The worst type of ad on newspaper sites are the disgusting "chumboxes" (by scumsuckers like "taboola" or "outbrain") that orbit at the bottom of pages and serve up images meant to be as simultaneously repulsive and fascinating as possible:


As long as these pages have ads that display utterly gross images (if you doubt me, click the above link) that make goatse look like pure mindbleach, i'll keep blocking JS and ads.

It made me sad when boingboing put one of those ad boxes on the site.

I work in digital media. I get why publishers do it. But, sheesh, if you're resorting these ads that insult your audience in exchange for pennies, I think you need to reexamine your approach.

It's less then pennies per view. All of those trackers also pay less than pennies per view. Basically, if you have a legit business with any ability whatsoever to make decent revenue, there's no reason to have chumboxes or paying trackers on your site.

Let's not beat around the bush: some publishers do that kind of thing because they are scumbags.

Probably some exec is standing in the middle of the war room screaming at the top of his lungs that revenue is down and so people get desperate not to lose their jobs and start sticking this crap at the bottom of the page. Some money is better than no money they think.

I don't really agree. I don't think that's fair.

It's presenting your audience with misinformation, false hope, and scams. It's incredibly scummy. Those type of ads prey on people's desperation and gullibility, and there are actually people who will fall for them and waste time and money in the process.

I nearly got tricked into closing that article after the first paragraph; the chumbox subconsciously indicated to me the end of the article and I had to consciously think "wait, this is an article about these ad grids." In fact it happened for every example they showed.

> Chumbox

Had no idea there was a name for this shit! But of course there is. It's really sad that the most rotten apples have spoiled it for everybody. I was thinking recently about trying to set up a passive income website that makes money on Adsense, but got discouraged when I remembered that Adblockers are a thing.

You're decrying the amount of crap on the internet and then saying that it impedes your ability to set up a 'passive income' site whose sole purpose is to make money through Adsense?

Yeah, Adsense ads are generally very tolerable, but they are blocked by adblockers that are adopted by people to get rid of "Chumboxes". There's a big difference.

I frankly don't mind ads as long as they don't use up more CPU/network as the content i'm already viewing (battery isn't free) -- so no video ads if i'm reading text.

Proper honest advertisements for actual products and services is something I have no issue with -- hell, I've actually managed to save money on car insurance because of a bloody online car insurance ad.

I despise stuff that autoplays video/audio, or moves around on the page, or displays creepy, pseudo-anatomical images engineered to trigger revulsion/fascination (trypophobia stuff or shit like those weird toenail images in those "heart attack" ads or whatever else).

My browser blocks JS by default because I don't enjoy seeing those kinds of shock images. Hell, goatse is less distressing for me to look at than the images in your average chumbox.

And they wonder why people believe fake news when they link to it in their ads.

The thing that finally made me switch to scorched-earth adblocking was a Taboola ad for "Top 10 Most Gruesome Tortures in History", with illustration.

It's crazy to think I probably exercise way, way more restraint on clicking that kind of junk than most, and even I can recall a time in the past year I just couldn't help myself. They're so psychologically predatory.

You must be in an NSFW ad bubble. I only see tame clickbait from the Taboola links.

> You must be in an NSFW ad bubble.

No, i get the trypophobia-triggering (DON'T GOOGLE THAT WORD) chumbox images when browsing in incognito mode, without pre-existing cookies or anything else. This has nothing to do with my ad bubble, https://theawl.com/a-complete-taxonomy-of-internet-chum-de0b... has mentioned that the chumboxes very often carry those images.

Also i'm not the only one, there's lots of other people who attest to the fact that chumboxes specifically use those kinds of images: http://ask.metafilter.com/247987/How-can-I-avoid-seeing-rela...

Totally anecdotal, but I think I see worse stuff in incognito mode than otherwise. Perhaps the default is bad, but with tracking you can get into a less bad bubble?

That makes sense; you'll get the cheapest, crappiest ads, when the prospective revenue is lowest (i.e. no other related tracking data)

It's sad that I know immediately which ads are "trypophobia" tiggerers... now that i know what that phobia means...

I left that article more confused than when I went in. I guess that's the logical conclusion of tabloid content.

I work in IT for TRONC (parent company of LA Times), and can vouch for this. Some of the ad scripts are horrendously bad. Open firebug or chrome dev tools and load the page, watch all those errors pour in. We pay very close attention to our own code, but all those js bugs that are happening are related to external ad networks with terrible javascript.

We have something in the neighborhood of 30+ ad partners. Some of those partners have decent code, others are really terrible. The IT team only adds the code to allow ad networks to inject their advertisements.

Because of the performance issues and the disreputable nature of some of the ad networks we have discussed the possibility of building our own ad server. However this takes time and money, I don't know the ROI of such an endeavor. Ultimately sale's job is to generate revenue so we partner with nearly every single ad network that can generate money. It's not desirable to deal with all these different ad providers, but you don't need me to tell you about the challenges the newspaper industry is dealing with. We need to bring in money on the digital side to make up the downward trajectory of print ads.

The LA Times popup says: "To read today's stories, please turn off your ad blocker or subscribe". That "or" implies a subscription should allow you to browse ad-free. Is that intended to be true?

I actually purchased a subscription because I do want to support the paper but not deal with the nightmarish ads that make the site basically unusable. However after logging in, the site immediately demands that I disable blocking third party cookies. I've been in touch with the subscription department without luck, so at this point I am looking to cancel my subscription. Pity - I really wanted to support the paper, but they make it basically impossible to do so.

One data point to the contrary; I subscribed, and I can now view the site without ads. ObDetails: I use ghostery, and I don't block Google Analytics. All other trackers blocked, according to Ghostery. I do see Ad Council ads.. things like Smokey the Bear. I don't find those problematic.

Thank you for replying. I'm the author of the article and have felt bad sniping at the engineers at the LA Times. It helps to know you understand the technical problem. It must be very frustrating to see the ad networks' code wrecking your website.

Your ad sales and IT team are killing your company. They are taking your good product, the journalism and your well written Javascript, and they are smearing a thick paste of shit all over it. Some of this shit is visible, like the grocery circular popover and the auto-loading video ads. Some of it is invisible, like the 10 megabytes/minute I blogged about. But that shit has a smell. Readers don't like getting shit on their hands when reading the newspaper. They don't like smelling shit. They will stop going to your website.

The ROI on cleaning up the ads tech mess will not be immediate. It will probably be negative in the short term. But in the long term it's the only way to save the newspaper. I'm anxious about the future of the newspaper business too and don't know what the solution is. But I'm sure it's not this ad escalation.

> They will stop going to your website.

Exactly. Ever since the LA Times started blocking ad blockers, I do not visit it. If I accidentally click on a LAT link, I'm quickly reminded that I don't want to be there and close the tab.

I am very grateful that you're honest and open. I'd give you a respectful bow in person on that basis alone.

That being said, I believe the media companies should start accepting the inevitable fact that people don't care about their financial struggles or hardships in finding ways to monetize content. As long as the said content is visibly free (even if it comes with strings attached as invisible tracking) then the people will continue to believe it's free and the more technical users like myself will go the extra mile to actively impede your tracking. You can't escape from that.

I would actually pay for good journalism. But as a possible consumer of the theoretical good journalism, I can't trust anyone. Every month there are news about very shady ads or nasty ransomware snuck through ad networks. How can I trust anyone who is after making money in the industry?

Both the ad and publisher industry have repeteadly shown their profits are their most important priority, not the readers safety. This is never gonna change, they must make money.

I can understand their motives but I have zero sympathy for them due to the methods they employ.

If they are smart business people, they have to sit and actively think of new and non-intrusive ways to monetize content, like right now. The current publishing and monetization models golden days are long behind them, all of the companies are fighting over scraps (obviously I can't prove this but I believe it's a legit theory, judging by the desperate methods) and the bean-counters should stop trying to beat this game and rather look for a new game.

You are writing a lot of stuff about wanting to pay for good journalism. Why not just simply subscribe to the Economist? Nobody's going to track you when you're reading a PDF. Probably especially not when you go completely offline. You could also listen to the ad free CDs.

There's also still physical newspapers. You could go up to your nearest little shop and, for just a few dollars really, try out a couple of the newspapers. You can get a different one every day, see how they compare, then you can subscribe to that one!

There, now you can pay for good journalism, and support that​ radical new monetization model.

Whatever one thinks of the Economist, they can't be the newspaper for the whole Earth. A broad view is important, but far from enough if one wishes to keep abreast of what's happening around them.

As for physical newspapers, I hear they were decent once, but nowadays they're all so shitty around here that I believe one is better informed by not reading them, as at least it's easier to keep an open mind on issues, than after having been fed heavily distorted facts.

You know, I am actively considering it for a while now. I'll definitely try out several -- but as another sub-poster adequately put it, I don't want to put myself in a bubble.

This might be worst in the news industry, but it is not uncommon on other sites too. And even without a tag manager, as a web developer, I still get requests to blindly add all sorts of scripts. Often they're requested by a marketing partner of the client, or because the client has seen something at a conference that they believe they must have.

Wherever possible, I make it clear that this cruft comes at a cost, but I cannot recall a single client being swayed by those arguments. In the case of overlap between trackers (Analytics, Facebook, etc), from the perspective of the client, they solve their "problem" in a quick request. Either it appeases the marketing company or it gives them that little extra feature they think they need but will never use.

Increasingly, it can be miserable developing for anything other than my own projects because of how much time is spent implementing bad ideas requested by other people.

So true it hurts. All of your comment.

That's why I am thinking actively about starting my own small business lately. Or simply refuse to do web development at all and go into data science / A.I. / pattern extraction areas.

It seems like either of those would be excruciatingly hard to transition to (work inertia can be a blessing and a curse) but I want to do either -- or both -- because web development is in my eyes in its worst decline ever. I don't buy the optimistic BS from inexperienced JS devs or the promises of new tech. People still have to use user agent sniffing for their website to work best. Just lol.

> who knows why they have multiple overlapping ones.

Different ad networks use different provider's numbers to determine how much to charge for ads based on which traffic tier you're in. If you don't use them all, then you can't sell on that network, or you get a really bad CPM. And none of them seem to trust Google's numbers except Google, even though those are far more accurate than any other provider.

+1 on this.

I'm dealing with Ensighten right now. A wonderful tag-manager (sarcasm) that lets anyone add any random 3rd-party script to all the pages.

Am finding services being loaded twice. From different URLs too so its not just a cache hit.

> That’s a timeline of 30 seconds of page activity about 5 minutes after the article was opened. To be clear, this timeline should be empty. Nothing should be loading. Maybe one short ping, maybe loading one extra ad. Instead the page requested 2000 resources totalling 5 megabytes in 30 seconds. It will keep making those requests as long as I leave the page open. 14 gigabytes a day.

It's not quite clear if 14GB/day is an extrapolation based off the author's sample of 5 MB/30 seconds or if the author actually left the page open for all 24 hours. Regardless, that's quite a bit of data.

Hi I'm the author. I did the naive extrapolation. 5 * 2 * 1440 = 14,400. Perhaps this number is not entirely accurate. The fact it is any larger than, say, 10 is the problem.

That's a terrible methodology, and makes the headline pretty inaccurate. (Edit: looks like the blog headline isn't inflammatory at the moment: did you change it, or did the HN poster insert the 24-hour figure?)

I'm against bad ads as much as everyone else, but I don't think using a terrible methodology to criticize them is a good idea. Making clear what you measured would be much better, and actually leaving the thing open for 24 hours would be best.

In the time since I read the linked article, I opened the LA Times site and navigated to a story, opened my network console, and read some comments on HN about the article.

Safari says it's been about 12 minutes. It's requested over 1000 resources (it pegged 999+ at ~2 minutes). It's downloaded 88.4 Megabytes of data. It appears to be continually firing pixels from a multitude of places (openX and doubleclick are common). It's also downloading a number of different videos. The article I opened does not have any videos related to it's content. This article is open in an unfocused window; I have not fired any scroll, click, or touch events natively after the few seconds I opened the link, scrolled a bit, then came back to HN.

88.4 megabytes in a few minutes. I remember when my modem couldn't download more than a couple megs in dozens of minutes, and I'm a shitty stupid millennial, not some graybeard. Maybe it could hit a gig, or 14, in a day, but the point really remains set: the LATimes site is absurd.

Your measure pencils out to 10 GB/day. Someone else here found 7 GB/day. Perhaps it's a Safari vs Chrome thing.

(In case the sarcasm is not clear: the problem is that it's anywhere over 0.01 GB.)

I only got to 13.6mb/10mins before the page crashes. So I guess that counts as a safeguard.


Oh yeah, like all the extra effort is going to make any actual difference. Sorry, demanding better data or methods on a casual observation is a way to avoid engaging with the problematic behavior. If publishers use bullshit methods to drive revenue then they must expect to receive bullshit critiques of their bullshit methods.

Perhaps the LA Times webmasters could apply your suggested methodology and come up with a more accurate estimate and share it with us here. I've already done my service in pointing how how broken their ad scripts are on a normal page. I don't need to set up a full bandwidth monitoring rig for them, too.

To answer your question about the title, I did not change my blog post. Hacker News' silent moderators seem to have applied their usual policy of rewriting post titles to the article title, no matter how dull it may be.

Someone just posted a comment on my blog they managed to leave it running for 3.2 hours and got 1.4GB of traffic. Then devtools crashed. I realize this is still terrible methodology, but perhaps we literally lack the technology to measure this webpage.


They made it pretty clear--leaving the browser open just belabors the point.

For the reference of others, I opened the LA Times on my computer and left the front page open for 10 minutes, and in that time it downloaded 48.7 MB of data.

Only 7 gigabytes a day! Perhaps the LA Times has already made their web site twice as efficient.

I opened a random article, it caps out at 19mb after the first 5 minutes (reached 12mb in 30 seconds).

Should be easy enough to confirm. I'll test it out tomorrow and see if they've changed something.

What if it crashes the browser!

That in itself is an indication of something, no?

So in case you were looking for another reason to avoid the LA Times (or probably tronc papers in general), they're very spammy. I get tons of junk "newsletter" mail from them that I definitely didn't subscribe to, although they inevitably claim I did, and you can unsubscribe, but then they just invent new lists. And sell your address to others.

Sample from only a few days ago.

    From: "San Diego Union-Tribune" <promotions@e.sandiegouniontribune.com>
    Subject: We are proud to offer you Moonlighting - Hire or be hired!
    Received: from mta953.e.latimes.com (mta953.e.latimes.com []

    [Blah blah bullshit about their proud partner promoting a soulless gig economy.]

    This email was delivered because you registered for Email Membership at utsandiego.com
This is 100% false. I did create an account for latimes.com (who sent this shit) but not the San Diego paper. Not even close.

I whipped together https://getcovert.com to help address this problem for me. Currently it's a chrome plugin that allows me to generate a unique obfuscated "proxy" email address for sites I want to sign up for but don't want to expose my real email. If they ever sell it, redistribute it, or I want to shut them down, I just block that proxy email.

It's barely an alpha project and needs a ton of work to be functional, but just know you're not the only one who finds this frustrating and unacceptable.

Isn't this solution similar to putting "+unique_string" before the @ part in (for example) Gmail addresses?

That's no good. You're still sending your primary address, before the +. They can remove or modify anything after +, and you'll still receive the email.

I'm slowly transitioning for having a random 20 char generated alias email for every service/use and there's no chance anyone will hit a real mailbox by chance. If alias leaks, I can either abandon the service and block it, or change the registered email for the service to a new alias and block the old one.

In addition to that, I have a few easy to remember/type emails to give out to people, that I never use on the internet.

The result being no spam even without a spam blocker. (to the new addresses)

That sounds great, but the problem I see with the n-address approach is when you do actually want to search for a received email but you don't want to remember what inbox it went to. I can see workarounds - like feed them all to a gmail box and filter them into their own folders. Or load them all into a native email client as separate accounts.

I felt that way about using a password manager and generating random passwords (what if I want to log into something and don't want to remember which password I used) but eventually realized that password managers are literally designed to make this as painless as possible and I should relax more. Now I use KeepassXC, random passwords and life is good.

Are email managers a thing, like password managers? How do you solve this problem?

I store aliases (+ info about the service I provided them to) in the database and use simple PHP script to manipulate the db from the web.

On the mail server side, I have postfix set up to read the database and deliver everything for a valid address to a single mailbox.

It should be workable with any service that will allow you to setup aliases for a single mailbox. If they allow to set it using API, that would allow for automation.

On the sending side, given that I haven't yet found a need to communicate too frequently with any of the services I use via email, I have a simple PHP form to send email with the specified alias address set as From on the envelope and inside the email.

Ditto, except that I just use postfix's 'virtual' mechanism. Simple additional hack to simplify address creation; all my legal addresses begin with a particular 4-char sequence, and by default, all email addressed to a uid beginning with these 4 chars gets through unless explicitly blocked. This means I can make up addrs on the fly, without having to add them to the back-end on a per-address basis.

You can configure your MDA to deliver mail for all these different addresses to the same inbox. What I did for a while was have 2 inboxes: personal mail and commercial. All the tagged emails went to the Commercial inbox. Either way my mail client (Mail.app) can easily search accross Inboxes and/or present unified views if I actually want everything together.

Hi Mos- That's basically what getcovert is meant to be. I forward all of your email along to your singular email address (so no multi-mailbox), but the site never sees your real email.

+ is also notoriously unsupported by many sites—either because of horribly naive email address validators, or by their unsubscribe web pages. I can't tell you how many times an unsubscribe page has shown "myuser stuffaftertheplus@example.com"—where the + didn't get escaped and got interpreted by the web server as a space. It's happened to me so many times I have %2b memorized! :-)

My solution was to change my email server setup so that . and _ act the same as +. Someone might guess that they can strip something after a + but nobody is going to strip an address after an _.

Unfortunately no. Any advertiser / marketer worth their salt knows this already and often will just strip it out and bypass it in their marketing platform. Sorry to say, but that's not good at avoiding the issue as outlined above.

Fastmail has a feature where if your email is bob@example.com you can create any email address of the pattern randomsite@bob.example.com and it will deliver it to you. It's very convenient for things like this.

I mean, I run my own mail server and client, so I can deal with the problem in a variety of ways... I've done novelty addresses in the past. My current approach is to call such companies out and hope that nobody ever gives them another email.

In a lot of ways, that doesn't really hurt them hard enough. Unless you use a unique email address on every site, you're inherently leaking information about you.

[1] Advertisers can then use that data to cross-track you between sites more effectively. [2] Marketers can re-target you without any sort of pixel tracking because facebook, google, twitter, etc., all can identify you by that email address you provided. [3] None of us have a loud enough voice to dramatically damage a company in a meaningful way b/c they were a bad actor.

In my mind, by obfuscating the email address, we take away its power. It loses a lot of its value when it's randomized per site, per user. It now is truly only useful for sending you an email, and if you get fed up with how they use that email address, they're shutoff forever (and have no way of tracking you).

I've used Mailhero in many places, works great!

See https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11781361 or https://mailhero.io/

https://sneakemail.com (or https://snkmail.com) is something that I use for more than 10 years, I am very happy with it. Allows newsite-mytag@snkmail.com as well as generating completely looking-random addresses. I wish they would have an app, but works as is perfectly fine for me and my family (when they are willing to use it...)

I want something like mailhero combined with a paid email provider like proton mail. Everything sent to $name@$spamkey.$mydomain.$tld would act like a mailhero address and forward to my personal address.

Try spamgourmet.com

Garbage like this is one of the many reasons I've gone back to print to a large extent. Printed magazines are amazing things, a superior experience and product in almost every way to reading online outlets. This whole ethical conflict over how to deal with invasive advertising while supporting the work goes away when you bought and paid already before you even start to read.

Daily news doesn't fit into this philosophy that well (printed papers is too much bulk for me), but I get pretty much all the "breaking news" I need from Twitter. Stepping away from the 24 news cycle to sit with a piece of analysis from a weekly or monthly (or even quarterly!) magazine is a much better way for me to stay informed and support journalism. And as a bonus I don't have creepy ads follow me around the internet if I want to read a Socialist magazine, or a gun rights magazine, a bridal magazine, or whatever.

you can buy digital subscriptions to many newspapers, including the LA Times

I don't know about LA Times specifically but the digital product often still includes invasive user-tracking bandwidth-intensive advertising, just toned down to what people consider "acceptable" levels. For example, the NYT digital sub that I pay nearly $200/year for still serves me advertising. So ponying up the cash doesn't do much to address the concerns that are being raised all throughout this thread.

This is why data caps are bad. Left open all month that could be 400+ GB of data used on your plan.

Ad networks are being subsidized by data caps and personal/business broadband costs. Maybe if ad serving went through the main host and their own bandwidth then maybe ad networks would have a reason to control this abuse of transfer.

Or on the flip side. Data caps will make people care about how much data their site uses. Cause customers will stop using data heavy sites as they have economic insentive not to.

Making the web all around faster as no more 10MiB webpages, and making the industry move back to server side rendering.

It's not easy to discover how much data usage a specific site triggers. Android reports data usage per app, if you dig into the right preference panel, but that's not going to tell you anything about specific websites.

I'd like a notification to pop up when the current usage (within, say, a 3 minute window) exceeds my typical usage. That'd make it easier to notice a website started autoplaying a (muted) video, for instance. It's also something that could be done at the operating system level. The operating system could also conceivably show traffic by domain, but that's not ideal; you want traffic by referrer domain, ie. if the LA Times embeds megabytes of images from some random third party server, those should be aggregated under latimes.com and not under some meaningless CDN domain. But the OS probably doesn't have that information.

Of course browser vendors could add more detailed reporting. Say a brief in-browser notification ("Page finished downloading 5 MB.") after initial load is complete and repeating if excessive downloading continues. I guess that could annoying really fast, though. A less annoying alternative would be a special page (e.g. "about:data-usage") that has an overview per page in a user-selectable time range. Maybe link to it from the browser start page.

"total data transferred: X MB ($y.zz)" should be part of a browsers standard status bar.

I know we can easily get some info from chrome dev tools and chrome://net-internals/#bandwith. It would be convenient for users if someone put together an extension that would display this information by default, or alternatively browsers just had a setting we could turn on.

On it

Perhaps not – I don't think it's the browser makers job to figure out what terms the current connection has (and for the vast majority of workstation desktops there are no such terms, I think; you're getting a pretty rough deal if you pay by the byte on a fixed connection, no matter the price).

It has been years since data caps though, and years of obnoxious ads, nothing has changed.

The only way in my opinion to fix this is to (a) give phones HARD preferences on maximum data that cannot be exceeded and (b) give web browsers even stricter per-site settings with sane defaults. Then, let the ad companies fight within themselves to figure out how to deal with the fact that none of their content gets through anymore. Force them to innovate into smaller form factors.

It's cause the data caps are fairly high. For example whats 10MiB when you have a 300GiB data cap.

But if we change to a utility like model people will start caring about penny pinching their bills

In the US, and on wired connection maybe. In NZ the largest mobile plan I can even find has 5GB. Another one with flat rate for data is $50 for 3GB (so $250 for this 14GB day). If I load a webpage on my mobile data that uses 10MB of data, I want to know about it so I can shut that down (and never come back.)

Or make use of things like service workers to cache pages locally.

My phone plan is 6GB/month. After that, I PAY. And they wonder why we use adblockers.

Thats actually a really smart idea. You get the benefit of ads but also pay for the bandwidth they consume the ad delivery network

I'd like to a see, or at least think about, a system in which everyone pays for egress and no one pays for ingress. That way the LA Times is welcome to throw as much crap as they want at you without charging you much. (One issue is that egresss is involved in every request. Some UI work would be needed to make this work well.)

Universal egress fees would go a long way to mitigating DDoS, too.

How does npmjs.org, pypi.python.org, and rubygems.org survive in this world of universal egress fees?

>Universal egress fees would go a long way to mitigating DDoS, too.

How? By charging the owners of infected machines?

Why not? If you have a water leak, you get a high bill and then you can ask your water agency to refund you if you fix the leak. ISTM being infected and spewing data could be handled similarly.

Currently there is effectively no incentive to avoid having a gadget that joins a botnet.

I'm curious what you're thinking of specifically, because I can't imagine any remotely reasonable way to make egress fees work from a technical standpoint, let alone widespread acceptance and adoption. You browse to a site, you can read all the articles you want, but you can't load any other sites until you pay?

I'm a bit confused by your question. I'm saying it might be reasonable to charge per byte sent, that's all.

Watching the requests, there's a huge number of mixed content warnings in the console. Attempting to hit https://www.latimes.com to remove the reason for all of those failed requests triggers Firefox to throw a certificate error. Could all of this be a side effect of a certificate that has gone bad?

> www.latimes.com uses an invalid security certificate.


> The certificate is only valid for the following names:

> .akamaihd.net, .akamaihd-staging.net, .akamaized-staging.net, .akamaized.net, a248.e.akamai.net

Folllow-up question.

Do Doubleclick ads typically employ a cache control policy of "no-cache, must-revalidate"?

Sites will use the disguise of "Native Ads" to make these links look like standard web page links, and they'll do every attempt to avoid being blocked or hidden.

Using base64 images, websocket/blob: injections, third-party scripts, natively hosting the images on the site and using also webRTC to also inject.

Its a long fight of countering/re-countering, and until website developers listen to its users these type of ads aren't acceptable.

/Fanboy from Easylist here

"An attentive eyeball! Fire at will to trigger consumption!"

But how many users would actually be willing to pay for the content they consume in order to get rid of ads and tracking and excessive data volume consumption? And how much would they be willing to pay? It seems like they would have to be willing to pay at least an amount comparable to the average ad revenue per user and page view, whatever that actually is.

Just blocking ads is certainly justifiable in the current situation, but it also certainly not sustainable if the ad blocker installation base keeps growing. And buying subscriptions for all sites is not really an option either. It becomes quite expensive pretty quickly, especially if you want the see only a few articles per month on each site but do so on many sites.

Lots would if it weren't so inconvenient. I read articles from maybe 100 different news sources in a typical month but realistically I don't want 100 newspaper and magazine subscriptions, or 100 different subscription offers or website accounts.

Why isn't there something like a Netflix for News that just gives me news free of visual cruft and takes care of distributing the revenue from what I read in approximately accurate portions to the content providers, not to mention a seamless interface for socially rating and categorizing news?

Newspaper/magazine subscriptions made sense when newspapers were heavily local and magazines were periodicals. Neither condition really obtains any more and having multiple subscriptions is not worth the overhead for even a small number of publications. The last time I made the mistake of subscribing to a magazine I also saw a huge increase in junk mail for several years afterwards. GFTO of my mailbox with that shit.

Lots would if it weren't so inconvenient.

I am not really sure about that. About 10 % of all Internet users are currently using an ad blocker. So 90 % are okay with ads or don't care or whatever. Further I would estimate that users would have to pay between $5 and $10 per month to pay for the content they consume to provide an income for sites comparable to that of ads. Maybe 1 % of the ad blocker users - number pulled out of thin air - would be willing to replace their ad blocker with a monthly payment of $10 if this would would work frictionless, if you could magically convince the entire Internet to create some Netflix equivalent.

In the end that would be 0.1 % of the Internet users which seems not really a huge incentive to bring such a Netflix equivalent into existence.

That's exactly what people said about Netflix, so I'm gonna disagree without bothering to support my argument further.

I actually tend to believe that it could work but I also have some remaining doubts. In my comments I explicitly focused on dismissive arguments and points where I have doubts, hoping that someone would either back those doubts up or refute them. You should definitely not draw the conclusion that I think I could never work from the way I argued.

That would be a ~$30 million a year business in the United States alone which would be worthwhile if it was creating revenue out of previously non paying Adblock users.

Numbers: Population: 300,000,00 million Percent internet users: 84%

It would be $30 millions for all sites combined, only a small fraction of that for each site. And every site would have to invest some money to integrate with such an offering. And you probably need quite a few site to make this work, nobody will pay much if it only gets you access to a hand full of sites. And this number hinges on the assumption of 1 % of the ad blocker user willing to pay which might be wildly optimistic. If it turns out to be only 0.1 %, you are down to $3 million for all sites combined. And there is of course the huge problem of bootstrapping this. Nobody will pay if you have no content to offer, nobody will invest into a solution without customers willing to pay.

I saw https://blendle.com mentioned on here a few weeks ago. I haven't tried them, but it sounds like what you're looking for.

Thanks for the reminder. I had signed up for that and forgotten about it, just activated my beta account so I'll see how it works out. First impressions: nice, but still too heavily branded for my taste.

It's awful that I'm an artist but want to put most graphic designers out of work XD

They are also the most aggressive ad shoveling website I have ever seen. Their ad blocker blocker and paywall works, preventing me from reading articles.

It keeps working even when I have my ad blocker turned off. Obviously I must have some anti-tracking extension still enabled that it dislikes, but I'm not willing to spend that much time troubleshooting my browser. It's baffling to me, because the LAT is one newspaper I'd consider a digital subscription to, but as this article says the advertising/marketing people have clearly won out over the editorial, so fuck'em until that changes.

I would discourage you from getting a subscription for other reasons, but will note that subscribers don't get grief about ad blockers.

I have been reflecting on this problem a lot over the past six months since I left the ad tech industry after four and a half years. These posts always sadden me, because I recognize the importance and value that advertising brings to web startups and the level of innovation and growth that it has enabled.

I have a hypothesis on how we can reduce the number of these types of ads, while also not harming advertisers or publishers in terms of reach and revenue.

I believe that we are in an advertising death-spiral. Sites are adding additional impression opportunities and ad placements. This is triggering higher numbers of impressions available to programmatic buyers. The additional number of available impressions is devaluing the impressions (we're flooding the market), which has led to a perpetual decrease in CPMs every year. This leads to publishers pushing higher "engagement" ads, which users just find terribly annoying, as well as more ad units. The cycle repeats, repeats, and repeats, just so both sides can "stay effective" with regards to whatever metrics they are measuring against.

My belief is that the LA times does not need N ad placements per article. They probably only need one. We don't need to junk up quality news organizations with taboola and the other "content" recommendation platforms. We quite literally need a détente.

LA Times goes down to one ad placement per article. LA Times advertiser is guaranteed viewability (high placement in the article, for example), and 100% share of voice. The "impact" of that ad increases, with the overall decrease in other "noise". The cost also goes up, but commiserate with the increased value. Both sides likely end up making / paying the same amount of money, with likely the same level of impact for the advertiser, but they reduce the pain on the user, which they should both care about deeply.

I'd like to believe this is an opportunity from a business perspective. I believe that someone could demonstrate this value, in some way, to both sides of the market. The advertiser would need fewer impressions to achieve the same level of value / impact of their ads, which also has the side benefit of reducing additional costs around TPAT tracking, analytics costs, general tracking costs, etc., which are often priced on a CPM basis (so, fewer CPMs lowers their bill). The publisher would potentially see better engagement from their users, fewer ad blocks, and a higher quality experience.

I think for the sake of newspapers and advertisers alike, some way to make this reality makes this an idea worth solving.

Fox tv tried a similar thing a few years ago. Dollhouse and Fringe had fewer commercials. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/13/business/media/13adco.html After one season they went back to the same amount of commercials as other shows. https://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/05/14/fox-scraps...

Thanks for the link. That's a good highlight.

The experimenter in me reads that article (and mind you it's very brief), and I actually get encouraged. They were attempting to measure it on a pure 1:1 basis, where all their other shows, as well as all the other shows on broadcast TV, were following the standard model. Educating advertisers is a challenging step in this process, and so it's no surprise they couldn't get the pricing right on the first go around.

Hopefully they decide to try again, test, iterate, and think outside the box.

Well, I can read the article in Firefox with Adblock Plus if I enable Reader View before the modal box opens :)

Learned that trick here. Thanks, guys.

Edit: Automatic Reader View add-on eliminates the race.

I visited the article he mentioned had had no issues. Ads and videos and everything from third-party sites were blocked and all I had was the text of the article. I think the author has got to tune his ad blocking tech.

Edit: uBlock Origin blocked 20 third-party domains. Totally typical of web sites these days.

I use uBlock Origin too, and the LA Times definitely detects I'm using it and puts a big uncloseable popup demanding I turn it off. I think it only does this after repeated visits though, not the first.

Do you block all third-party resources?

I don't think so. I have not extensively reconfigured uBlock Origin. What setting are you thinking is relevant?

BTW, this custom filter rule seems to work around the LA Times blocker blocker. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13567527

You have to enabled "advanced user". Then on the "third-party" line you can select to block. Be forewarned that your browsing experience will default to a mid-1990s experience as you'll likely have no JS nor CSS since those are now often served by different domains. But for each domain you can now select which third-party sites to enable and then persist those settings. I have Firefox setup this way. In Chrome I have a default uBlock Origin install, so it is not so aggressive with filtering.


Oh I see what you mean. Yeah, that's crazy, I'm not doing that.

Yeah, that's what my wife said too. That I go to the trouble shows how fed up I am with all this tracking.

Browse with w3m or elinks, problem solved.

Now that you mention elinks, do you know if development continues? I had a question the other day that I couldn't find answered anywhere, but it looks like the main mailing list is entirely lost (I tried to follow these links: http://elinks.or.cz/community.html).

Just check their git activity. http://repo.or.cz/elinks.git/shortlog

Or Firefox/$free_software_browser with uBlock Origin + uMatrix, or NoScript.


Apt name. Had never heard of it before your comment. After some looking around its github wiki from my phone, this looks... powerful. Wow. Same maintainer as ublock origin, right?

+1 to my list of things to check out when I have a moment.

Elinks for the win

I find sending LA times articles to Instapaper manages to get me a readable copy of the article. It's a bit more of a hassle, but worthwhile if the article looks really interesting.

I work in adtech. The reason this happens is because of poor dev knowledge/resources by most publishers (although shouldn't be a problem with LA Times) and because the ad industry has perverse incentives combined with absolutely no oversight or enforcement.

99% of these companies are in business by running as many impressions/clicks/whatever "engagements" as possible regardless of user experience so we end up with this tragedy of the commons.

So glad to see others complaining about this. I am totally dismayed at the sluggishness of LAtimes.com. It was usable with an adblocker turned on but since being forced to turn it off recently the only computer I can use it on is a dual xeon with 32G memory and a modern gaming card and even then it's a struggle. I'm shocked that the this kind of botched hackery can exist at a major newspaper. It's ugly bad.

I see this all the time. No regard for mobile users that are paying for data plans. To me the big reason to have ad-blocker is data, not just UX.

I'm focused on getting a mobile article page down from 20+ seconds on 4G with 300+ requests and page-weight of 2MB+ (mostly ads).

Right now, on CI environment it is averaging 2.1s, 350K in size, <45 requests, and no ads in the initial view.

Sadly, Hearst doesn't own the LAT so it won't help them.

Since you're paying them nothing at all, it's not exactly like you're a customer, is it? I'm not sure why regard for people offering to pay them nothing at all would be a high priority for the LA Times, but ymmv.

First, did others see this HN post? https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13956807

RJ Reynolds recruiting guideline SPECIFICALLY wanted sales (or marketing) people with 2.8-3.1 GPA. NO wonder so many ad server tags by the sales/marketing types are FULL or errors.

Anyhow, the very first time I experience a Mac computer crash HARD was when I opened NYT.com. Yes NYT.com.

It was a typical Mon morning, around year 2011. I got into office, got coffee, tapped keyboard the Mac Keyboard to wake up my iMac and proceeded to open the website I opened every morning, nyt.com.

I noticed some flash based ad doing some fancy thing in the top banner. But whatever.

I continue doing my thing.

Wait what? My iMac is frozen. iMac! This can't be true. I frantically pound on keyboard but nothing works. Out of desperation, I finger it.

When it comes back up, I slowly bring things up one at a time. And I realize it was the NYT.com's flashy flash ad that caused the crash.

When I upgraded my slightly outdated Flash plugin in my Firebox, I could view the nyt.com homepage without my iMac freezing. I could HEAR the mechanical HD in my iMac grinding and CPU widget showing CPU spiking when I open nyt.com homepage.

Because of an ad on NYT.com, I'm pretty sure millions of people experienced their computer crash on that Mon morning.

Another reason I keep JS turned off on my phone and most news sites on desktop. Seriously, try it.

I've noticed that if you are running an ad-blocker and disable JavaScript (i.e. from the Chrome debugger), you can view the page just fine.

Clearly, there's got to be a better way. The question is, will we find it before my "unlimited" data tops out?

I'm a frequent visitor of L.A. Times and I've already learnt to press Cmd+. as soon as all the content I want has been loaded.

I actually installed uMatrix just so I could disable all cookies and Javascript on LA Times. No more ads or anti-ad-blocker.

Does anyone know if you have a paid subscription does the LA Times still insist on sending you 14 gigs of ad data?

so, as someone who keeps meaning to try it out but hasn't yet: how does Brave do with this site?

self-reply: just tried it. It does well. Alarmingly well. so sad to have to choose between Brendan Eich and Mozilla. :(

No need to be alarmed. I have four browsers running rn on my mbp. Could have more but I run out of physical memory too often!

Hit Esc (or Cancel) button to stop JavaScript execution. Works well since Netscape 3.x

Do they offer an RSS feed? Does adding the article to Pocket or a similar service work?

"Their ad blocker blocker and paywall works, preventing me from reading articles."

Well, Adblocker in Chrome seems to be blocking the ads on the page quite well. Some single requests are being logged after the page loads, but nothing as to what the article mentions.

https://pi-hole.net/ Turn your raspberry into an ad-blocker.

I just want to spread the word out and make the world a better place.

Not enough, using "host files" won't protect from websocket/blob/webrtc/base64 injections.

Does buying a subscription remove all these ads?

It likely just removes the pay wall. Even subscribers would likely benefit from using an ad blocker.

No but you might get malware via a 3rd party exchange.


No, but they don't give me grief about using an ad blocker..

Why I use the Android app TextBrowser

The data points for my hypothesis just keep connecting.

edit: so I know, why does something this innocent get downvoted? I don't understand what I did wrong.

I think it's more like, you didn't do anything right! It sounds mysterious and all, but does not really benefit anybody else.

In that case, HN should brighten up. Cynicism for it's own sake rarely leads to innovation. Thinking based upon First Principles and original insight does correlate with innovation.

This will get downvoted probably because it hurt someone's ego but it's true if you look the history of science and technology.

I mean, if your note-to-self system is leaving cryptic comments, you should probably invest in finding something more appropriate.

I'm very happy with Notational Velocity at the moment (not sure about cross platform solutions, but I think most systems do similar things nowadays).


This is more of a note to self for future reference.

"They are also the most aggressive ad shoveling website I have ever seen. Their ad blocker blocker and paywall works, preventing me from reading articles."

So their ad blocker blocker and their paywall kept you from reading the articles for free? Why don't you just pay them?

It's just a shitty thing to do at this point. If they have high quality articles then what would require you to pay them? Do they need to be on Patreon or Kickstarter or something?

Why would you reward a website for using dark patterns like autoplaying video ads, popups, 14 bloody GiB of data pushing ads and tracking and bullshit into your browser?

You're rewarding them for "the best political coverage in California".

Also if the article is paywalled, why would anyone keep it open and let ads play? Either buy the subscription or leave (or try to bypass the paywall some other way).

Are any of those really dark patterns? Annoying and shitty... sure. None of the above are meant to trick you, they're just a nuisance.

And that is reason enough. If I am paying for something you better not treat me that way because I will stop paying.

This particular article is not behind a paywall. Instead, it blocks readers who are using a) adblock, b) private browsing mode, or c) tracking protection. Their online subscription gives you access to more content, but they don't claim anywhere that they will let me browse with the above enabled even if I do pay.

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