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Tell HN: Now Washington Post is asking to turn off Firefox's tracking protection
450 points by noobermin 5 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 299 comments
I recall the mention of a CBS video streaming site, but now a major newspaper is prompting users to turn it off? Firefox's reader view works for now, but I wonder how long that will last...

Why are different organizations taking such an affront to Firefox's tracking protection? I don't have this problem at WaPo with uBlock + uMatrix. As far as I understand it only takes effect by default in private browsing mode.

I think it's more crucial than ever that everyone use adblockers and refuse to support sites that retaliate with anti-social behavior. Yes, news orgs need funding, but there's no requirement that they use the web's current ad model to get it.

Are we really blocking ads or are we really blocking malware? Calling our privacy tools adblockers is a misnomer don't you think for any site can simple put ad in a div and not get it blocked.

That's not how things happened.

First they came with the blink tag. Then they added animated GIFs everywhere. They came with the pop-up. Then they put the pop-up under the main window.

Ad-blockers' first usage was to make the Web readable. Then years later privacy concerns took over.

At this point, ads are just one of many problems. Newsletter popups, cookie consent (10x worse since GDPR), auto-playing video, in-browser crypto mining..?

At this point, basic self-respect demands I simply disable JavaScript. It's incredible how much faster the web is without it, and how much smoother, and how much less cluttered.

> how much faster the web is without it, and how much smoother, and how much less cluttered

I know HN has some JS, but I realized that I usually click on comments link for HN stuff since I know it's going to load super fast and not have a ton of useless crap on the page. If the comments are interesting I might read it, but most of the time there's more information in comments than the article itself. Or people quote the interesting parts. Maybe this is lazy or just the parent-of-two way to ingest tech info over morning cereal

Also, HN works fine with a browser that doesn't interpret JS at all. I usually post from w3m.

>"I simply disable JavaScript. It's incredible how much faster the web is without it, and how much smoother, and how much less cluttered."

I'm curious is there any practical fallout turning JS off completely? Do you just switch it back on for things like e-commerce, web UI's etc? I always find the context switching to the settings menu a bit of a pain. Do you have some recommendations for things that make JS-free web browsing practical or seamless? Cheers.

I've attempted to keep whitelists working, but now I just use a separate chrome profile with javascript+cookies disabled that is for random blogs/news sites/etc. If you have 2+ chrome profiles open, there is a menu item for "Open link as > No Javascript" that does wonders.

I think of it the other way around. I have a profile for the World-Wide Web and a couple for work and non-work javascript apps.

I see, this makes sense. I'm sure there is something similar I can do with with Firefox. Thanks.

+1. This is my fav news site for that reason.

Browsers became the new operating systems at some point. It only makes sense that the user controls the software that runs on them.

Maybe the consent workflow should be abstracted and standardized, and put into web browsers. Rather than everyone rolling their own workflow (most which are horrible), the browsers could offer a unified way to do this, and a central place to revoke consent.

Though it would probably take legislation to make orgs use it. The current workflows have a lot of dark patterns, despite GDPR.

Content owners don't want a standard way because they depend on user apathy, confusion and dark patterns to "trick" users into allowing websites to monetise their consumers data.

I say "consumers" rather than "customers" because at this point it feels more like the people buying data are the customers, rather than the actual daily website visitors.

Agreed, which is why it would take legislation for orgs to use it, even if a standard was agreed upon.

If it's uniform and learnable, the possibility to trick people shrinks dramatically.

Hasn't this been tried before? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P3P

> Then when a user visits a site, P3P will compare what personal information the user is willing to release, and what information the server wants to get – if the two do not match, P3P will inform the user and ask if he/she is willing to proceed to the site, and risk giving up more personal information.[4] As an example, a user may store in the browser preferences that information about their browsing habits should not be collected. If the policy of a Website states that a cookie is used for this purpose, the browser automatically rejects the cookie.

This sounds ideal, or at bare minimum, vastly superior to preferences boxes which take 10+ seconds or more of JavaScript to load, and impede access to content, (and sometimes don't load properly and never go away).

It is, and unfortunately it's also incredible how much of it simply doesn't work, or fails in obscure ways, without JavaScript. I use NoScript on my personal laptop, and I often have to add sites to the temporary-allow list several times a day.

(Please don't say "just don't use those sites, then." I'll use something else if there's an alternative, but there often isn't, and I'm not willing to cut myself off from a big chunk of the web on principle alone.)

Which is okay because most sites only require javascript served from 10-30% of the domains listed to actually function. The other 70-90% of domains serving the JS running on your browser are for tracking and monetization.

I don't mind JS, but when you go to a Kinja website, 20+ domains are serving up JS that runs in your browser. That's insane; but also very typical.

> cookie consent (10x worse since GDPR)

Traveling to different countries makes cookie consent an amazingly broken thing. Every website needs an "ok" button clicked every time you arrive in a new place.

How did we get here? Did people vote for this?

I travel quite frequently between the EU and the US and occasionally elsewhere - I've never seen a new OK button when I arrive in a new location. Can you provide an example of this?

> "How did we get here? Did people vote for this?"

Here in the UK we had a referendum on it in 2016. People (narrowly) voted NO to stupid EU laws.

There are stupid laws, but privacy protection is not one of them. People narrowly voted to bankrupt their economy, that's for sure.

Privacy protection laws are a good thing.

But “cookie consent” pop-ups are stupid and pointless. Pop-ups do not improve privacy, and they make the web worse.

> “cookie consent” pop-ups are stupid and pointless. Pop-ups do not improve privacy, and they make the web worse.

GDPR is not about cookies or consent popups. Even the previous directive from 2011, known as the "cookie law", wasn't about cookies or consent popups.

Both laws are about tracking (GDPR also covers personal data in a broader sense).

Developers are completely free to use cookies, or any other technology, in order to implement their sites. GDPR and the "cookie law" don't care about that.

What they do care about is the purpose of what's been implemented. If it's something that the user wanted, by virtue of visiting the site, e.g. the ecommerce features of an online shop, then that's fine. Use cookies for your shopping carts, use local storage for your word processor's undo, use Flash supercookies for your game's high scores, whatever.

If the functionality is not something that the user wanted, i.e. they could achieve what they want (buying stuff, editing documents, playing a game) without that functionality, then that functionality is forbidden to use personal data (like tracking the user's activity) unless explicit opt-in consent is given. Again, it doesn't matter how that functionality is implemented: 1x1 images, iframes, local storage, browser fingerprinting, or cookies.

If you find cookie consent popups annoying, don't blame GDPR, the EU, etc. Blame the site, since either:

- It doesn't need to ask, since its functionality is wanted by the user.

- The developers wanted to do shady stuff so much, that they were willing to ruin their site's UX.

That doesn’t seem to be how it’s been interpreted by much of the web, unfortunately.

Even respectable sites that I’m pretty sure aren’t doing “shady stuff” with data, like the BBC, make us suffer through multiple “consent” pop-ups. One particular BBC site I use requires clicking though 3 pop-ups before you can use the damn thing. It’s ridiculous.

If it was really meant the way you interpret it, then the law should have been more clearly written. As it stands, it seems everyone is so paranoid about it that they implement popups by default.

> That doesn’t seem to be how it’s been interpreted by much of the web, unfortunately.

Yes, I find this really frustrating too :(

> As it stands, it seems everyone is so paranoid about it that they implement popups by default.

I implemented compliance with the first "cookie law" at two different companies. At the first, all we changed was making the login screen's "remember me" tick box off by default. At the second, our sites were full of trackers, which the marketing department didn't want to remove, so I had to add popups.

I think companies are so used to tracking as much as possible, that they don't see any value in avoiding it; hence they're willing to absorb the cost of poorer UX (especially since they're not alone).

I don't know if this situation will change. It's certainly possible, e.g. if we treat data as a liability rather than an asset (which I've seen mentioned here a few times, in the wake of data breaches). I have no idea how it will play out, but at least things like GDPR are making spying more painful and costly, even if only a little bit.

But that's a bad implementation on the part of the site, under GDPR you should have the option to opt-out as well.

Why? If I'm a site owner that wants to track where you come from and where you're going, even within my own site, then I have the right to ask you to gtfo if you don't like it.

GDPR allows for this.

> A data controller may not refuse service to users who decline consent to processing that is not strictly necessary in order to use the service.

> ask you to gtfo if you don't like it. GDPR allows for this.

No, it explicitly does not.

> People narrowly voted to bankrupt their economy, that's for sure.

Source Required.

Those are not evidence of a bankrupted economy. Yes, the pound has tanked, and yet strangely the economy is not bankrupt. You're entitled to believe a thing may come to pass, but don't be under the illusion it either has (it objectively has not) or definitely will (it probably won't)

And poorly constructed single page applications that 9/10 could have been basic HTML / CSS pages with Bootstrap and maybe minimal jquery.

> with Bootstrap

Why is this even necessary in most cases? We developed sites for years without any of these frameworks and the the latest CSS standards will hopefully make it possible again while staying sane.

Don't blame the tool (JS), blame the people who use it to cripple your web experience.

The problem is, the people who shape the web, of which some are on HN, will soon notice that people are just switching off JS to evade their tricks, and will make sure websites are unusable without it. Now the opposite is true, but some already implemented loading loading the text via JS, so you can't just read an article without turning on JS first.

I just close tabs that don't load without JS. There is so much content on the Internet that I don't mind going elsewhere.

And those are sites I don't visit anymore. Push, pull, mess with me, I go elsewhere.

Regardless of how it began, using ad-blocking software today is a security measure to help keep your computer secure from malware. For me that's the primary purpose, the privacy concerns are important to but second to security.

I'm not blocking ads, I'm blocking crap that sucks my battery dry and hinders me in reading the content that I came to read.

Indeed. I don't mind seeing ads. I do mind being tracked all over the internet by multiple unknown entities.

I would say I'm blocking both. There's a tool in uBlock that allows blocking individual DOM elements, and I block "native" ads embedded in pages, too.

Are there any ads that aren't just scams anyway?

"Scams" is too strong, but I don't think "undesirable" would be. Think about it: ads are nearly always unwanted. You can tell because advertisers have to pay to put their content in front of users. If consumers wanted to see ads, media would put in ads paid or not to better compete for viewers. Instead, "premium" sources are often ad-free (see Spotify, HBO, better movie theaters, etc).

I think the reason for this is that ads don't exist to inform consumers about things they might want to purchase. Instead, advertisers have learned to manipulate viewers to create desire for their products. The effectiveness of ads is almost entirely non-rational. Watching ads is effectively watching corporate propaganda, in many different degrees of harmfulness.

I'm admittedly an idealist. But something seems amiss to me when the supposed only way to pay for journalism (which exists to inform the public) is to embed advertisements (which exist to misinform the public).

> Think about it: ads are nearly always unwanted. You can tell because advertisers have to pay to put their content in front of users.

This isn't true. Advertisers pay to access a target audience, because publishers control that access and their business model depends on their ability to monetize it. In general adverts are not unwanted. In fact, some consumers even request companies to send them adverts intentionally, and even subscribe to marketing publications.

Heck, some consumers even pay to subscribe to catalogues.

In general, web adverts are disliked because they are very intrusive and degrade the performance of a website, and in some cases expose content that is socially frowned upon.

Has there ever been a major professional news service, in any medium, that wasn't at least partially ad-supported? Maintaining a stable of good reporters is expensive, consumers aren't willing to pay much (if anything) for news, and the only alternative is some kind of patronage. At least with ads it's theoretically possible to maintain editorial independence.

Here's a relevant (IMO) documentary:


> seems amiss

Try this: all is paid for by advertisers, it has always been. Deduce which of your "exist to" beliefs is mistaken - perhaps due to advertising about it ...

> all is paid for by advertisers, it has always been.

No. There have always been websites by people who just want to share with the world, and paid services, and useful government programs, and nonprofits (go on, find an ad on https://www.gnu.org/). Your belief is mistaken.

Yes. Plenty.

Well, if WaPo makes a distinction between subscribers and non-subscribers for this behavior (I'm not sure if they do or don't), they they are very clearly giving you a choice for how to pay for your content, with your money or with whatever information that can get out of you, and to that end they don't want you to block that because they actually want to get something of value out of the transaction.

> I think it's more crucial than ever that everyone use adblockers and refuse to support sites that retaliate with anti-social behavior.

How is this anti-social? WaPo offers subscriptions. I have one. Does that also trigger this? I can't seem to make it do so (but I also can't while not logged in as of now). If paying bypasses this, then there might be some anti-social behavior going on, but I'm not convinced it's on the part of WaPo.

I don't know how WaPo does this, but all newspapers I've tried including NYT and The Guardian and The Economist have a lot of tracking in their apps even for subscribers.

So it's a crap deal.

Yep, this is what really makes me mad. You can't argue that alternatives to tracking don't exist when no one is actually trying the alternatives. You can't choose between paying and getting tracked; it's get tracked regardless and hear them nag you to pay them for the privilege.

> You can't choose between paying and getting tracked […]

Well, you can of course pay and use an ad-blocker. I have a subscription to a Dutch newspaper (on actual paper even), and use their site as well, but not without protection.

The ads in the paper newspaper are usually fine. Rarely do they affront or annoy; and they are tailored to the general profile of the newspaper's readership.

But whenever I use a clean browser profile to verify some piece of behavior in a website, or to see if a bug on it was caused by the use of uBlock Origin or Privacy Badger, I am acutely reminded why I choose to shield my brain from the repetitive onslaught of internet advertisements with all their tracking and insulting attempts at trying to put me into a specific profile.

I don't mind internet advertisements as such though. There is a certain social media site that starts with an F but is not Facebook (and quite empathically and by design the opposite in terms of prudishness) which serves ads that are vetted by the website's advertising department, and are shown to users at random without the option of narrowing the reach to users with specific interests or demographics. These have never bothered me, and sometimes even serve to introduce me to a business that sells products I am interested in. Like my paper newspaper, advertisers only know the general profile of the site's members.

More sites should consider that option. No tracking, no tailoring beyond 'people that visit our website', and vetted by the site itself. Newspapers in particular have the knowledge of how to acquisition advertisers for this; they already do it in their paper editions.

>The ads in the paper newspaper are usually fine. Rarely do they affront or annoy; and they are tailored to the general profile of the newspaper's readership.

Now I feel stupid. For all the doom and gloom about the impossibility about paying to not getting tracked and how Chinese and American spy agencies and Megacorps know everything about your online behavior, I never thought about simply returning to consumption of analog content as a reaction. Well, it's more expensive and worse for the environment, but I guess if you really value privacy that's bearable

> Well, you can of course pay and use an ad-blocker.

But why pay if they're still being tracked? The value proposition here is off. Might as well not pay and use an ad blocker.

Living billboard here:

While ars technica is not a newspaper they often have posts that some of us find interesting.

They turn off ads and tracking for all but the lowest tiers.

When I visit washingtonpost.com from the EU, I see a page giving me three options:

> Free > Read a limited number of articles each month > You consent to the use of cookies and tracking by us and third parties to provide you with personalized ads

> Basic Subscription > > $6 every 4 weeks or just $78 $60/year > ... > You consent to the use of cookies and tracking by us and third parties to provide you with personalized ads

> Premium EU Ad-Free Subscription > > $9 every 4 weeks or just $117 $90/year > ... > No on-site advertising or third-party ad tracking

(That last line is bold on the page.)

I don't know if this approach is fully compliant with the letter and spirit of the GDPR. The page itself contains three trackers, according to Ghostery, and has set several long-lived cookies without any interaction.

I would say especially for subscribers. For an advertiser it’s those who can pay that are the most interesting.

As much as I like the NYT for its journalism, they cannot even stop from advertising their subscription service even though I'm already a subscriber...

When you pay with your money,i.e. subscribe : you enable them to get more information out of you. Tracking becomes almost perfect : no matter how many browsers you change, operating systems, keep deleting cookies, give random data to finger printing : they can track you with your subscriber ID.

So paying is a double whammy.

This assumes all tracking is equal. I don't care if they track what I read and engage with on their site, that's how they learn to make it better. That's sort of like complaining that a store owner pays attention to what items you look at in the store. Of course they do that. What we don't want is them following us around when we're out of the store to see what else we like at other places.

The simplest way for WaPo to achieve this without having to deal with any adbockers or trackers would be to use an in-house system served from their own servers. Unfortunately, since they also have a free subscription where they do track people, that would mean two systems which would be redundant, and the in-house one also probably takes a lot of effort and manpower. Unfortunately, that leaves subscribers not knowing exactly what is being tracked and who is doing the tracking.

I mitigate this by using ublock and a container tab for news sites in Firefox. I would prefer to know this isn't needed because WaPo did the right thing, but I would still do anyways, as just because something shouldn't be needed for protection doesn't mean you shouldn't do it anyways if the cost is small enough.

No, this doesn't assume anything of the sort. By identifying yourself conclusively on one website, you add to the information these trackers have on you. By associating this information with other tracking they are doing to you, they still track you worse than if you were not subscribing.

Container tabs help protect from cross site tracking : whether or not you subscribe. So that is irrelevant here.

I see what you're saying now. But my point is also mostly unchanged. Perfect tracking can be benign, or it can be harmful. Any site which requires signing in (whether a subscription or now) gets at a minimum the same information, but generally more and better information, than one in which you aren't signed into.

What matters though is what they track, and what they do with it. The problem with most tracking is that there are services that aggregate it between sites such that your viewing habits in one are available for use in another. There is tracking in an effort to make your service better, including for who you're tracking, and there's tracking as a source of revenue. The first is not a problem, and not anything fundamentally different than what you could experience while using a corner store in 1900. The problem is it's very hard to confirm which is being done much of the time.

Yes, so until we can be sure about what is being done with the tracking : paying with money and paying with information are not either - or trade offs, but tracking is in addition to the money paid. I am talking about the worst case because :

1. Information can never be un-leaked reliably. 2. Even if current owner of the tracking company behaves , you never know what the next owner in case of bankruptcy / strategic sale does with the data. 3. If some unscrupulous employee of the tracking company leaks your information, there may not be any proof about it. 4. You never know if the information becomes dangerous when combined with some other information which may be leaked / required to be given in some other context.

So credible guarantee is the only thing that can make paying with money, and paying with information a true dichotomy.

They still track you if you pay though

I tend to agree with you. But do you have an alternative model ready? And if not, how much of the news media are you willing to let die off completely before you would relent?

Personally, all of it.

Honestly, it's not our job to find a business model that works. It's literally the job of a company trying to make money. Find a way that works.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for cooperating and working together to solve things. But the ad industry is so out of control that there's no cooperating with that. If they find a way to serve ads that are not privacy-invading, do not expose users to malware risk, and do not consume exorbitant amount of resources on the user end, we'll talk about shutting off ad-blockers.

The problem is that the management at traditional media outlets have been conned into believing that they need tracking in order to serve their advertisers.

Advertising worked fine before internet tracking was a thing. Everything from Coca-Cola and the New York Times down to Fred's Corner Dry Cleaner and The Podunk Tribune survived and thrived on the old, low-tracking model.

It's companies like Google and the other internet ad-serving companies that turned the ad industry into a data arms race, and the media outlets got caught up in it.

There's a cliché about "the internet killed newspapers." No, internet ad companies killed newspapers by falsely convincing them that an ad view on a screen is worth 1,000 times less than an ad view on printed paper, so they have to make up the difference by harvesting everyone's data.

> There's a cliché about "the internet killed newspapers." No, internet ad companies killed newspapers by falsely convincing them that an ad view on a screen is worth 1,000 times less than an ad view on printed paper, so they have to make up the difference by harvesting everyone's data.

I think it's a little bit of both. Internet commoditized newspapers and unbundled them, allowing us to peruse individual articles without the regard for whole. But you're right that instead of figuring out a proper way to deal with this, papers just got convinced by adtech companies and doubled-down on ads on-line.

(Then again, were they wrong? The model works. Much like for a factory that dumps all its toxic waste into the nearby river, the model works. Doesn't mean it deserves to, and that it will work forever.)

Then again, were they wrong? The model works.

I think you're mistaken there. If the model worked, then thousands of newspapers wouldn't have closed, downsized, or worse. We'd be back in the 80's when cities like Cincinnati and Chicago had FOUR real daily newspapers, and just about every single radio station had its own news department.

What happened is that the internet ad companies convinced newspapers that an ad that used to cost $1,000 for 1,000 people to see in print should only cost 10¢ for 1,000 people to view online.

$1,000 for 1,000 people to see in print

What happened is that now advertisers can measure the impact of their ads and realize they just wasted $1000. If advertising was worth $1k, ad companies would still charge it. The people getting screwed in the old system were the advertisers.

The world only sustained thousands of newspapers because physical delivery made them inherently local. The internet made the market for news national, if not global. Consolidation is natural.

No. Advertisers were unwilling to pay the same amounts because 1. there were 100 other places where they could reach as many eyeballs for 1/10th the cost, and 2. there were indications that people's attention is completely different between screen and print, and thus the effectiveness of the ads was much lower per viewer.

Every time I help a customer with anything I ask if they want free help with adblocker install. This helps them and also our internet bandwidth in the long run.

Personally I can't stand all attention grabbing moving things so have been using all sorts of adblockers since they first showed up. Before then I played around with custom css in netscape and blocking in the hosts file, running a local webserver for faster blocking instead of blackholing stuff. uBlock is so much easier to use :-)

Thank you for your service. You're making the world a better place, one customer at a time.

> by falsely convincing them that an ad view on a screen is worth 1,000 times less than an ad view on printed paper

What makes you believe that this hypothetical comparison is false?

The problem with traditional advertising is that everyone sees it, regardless of their interest in the subject matter or lack thereof. As an advertiser you have to pay to show your ad to a lot of people who aren't likely to be interested.

What Google and Facebook brought to the game was targeting. If you can target your ads to people who are already interested in that subject -- or even just more likely to be interested than the average person -- then your ads will in fact be more effective dollar per dollar. You avoid paying to show the ad to everyone else who is unlikely to be interested.

Some companies like Coca-Cola engage in brand advertising, where their goal is to build awareness and respect for their brand among everyone in the general population. This kind of advertising has less need for precise targeting. But not all companies need this kind of advertising. Plenty of smaller companies are looking to advertise to people who are likely to want their specific product, whether it's a video game or women's clothing or a product for parents of young children, etc.

To give a made-up example, if you're trying to sell an indie video game, then you'll spend your small advertising budget much more effectively if you target your ads to people who enjoy video games, than if you target the general population. If you're selling a first-person shooter video game, then you'd like to target your ads to people who play first-person shooter video games (and not necessarily target video game players who only play Farmville or Bejeweled).

It's very possible for me to imagine that highly targeted advertising to a segment of people who are interested in a product like that will be 1000 times more effective than traditional advertising that everyone sees. You're paying to show it to far fewer people, and each person is far more likely to act on it.

The problem with traditional advertising is that everyone sees it, regardless of their interest in the subject matter or lack thereof.

This is false. The internet ad tech companies didn't invent marketing demographics. Advertisers who want to sell things to old people advertise on TV shows and in magazines that appeal to old people. Advertisers who want to sell Product X advertise in places where people who want to buy Product X might see it.

No, traditional media doesn't have the granularity or seemingly instant feedback of online ads. But there's a reason that an ad in print has more gravitas and impact on the reader than an online ad. Digital ads are ephemeral, and are forgotten as quickly as they are seen. With the exception of writing an ad in the sand on a wave-washed beach, every single other advertising method has more impact than online ads.

What Google and Facebook brought to the game was targeting.

I wish that was true. If it was, then I wouldn't be bombarded by ads for things I have no interest in from companies in places I can't buy from.

Right now on my Facebook feed:

- Ad for a concert by a band I don't like in a city 600 miles away.

- Ad for homeowners insurance for a house I don't own from an insurance company that doesn't operate in my state.

- Ad for an Xbox video game. I don't own an Xbox, and don't play video games.

- Ad for a business credit card for a business I don't own.

Tell me again about how Silicon Valley's ad tech industry is benefiting both me, and the advertisers.

every single other advertising method has more impact than online ads

Nonsense. "I don't click on ads, therefore online ads are useless" is not a valid methodology.

I buy Facebook ads for a niche audience. I can track them; the ads work and bring me business and put food on my table. There is absolutely no way I could advertise with traditional media; demographics like "males 18-24" is nowhere near targeted enough.

I don't click on online ads either. But then I'm just not the type of person that does. That doesn't change the fact that they work in a measurable way.

> But there's a reason that an ad in print has more gravitas and impact on the reader than an online ad. Digital ads are ephemeral, and are forgotten as quickly as they are seen. With the exception of writing an ad in the sand on a wave-washed beach, every single other advertising method has more impact than online ads.

This seems to be an argument for "an ad view on a screen is worth 1,000 times less than an ad view on printed paper", which you seem to be arguiing against in parent comments...

Every ad I see is writ across my retina. It fades as the photosensitive opsin chemicals replenish.

Every ad I hear is injected into my phonological loop. It fades as the neural activity drops back to normal.

An ad is an ad is an ad is an ad is an ad. It does not matter whether it reaches my brain from a computer monitor, a television screen, a radio speaker, or newsprint. I have the choice to attend to it, or not.

The argument here is that ads viewed or heard by robots will probably never reach a human brain. The computer-delivered ads make different types of metering and targeting possible, but they also make the advertiser vulnerable to automated exploits and automated blocking.

In print, you can extrapolate from statistical modeling and circulation numbers. In television and radio, the same can be done with ratings numbers. On the Internet, there are so many possible metrics. The problem is the advertisers started an arms race they cannot win, because they had to make themselves more useful than the media companies' internal advertising departments.

Those guys could sell fractions of a page of static ads. Those ads get served with the same content, every time someone reads the paper. Any targeting has to be based on the predicted audience for the content itself. Men's razors advertised in the sports section; the exact same razors but marketed to women advertised in the lifestyle section. Car, boat, and RV dealers advertised in the business news section. If the online edition of newspapers embedded their own non-scripted copy of static print ads, served from their own servers, from the same places as their article images and stock photos, nobody would bother trying to block them. That's just what newspaper articles look like, to everyone that remembers when they were actual papers that got delivered by kids on bicycles.

The ad services that sucker media companies into using them are worth 1000 times less than the ads served in-house, because of all their clever nonsense they attempted in order to trick the media-companies into using them. I don't need to block dumb ads; I might want to, but I don't need to. I do need to block ads that run scripts and set cookies, because they hijack my own resources to make my experience across the entire web worse. There is nothing inherent wrong with writing an article that has a permanent, static set of ads in it.

Old media had the full-page, half-page, quarter-page, per-column-inch, and classified ads. A new media article can be pasted into a template, with a fixed number of advertising slots. Show the article template to your registered advertisers, who know your standards for the slots, and let them buy specific slots for specific articles, categories of article, or anywhere on the site. Paste the approved ads into the slots for them, and archive the article page. That's now what the site serves whenever the URL is requested, forevermore. It's the same as going to the library and looking up a newspaper microfiche page from October 15, 1985; the ads are still the same, and just got one more impression.

If targeting works then why do I keep seeing ads for products that I've already purchased and have no intention of buying again any time soon?

It doesn't run on telepathy. Some people do rebuy those products. And maybe this is just the best ad (of nothing great) that happened to be available at the time.

If you want to have any idea of how well advertising works, you have to approach it from the perspective of an advertiser, not an ad target. Then you can get real data. You are a data point of one.

I guarantee you that very few customers rebuy the exact same vacuum cleaner or pair of sunglasses within a matter of weeks. You would think that the advertisers would only show products that customers actually do rebuy, like dog food and toothpaste.

I'd love to see that data, because my current pet theory is that adtech applies the same morals internally that they do externally - i.e. everyone tries to scam each other, pretending their tools work.

The people buying Facebook ads know if they work. You can track customers through every click to the sale. You can experiment with $10 if you want. Try it.

I built a large print-on-demand apparel marketplace. Most of the sellers were driving traffic with facebook ads. It worked great. Unfortunately (for the sellers) so many people jumped into the game that they bid up the ad rates. Now Facebook makes most of the money in the tshirt business... but you can't say the system doesn't work.

> You can experiment with $10 if you want. Try it.

Guess what, I actually thought about doing that just "for science" - setting up some nonsense page, launching a $5-10 ad campaign, and seeing what happens. I.e. measuring the impulse response of the system, in a way.

To be clear, I source my distrust to adtech partly from personal experience as well. I worked at a company that also did social media marketing once, in particular it would run content marketing on Facebook for people. I had a first-hand look at "how the sausage is made", and my overall impression is: marketers having no clue about statistics dump some charts into a Word file and write a story about how that graph means things are great; customers having no more clue and no way to verify effectiveness believe that. Both sides are happy, and money changes hands.

Also funny you mention print-on-demand, for two reasons. One, I'm building a side project in this space right now. Two, print-on-demand apparel are the ads that are pissing me off the most right now on Facebook (in particular a certain company that's named after a game animal saying "hello" in Hawaiian).

> Advertising worked fine before internet tracking was a thing. Everything from Coca-Cola and the New York Times down to Fred's Corner Dry Cleaner and The Podunk Tribune survived and thrived on the old, low-tracking model.

Completely agree with this. I actually preferred ads that would be directly related to what I was viewing at the time. For instance, if I'm viewing a local bicycle club, I'd much rather see ads for a bicycle repair shop than for the Airbnb I glanced at last night. The current ad model is hugely distracting in that way, and I find it really annoying.

Person with insider info here. It was Google that started the data race. Rest of the industry was forced because Advertisers would not advertise otherwise because they were getting better return on investment buying ads that were targeted using personal data aka Google.

DoubleClick dates far before Google, and they bought it in 2007 I think.

All of it. Let it burn.

It's time for a culling anyway, the videos, the stupid clickbaits, the malware infested ad servers, the hysteria around adblockers, the secretly sponsored articles, the popup layers, the sluggish megabyte spas, the cpu eater animations, the parallax scroller full hd uncompressed images... let them whither away.

> There has grown up in the minds of certain groups in this country the notion that because a man or corporation has made a profit out of the public for a number of years, the government and the courts are charged with the duty of guaranteeing such profit in the future, even in the face of changing circumstances and contrary to the public interest. This strange doctrine is not supported by statute not common law. Neither individuals not corporations have any right to come into court and ask that the clock of history be stopped, or turned back.

R. A. Heinlein, Life-Line (1939)

I already pay for my news in annual subscriptions.

And I'm willing to let the vast majority of it burn down. I refuse to accept that something so critical to a democratic society as the press can only exist by removing from us any semblance of privacy.

> But do you have an alternative model ready?

All I want them to do is to stop using third-party companies to serve ads from unknown sources. If they're willing to traffic their own advertisements from their own servers, then I'm much less able or likely to block their advertisements.

I'm not mad at their model, I'm mad that the web is so absurdly vulnerable.

I will wait till we get a micro-transaction system built directly into the browser (same system for every browser) that allows me to pay 1 cent per news article - maybe 5 cent for a super duper long essay. I am poor but I am willing to pay as much as 5 dollars a month.

My personal information is not for sale or distribution and I refuse to allow any computations on my computer that enable someone to gather it.

I am poor but I am willing to pay as much as 5 dollars a month.

So subscribe to your local newspaper. One of my subscriptions is $25/6 months of Sunday delivery and you get free unlimited online access. That's $4.16/month — below your stated budget.

If more people put their money where their mouths are, then we could break the media of their third-party ad serving addiction.

I do get one print newspaper at home. But I want to consume a wide variety of news sources, and a wide variety of news sources want me to consume their news, so I don't think there is anything wrong with demanding that I pay per article from any source.

I wonder if you could create a service like Netflix or Spotify for Newspaper articles? Where the newspaper/journal get a fee for publishing through the service and the users get ad free access to the articles. This would only be successful if you could get almost all publications in though.

Exactly! A subscription would enforce me to one provider only. With micropayment it's my choice when and where I read.

That's already existed. In many iterations. Even specifically for newspaper websites.

Why aren't you already using one of the many options?

1. Not built into the browser. Requires logging into yet more websites to get only a handful of newspaper websites.

2. They still track you. See, for instance, https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18202382

3. Prices still too high. I don't a single story on https://www.washingtonpost.com/ that I would pay more than 2cents for.

Sounds like you might like blendle.com. Although article prices are an order of magintude more that what you're hoping for.


> Blendle shows you articles your friends and more or lesser known fellow country-folk recommend, and can propose additional articles and subscriptions you might be interested in

> Finally, Blendle uses tracking cookies to keep track of the articles you've read, and to suggest articles you might enjoy.

> When using social plug-ins, third-party cookies are placed on your computer. These cookies can be designed to optimize your user experience, but they might also be tracking cookies. The latter are used to track your browsing habits across multiple websites and build a profile of these browsing habits of yours.

> Blendle may also use information collected through the use of Blendle to engage in “look-alike marketing,” which enables us to reach out to an audience, well, similar to you. We may use third parties to help perform or facilitate such marketing on our behalf.

So you pay them money and they still need your information. And you need to browse articles through their interface instead of naturally through the actual newspaper website. Actually worse than the status quo.

Letting trackers track you gives them a lot of information including what pages you visited, some sites can put your email in the url like site.com?email=myemail ... so this trackers will know exactly who you are and what websites you visited. If they fingerprint your browser then they can de-anonymise your private session and will know what you visited in private mode too (this works only for pages that include the respective trackers obviously)

So here is an alternative, browsers will save your private history too, then you go to the website and they will ask for your history, you will have a big button named "Pay with my history and identity", after that you can visit the website without extra JS tracking, in this model all is transparent to the user, you also gain no tracking but you lose the ability to clear your browser history and private mode won't be private.

I personally prefer to block tracking and fingerprinting. When I get the GDPR popup I will close the tab, I don't even try to work around it.

Let it burn.

I have zealously blocked all ads since the first adblockers became available (even before blocklists), I've used Privoxy and PiHole and various other tools to block as much advertising as I possibly can. I go out of my way to avoid prominent logos on clothing, although I do make an exception for band shirts for bands I personally like. I show up ~10 minutes "late" for movies, in order to avoid most of the pointless ads.

In general, I try to avoid advertising as much as I possibly can, because it's poisoning our decision making processes and influencing our behavior more than we realize.

So let the ad-supported leeches die. We did just fine before they invaded our internet.

Even if hypothetically a new "ethical" ad-serving standard arose, I would still block all of it.

Yup, PiHole for the win! :)

Most of the ad-supported media is trashy anyway, churning at the highest rate possible low quality content with click-bait titles. Because SEO and clicks. Even the well-respected media outlets have started jumping on the click-bait wagon.

The alternative is something like Medium - you pay a monthly fee and the money gets distributed between the authors based on your likes. Medium has a growing partnership with big media outlets that republish articles there. I tend to read there most of the time. Not only is the reading experience better and uniform but I directly vote with my wallet.

Is it that hard to have a privacy-respecting service whose only purpose is to collect a monthly fee and to allow me to distribute it to participating media sites via some kind of "Support" or "Like" button? The problem is that most Internet users do not value their privacy and hence do not care that a shady 3rd party is tracking them and filling their screen with obnoxious ads, just as long as they keep getting "content" for free. It will take a tremendous amount of effort for the privacy revolution to happen.

100% of it. I am, however, willing to view ads for an 80% share of the revenue.

You're edging in on a fallacy. A person can critique something without needing to have an alternative or a solution available.

I am ready to let all news media die if it truly is unable to evolve beyond the ad/classifieds model. I don't believe the news we receive now are high quality as it is, so I don't see much loss.

I think one of the saddest parts of the ad-model now is the lack of money making brands essentially ship off their sales departments to the programmatic companies - if they went back to a genuine, intent based, direct sales approach for advertising it wouldn't be as much of a shit show.

With newspapers, the news is backed up by the ad opportunities on the lifestyle content. After I'm done browsing the headlines, I can then go to the holiday section, and I'm getting holiday ads (which actually might be helpful), if I'm browsing the food section, I'm getting supermarket offers (which might also be helpful).

Browsing a modern news site, I might be reading an article on the latest terrorist massacre, but be being served ads for hats. It's this requirement to break someone's focus that's turned ads into such an interruptive medium. Tracking can be helpful, but without knowing the context the ad is being served in, the incentive is to be as invasive as possible.

It's why content marketing seemingly works - the "ad" (subscribe, join now CTAs within the articles) feels natural because it's complimentary to the content you're reading, not trying to fight it.

I'm not sure if it'll be them, but organisations like Buzzfeed or if NYT integrates Wirecutter more, might be on to the right model. Lifestyle content with intent based ads around them (with a higher CPM due to, assuming, a higher conversion rate), that supports the hard news side.

Good point. News is not like other business sectors in that it (ideally) plays a critical role in maintaining the balance in a democracy so it's in everyone's best interest to have a strong honest and free press.

If the news sector dies, or becomes 100% government sponsored we'd be much much worse off compared to the current issue of privacy invading ads.

But do you have an alternative model ready?

I was a subscriber to the NYT until recently, had been for over a decade. They don’t track subscribers any less, or show fewer ads. So I tried the alternative but they were too greedy.

Also you can’t cancel a sub online you have to phone them! Or just cancel it on the credit card side...

Same with lemonde.fr last year. They wanted ME to send an analog letter to their unsub service. I wanted to kill somebody but

What i did:

1)switched the payment method to a virtual credit card (revolut)

2)that i made instantly disappear once it was on their server. They are dumb enought not to have a register of my previous payment method

3) LOL at their email "We cannot charge you"

How about Jeff Bezos pays out of pocket?

Workers of his just received a rise of $1-2 per hour, there are limits to what a trillion dollar company can do. https://www.google.co.nz/amp/s/www.vox.com/platform/amp/the-...

Why, at that rate, he might have to shut the Post down in another 2 million years.


It's traditional for the super-rich to buy newspapers and run them at a loss to advance their pet political causes; give favourable coverage to their friends and business interests; and flatter them by including them in celebrity coverage.

This tradition is literally older than America.

Given that Trump regularly accuses, without evidence, bezos of doing this, and given the generally high respect paid to wapo among non-conservatives, I guess my question is now - despite Appeal to Tradition, why would bezos sacrifice the respectability of wapo to turn it into a favorable rag?

Basically, I don't think he could get away with stirring his fingers around in wapo (which it's reported he currently doesn't do) without far more negative consequences than positive.

Nearly all of it. My country and many others have a national tax funded news organisation that does a far better job of informing than any of the commercial operators. This is a much better funding model that doesn't rely on sensationalism or pandering to a particular audience to drive eyeballs.

doesn't rely on sensationalism or pandering to a particular audience to drive eyeballs.

In theory, it should. But anyone who follows the internal drama of the BBC, for example, knows this isn't the case.

It is actually voluntary to use these sites. I would understand your argument if it was illegal to use ad blocker. But it is not. Ad model works for publishers just fine, it is fully up to them what to show on their site to people with ad blockers. (edited: english grammar)

The parent comment does not say otherwise. It is also perfectly right for consumers to try to influence the market.

> Why are different organizations taking such an affront to Firefox's tracking protection?

The same reason some orgs started blocking the entire EU rather than obey GDPR.

> The same reason some orgs started blocking the entire EU rather than respect GDPR.


Any time a site asks me to disable tracking protection, it has the curious effect of reinforcing my desire to leave it enabled - that site has made it clear that they are intentionally and unapologetically violating my privacy for a quick buck.

It's like a grocery store employee sidling up while you wait in line at the checkout, and politely asking you to put away your phone so you can examine the impulse-buy items on the racks around the checkout.

They remind you that having a good grocery store in your neighborhood is important, and don't you want to support that?

More like the clerk asking you to please take your hat and sunglasses off so their CCTV facial recognition system can identify you and keep track of your movements in the store.

Creepy. But then again if you make analogies for most web sites/services they get creepy real fast. This is how far things have moved since the previous "analog" days.

So WP is afraid I'll shoplift articles? Because the purpose of CCTV cameras is security, not marketing.

So lets put it this way instead: As soon as CCTV starts being used for marketing, any employee asking me to remove my sunglasses will have the effect of enforting my desire to wear them indoors.

Would you really be fine with that as long as no marketing was involved?

You sure about that?

Facial Recognition systems are out in the wild, busy profiling [0]

0: https://twitter.com/GambleLee/status/862307447276544000

I think the gp’s point was an analogy, not actually what is being used.

Better analogy: Please disable your data & use our "free wifi" to better triangulate your movements, download the contents of your contacts, emails, texts, browser history and while we're at it, drop a tracking app/cookie/x on your phone, etc....

Yup, I agree there are other, more accurate representations possible. I just wanted to clarify what seemed to be conveyed by op, as there appeared be a misunderstanding based on the reply. Thanks for the additional example.

And what's the purpose of cookies?

I'm saying if a store used ther CCTV systems to track the behaviour of individual customers, and was building a database of that information, and pestered their customers whose apparel foiled their facial recognition, then that would be pretty much exactly what WP are doing here. What the tools used might have originally been designed for doesn't make any difference IMO.

> They remind you that having a good grocery store in your neighborhood is important, and don't you want to support that?

Yes, exactly. It'll make me reevaluate which neighbourhood shops to patronize.

> It's like a grocery store employee sidling up while you wait in line at the checkout, and politely asking you to put away your phone so you can examine the impulse-buy items on the racks around the checkout.

That is a thing somewhere? Genuinely curious because I can't imagine that ever happening around where I live...

Personally, I appreciate the courtesy of them being up front. I'm happy to go elsewhere, and they save me the trouble of making sure my somewhat Rube Goldbergian-collection of privacy measures aren't acting up.


The problem is the payment model is broken. I'm not going to subscribe to a site that I only want to read a single article.

We need a way to pay a few cents to read an article, ad and tracker free.

Agree. I hope someone comes up with a “Netflix for online content”. I’m not going to subscribe to a dozen news sites individually and I also don’t want to make a purchase decision, even if tiny, every time I visit a site. For me a bundle of the top 10-15 high-quality news sites, perhaps letting me choose from different packages at different price points, and allocate the revenue to sites based on which content I read. Also let me share my account with a few members of my household on a “family plan”. They would make a lot more off me than they do from ads, and I’d be a lot happier.

Careful what you wish for. With net neutrality gone, you might end up having to get cable tv style "sports" bundles.

Yes, that’s my thinking as well (also — I already pay my ISP for access to the web, why can’t they all just work together and find a way to share?)

There is a tricky point though. “allocate the revenue to sites based on which content I read” implies mandatory, centralized tracking. I’m not at all sure I want that.

Mandatory? Yes. Centralized? No, think block chain. Anonymous? Yes.

I have yet to see anything improved by blockchain.

The Germans kind of have that (formerly called GEZ) and people complain about that, too! It pays for the wrong content!

And the private news sites hate it, too! It’s an unfair advantage!

I don’t think it will make a difference if a private company collects the cash, but who knows?

People who complain about the GEZ/Rundfunkgebühr complain about the fact that it is compulsory, even though the content and media being offered is irrelevant for many people (who don't watch TV or listen to the radio). Also there's significant issues with the way the pricing model is designed, putting very unequal load on singles living alone vs. families or shared apartments.

Sweden have something similar for allowing private copying of media. For all empty media we buy (cd, usb, harddrives, cassette tapes, vhs and so on) we pay a small tax that is collected by STIM. STIM distributes it to media creators according to their own payment model.

The problem here is that STIM is a private company handing taxes and payout. It is commonly argued that they are paying the wrong artists and has no real track on what is popular. The industry can easily game the system by making their own music popular (formerly pushing it out to all radio stations, not sure what they do now).

Micro transactions might just end up with a botfarm in china clicking articles to generate income for the newspapers. Or even more clickbaity headlines to click. A lot of problems to solve and no solution in sight yet?

I'm not sure compulsary payment a la GEZ and culture flat rates is the way forward, to say the least. With the recent cut-backs, public TV broadcasters have become outlets for low-quality pseudo-scandinavian crime series and similar palliative care. Also, they've lost any public opinion leadership they had with their media blackout towards the new populist parties. The only asset left are their talk-radio pearls.

Try Blendle: https://launch.blendle.com/

Articles cost between $0.10 and $1.15 (most between $0.20 and $0.50). You can request a refund if you don't like an article, which makes the transaction almost frictionless.

The one thing I miss is the ability to share articles without requiring the recipient to sign up for Blendle. Especially since the article can usually be read for free by going directly to the publisher's website. Five or so articles per month to share for free would sound about right.

What I couldn't tell from their site, and what really is the "killer feature": Do I need to go through their site to access articles, or can I follow a native link and have Blendle automatically authenticate that I can read the article?

No, you have to read the article in their app or website. The other way would be nice!

Apple News.

Upvoted. But why is this being down voted? It’s a perfectly reasonable product desire, a welcome opinion, and is overall a productive comment.

The problem is that per-article adds a lot of friction. If I buy a newspaper, I don't have to buy it by article or section. Nobody wants to think about "this is 3 cents to read the article linked on HN" and they also don't want a surprise $80 bill at the end of a month.

However, the newspaper style "every article from today" or even "monthly access" still focuses around the thought of "you've picked one, or a very narrow set of news sources and do most/all of your reading there." We're all news grazers now.

We need federation. Let me pay one flat $20 per month bill, and I can read freely from a really broad range of sites-- say "every newspaper from a large wire network" or "95% of the 1000 most popular magazines". It needs to be organized to rein in the publishers, to discourage the "we're the big draw, let's take our content and start a new service" syndrome that has ravaged video streaming.

That's what I like about Blendle [0]: you can request a refund for articles you don't like, so it makes the transaction almost frictionless. No need to think long and hard about the decision, just request a refund if the article is not up to your expectations.

[0] https://launch.blendle.com/

NYTimes is $16/mo Washington Post is $10-15/mo WSJ is $15/mo

Seems like the price range is $10-25/mo for many periodicals, so a bundled plan of $20/month might be a bit low.

But I can imagine a $50/mo plan for including two national newspapers, a local newspaper, and a news weekly (e.g., economist) being pretty popular.

I tend to think that the low takeup suggests that we already overprice some of these news services. Some also seem to be oddly priced for marketing reasons (for example, to make the print paper look like a good deal to potential online-only customers).

But on a network-of-services level, you also have a "value plateau" effect on both the supply and demand side though.

Each news source you add to a network typically provides a little less value than the one before. By the time you've got 100 newspapers in the network, number 101 is probably only contributing a few articles a year that weren't handled first or better by other papers, so nobody's going to pay much more to get it in their subscriptions.

And for readers, the number of interesting articles and the amount of time we have to read doesn't grow nearly as fast as the sheer number of available articles, so each additional provider doesn't produce that much more consumption.

So to be seen as a good value, we need a pricing model that tracks those "plateaus".

There actually aren't too many national news gathering services in the U.S. You generally have NYT, WashPo, Reuters, AssocPress. Even LATimes, BostonGlobe, and ChicagoTribune, which are big, focus most of their real reporting locally.

So for most general national news, there really isn't as much content as many would think, and adding each one still brings significant value.

The 100s of newspapers you refer to derive most of their content from the big ones, and maybe add their own analysis and slant.

A subscription model that provides access to 2 or 3 of the big ones, plus 1 or 2 local ones, and 1 or 2 special interest ones seems to make a lot of sense.

The New York Times subscription price that they show everywhere is also only for an initial introductory period of one year. I can't actually find the real, non-introductory price anywhere, and I know others have commented that it's really deeply buried. It's amazing how sleazy the billing practices of the big publications are.

Should foreigners (or anyone really) be able to access the single article that interests them?

I really don't want to read a anything about American politics. I am not interested in the vast majority of "news" in newspapers.

I am willing to outbid advertisers to read an article - if there was a convenient way to do micro-payments.

Should newspapers cater to people who want to read a single article for pennies and walk away forever? I think not.

There is a much stronger interest to build a lasting relationship over time with their readership, so the reader becomes familiar with the paper's voice, credibility, and focus. This leads to more revenue: readers will pay more for content they respect). It also leads to better news: a stable revenue source allows papers to plan and better invest in their reporting.

> We need a way to pay a few cents to read an article, ad and tracker free.

Blendle[1] is exactly that. They are in semi-private beta, but if you follow a link from their twitter[2] you can sign up right away.

Their model is put a few dollars in your account and pay $0.10-$1.00 per article. You can also get an instant refund after you've read, which is supposed to solve clickbait type articles.

They have a lot of major publishers including WaPo, NYT, WSJ, Economist, etc.

Not affiliated, just a satisfied user.

[1] https://blendle.com/ [2] https://twitter.com/blendle

And they track all you read, thanks to being a private, centralized service.

A monthly flat fee that gives access to practically all paywalled websites, video services and amazons digital bookshelf. The fee is divided to content creators based on time spent on content, not clicks. No ads, no other tracking. (You may need some time multiplier for different types of content.) I would imagine you could count me in with significantly larger monthly fee than what I currently spend on digital media. What I can't estimate is the ad revenue I generate to content providers.

> no other tracking

What other tracking could there possibly be once they're tracking everything I view on every site that monetizes its content?

Sorry, bad formulation. I meant that the tracking for this would not be used for any other purpose than distributing my payments.

Ads and tracking are honestly just fine and a perfectly good compromise. Fears over them are greatly exaggerated.

There's the overall creepiness of hordes of data containing your entire online history being used for the sole purpose of predicting what you'll buy and manipulating you into buying it.

But I think there's more to it than that:

It's customary in trade to not have hidden costs or unintended consequences of using your product, anything otherwise is dishonest. And insisting a product is "free" while having hidden schemes to extract value from customers is scam-y.

Then to say ad-hoc that its a "fair compromise"... but if it was a "good deal" why not be upfront about it, why try to hide it? "You should've read the EULA." Well, a bet a bunch of people being targeted/tracked by Google & Facebook are children, many too young to consent, some maybe even too young to even read...

Except for the incredibly low quality ads that also make the article unreadable. The entire internet ad industry worth hundreds of billions of dollars and countless petabytes of analytics still suck at ads. The ad quality is complete garbage across the board.

the problem with this line of thinking is that newspaper people need to actually make a buck. Or else there are no newspapers.

So sell regular old display ads. Native ads are the future (again).

Not anymore. There's very low demand / price for run-of-site dispñay ads.

Then let's increase the demand by diminishing the ROI of the current ad model. Something that can be done, for example, by using an ad blocker and never ever turning it off.

Are you saying that if WaPo started selling only native ads nobody would buy them? I'm skeptical of that prediction.

I agree that news outlets serve an important function. That's exactly why it is especially disheartening to see them turn into organs of surveillance capitalism.

Regardless, if you attempt to extort me with a choice between privacy or an uninformed populace, I'll happily share my view on where exactly you can stick that and spin. There are decent media outlets doing good work out there who can report and respect their readers at the same time [1].

I frankly don't care if the papers who can't figure out how to function without selling out their customers fail. Let their corpses be a cautionary tale.

[1] One outlet I subscribe to, Talkingpointsmemo.com, is in the process of offering ad-free options. I blocked them previously, and they've made no effort to break the site in the presence of blockers.

Has reading national news or keeping up with politics ever benefit you in a real life scenario? If so, in what way?

Also, what do you think of Chomsky's 'Manufacturing Consent'?

Agree with you mostly, though on occasion it's nice to know if my taxes are increasing or decreasing soon, and where most people in my country stand on "Merry Christmas" vs "season's greetings" (whatever that means).

It has saved my life once, via weather report. It has let me know that there was a disaster in the area where I knew people I cared about greatly were, enabling me to prep some support. And once, it told me that a project my then-company was working on was indirectly doomed by the advent of this little thing called the iPhone. Off the top of my head.

I think Chomsky is fairly correct, but a bit blinkered.

Your turn: How to you think Manufacturing Consent applies to message boards like this? Does that tell you anything about human behaviour, whether or not mediated by institutional imperative?

Maybe the newspapers entire value is tied to a fraction of the staff and they wonder why we are all collectively disinterested in funding their worthless printing presses, managers, secretaries, and buildings?

Maybe so, but this discussion usually conflates four sentiments:

1. I do/don't think the content is worth the subscription.

2. I do/don't think advertising should be used to support the business.

3. I have issues with the privacy implications of advertising.

4. I don't want to pay but I also don't want to deal with ads.

Though maybe you're expressing a fifth? "I don't see why they need to spend this much money to make this content."

I read a broad selection of content and don't necessarily know ahead of time which publications are going to produce the useful/interesting content this month.

I cannot afford to support dozens of publications which still might not include all the content I want to read because article foo is from yet a different publication.

Guessing ahead of time seems both broken and expensive compared to grazing one a continuous stream of interesting data supported by ads consumed by people too stupid to install adblocking.

In theory modest advertising could probably easily pay for the people that actually produce the content, In theory micropayments might work too.

In reality they insist on wasting most of the money they earn and deploying intrusive ads and bullying to try to make me subscribe so they can keep wasting money.

My choices are to either give them a big middle finger or surrender my computer to their nonsense and prop up their poorly thought out business model.

As adblockers become increasingly prevalent and decreasing numbers pay for subscriptions this will obviously be increasingly difficult for content creators but solving their problems isn't my problem.

Since I only control my computer I will just keep doing whats best for me.

You mean the institutional infrastructure that allows journalists to do their jobs with some measure of job security and editorial integrity?

(not that there's a whole lot of that left... but its still better than getting news from facebook and youtube vloggers)

The integrity lies in the people and connections between same none of that lies in the building or the dead weight.

By that argument you could say that Silicon Valley and its clustering of technology firms are dead weight. All that matters is the people and their connections right?

The journalism that we aspire to today requires a lot of personnel and material resources. Independent vloggers and Facebook/blog randos simply do not have the resources to report like NYT

sure but that integrity may become a scarcer commodity as it becomes more difficult to earn a living.

The problem is that newspapers are leaving money on the table. I'd sign up for a Netflix style subscription service that offers me access to a broad range of media. I have a Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Spotify subscriptions as I'm sure many here do. That's good value for money. Netflix is making way more than I ever spent on dvds & cinema visits combined. Same for Spotify.

As it is, all I have is paywalled niche news sites each thinking they can charge similar fees for very limited access to just they tiny corner of the market. I'm not going to pay per article. I haven't bought a news paper in years. I get all my news through ad sponsored crappy websites. Because they are so offensively bad, I have adblocking, tracking prevention, and other extensions trying to limit my exposure. Works great for me

So, that's money not spent by me or millions of other users that news papers are neglecting to make.

There are a countless ways of funding news. The reason for the current obsession with invasive tracking and advertising to offer "free" access is because it's seen as most profitable. Make it not profitable and newspapers don't go away - the profit model changes.

For me, most often I disable ad blocking for the site, so we have the opposite reaction!

I agree, I always leave those sites and never return.

I see the same behavior (v52.8.0). Damn.

Also, from a German IPv4:

> The new European data protection law requires us to inform you of the following before you use our website:

> We use cookies and other technologies to customize your experience, perform analytics and deliver personalized advertising on our sites, apps and newsletters and across the Internet based on your interests. By clicking “I agree” below, you consent to the use by us and our third-party partners of cookies and data gathered from your use of our platforms. See our Privacy Policy and Third Party Partners to learn more about the use of data and your rights. You also agree to our Terms of Service.

But "Continue to site" doesn't work unless I check "I agree". So they're clearly not GDPR-compliant. In order to access their site, you must agree to be tracked. And you must also disable protection against tracking.

Maybe there will be complaints filed?

Does GDPR compliance require a site to work if a user is not agreeing to be tracked? Functionally the user never clicking the agree button and not be able to access the site is equivalent to what the latimes is doing:



> "Unfortunately, our website is currently unavailable in most European countries."

They can't offer to give you access in exchange for consent to use your data. By not granting access at all, they are complying with the GDPR. However, as always, it's important to point out that you don't ever have to ask for consent with the GDRP. If the data you are gathering necessary in order to complete the service, then people can't even object to it. If the data you are gathering is a legitimate interest (for marketing, or whatever), then you don't have to ask for permission, you just have to allow people to object after the fact. It's only if you don't technically need the data to do the job and you have no legitimate interest in the data that you have to ask for consent.

Not to put too fine a point on it, if they have no need for the data and they have no legitimate interest in it and they don't even want to ask for your consent... do you really want to go to that site? It's pretty clear what they think of you.

> If the data you are gathering is a legitimate interest (for marketing, or whatever)

Calling marketing a legitimate interest is a bit of a grey area. The ICO says that by relying on legitimate interests (i.e. not gaining consent) they need to be weighed against the impact they have on the user's privacy and own interests.[0]

So if you are showing first party ads and you aren't collecting more data than is necessary (e.g. anonymised IP address, browser, a list of articles/products the user has viewed) you are probably fine. But if you start linking this with any personal data (e.g. full IP address, email address, date of birth) or intend on sharing it with a third-party you need consent.

[0] https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/guide-to-the-general-da...

Yes, I totally agree with that assessment. In this context, it's hard to think of a legitimate marketing purpose. Potentially you could do something like record the IP address and if the person comes back put up a banner saying, "I've noticed you were here before. If you pay $X per month, you can skip all the third party ads". That would be legitimate interest I think (you would still have to do something to allow them to object like putting on a button that said, "Never show me this again"). I can't think of any legitimate reason for passing on personal data to a third party, as you say.

Edit: Now that I think about it, the Guardian does exactly that... Probably why I thought of it LOL.

I tend to think it's not compliant, but given there is a complete opt out (that does cost money), and the Post is, by its nature, very US oriented, I think it's unlikely to be a priority for regulators.

What is the loss to a European of being unable to read the post?

They cover stuff outside the US, and people link to it. For example, this HN front-page article from a couple of days ago: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/voraciously/wp/2018/10/0...

Maybe you will appreciate NPR,


which provides a plain text site alternative

There is also this https://www.washingtonpost.com/gdpr-consent/? where the Post offers a free sub, a basic sub (requiring consent to the use of cookies and tracking by us), and a Premium EU ad-free sub (No on-site advertising or third-party ad tracking).

> (No on-site advertising or third-party ad tracking)

The premium subscription still asks you to agree to their privacy policy and use of analytics, ads & tracking.

No, choosing "free" prompts the agreement to track prompt. And you must agree in order to proceed.

They are referring to the "Premium EU Ad-Free Subscription" option where they explicitly call out "No on-site advertising or third-party ad tracking"

There's been no GDPR enforcement so far and it seems to have basically failed. All it's done has kill off a bunch of smaller websites, games, etc that aren't making enough money to justify the risk of being found noncompliant, whilst the big companies whose business models rely on tracking people have carried on regardless.

Not really, I've sent a large number of GDPR erasure requests and they have all been acted on promptly. That's cool.

The point of the legislation is not to slam the book down and start fining everyone left right and center practically the moment it came into effect. It's a complex regulation and the regulators are sensible, so don't expect any action to be taken for at least a couple of years. If you're working towards compliance that's OK for now.

> There's been no GDPR enforcement so far and it seems to have basically failed.

Bold statement considering that it's been only 4.5 months since it came into effect. All government investigations take longer than quick business decisions.

I think it's too soon to say it failed. A few high profile cases need to be fought before that is settled. This is a typical example of an extremely high profile company that is very blatanly in violation. So it should be the perfect fit for a legal battle.

Perhaps a link will help.

You'll see this if you click on articles and don't have a subscription, a modal of a kind will pop up asking you to "unblock ads." Clicking on the link[0] to unblock ads brings you to a page giving steps for "disabling Firefox’s native ad blocker," showing a gif for turning off tracking protection.

[0] https://www.washingtonpost.com/steps-for-disabling-firefoxs-...

I just now realise how great it is that Firefox is calling it "tracking protection". Many people (myself included) are fine with some ads; back in the paper newspaper era, they were a reasonable trade-off for cheaper newspapers.

When they're also tracking you, however, that's no longer as reasonable. While asking me to turn off my adblocker sounds reasonable to some extent, asking me to turn of tracking protection feels malicious (because it is). They can try not to mention the term here, but to actually disable it, you'll still have to go into preferences and explicitly turn off Tracking Protection, not ad blocking.

I have found that I can close the tab and then click on the link again to open another tab. It usually doesn't take more than three tries.

This is the minimum what I would have expected from the OP. Because I use ad-blocking, and I went to washingtonpost.com and clicked on a bunch of stories, and have no idea what the problem currently is.

This is the problem about sites that want to show ads. I don't mind reasonable (not annoying) and responsible (I want to be sure ad links don't lead to frauds or viruses so I won't have to deal with any kinds of problems if I stop blocking ads on my mom's computer) but I absolutely do mind any kind of tracking. Why do ad-funded sites insist on tracking so much? I understand tracking adds value to advertisers but are ads really worthless without tracking?

Since you can buy targeted ads in many places, venues that only offer untargeted ads are not competitively attractive unless they happen to appeal directly to a specific demographic you're after. And building extensive user profiles on massive numbers of people is something that can be monetized and otherwise exploited in a practically countless number of ways beyond advertising. For instance many news sites have now become overtly partisan and these profiles can be used to manipulate the general political process through razor sharp targeting and 'customized' messaging.

Another thing is that even though most sites say they will not sell user information, the main motivation for that is economic, not moral. It's not a sustainable business model. Sell that information once and you've mostly blown your load, as the incremental improvements on that information are only going to be worth a fraction of the initial payload and it's something that will be get 'shared'.

If a profit model emerged where selling user information could be a sustainable business they'd go back on that in a heart beat. In the terms alongside any promises of protection for your information will be a clause stating that, 'We can change these terms whenever we like to whatever we like. You agreeing to use our site/software signifies your acceptance of the changes.'

And that's why blocking targetted ads and tracking not only is convenient, but should be encouraged as a necessity and social norm to everyone - to reach a tipping point where targetted ads aren't effective. The news media business has shown they're not able to get themselves out of monopolistic and privacy-invading ad and attention economics. If news outlets can't be bothered to stop contributing to this, they're displaying cluelessness in their very business, and I don't want their journalistic spin anyway. I can always go to reuters.com to read the facts.

Amusingly, with Mozilla's tracking protection on, Ghostery set to block everything it knows about, Privacy Badger running, private browsing mode, and third party cookies disabled, the Washington Post site not only works, it no longer nags about subscribing.

I try it in my firefox and I don't experience this prompt. Possibly because I don't read long enough to trigger the prompt, or ublock origin advanced mode + Privacy Badger + Tracking Protection combo suppressed too aggressively that it never appears. I tried disabling the plugins but cannot reproduce.

Btw, for this kind of prompt, one ublock origin features I found very useful is cosmetic filter. I could specify which CSS element permanently to disable by right click menu. I find it useful when I want to watch a specific Facebook video but that annoying Facebook login prompt keeps bugging and it could be triggered by left clicking anything in the page, including expanding comment sections. Though, it's a cat-and-mouse game, and you never know when the countermeasures doesn't work.

Good, the word "tracking" is a lot scarier than "ad", should make most users think a bit harder about the choice. However, it's highly irresponsible for them to tell users to do it, as it's a switch, not a whitelist (which is good since that would eventually defeat the entire purpose). I think the best you get is disable for a session.

It is a whitelist. There's a button that says "Disable For This Site" and the preferences page lets you manage the exceptions list.

Well, guess they changed it. Maybe anyone careful enough to turn on Tracking Protection already knows enough to never whitelist, no exceptions. Whitelist just Google and Facebook and you're basically back to where you were without it.

The whitelist switches the protection off based on the site you're visiting, not the site that's tracking you.

Sure, it's always the ads. Dem evil users want free content without ever even seeing an ad. As long as websites misrepresent their users concerns, nothing will change. The real problem is, people are starting to become aware that opening a website isn't what it used to be. Code is run, data is stored, behavior is evaluated... All that while making it seem like you're only shown dumb content.

What infuriates me about WaPo is that even though I pay for it, their site is pretty much unusable without an ad blocker. The text jumps around as I scroll to make room for dynamically loaded ads. And then there are the bottom-feeding Outbrain (or whatever vendor they use) ads at the bottom of the article. It's a mess.

Washington Post have a secret, hidden "Premium EU Ad-Free" subscription that removes all the ads.

You have to go specifically here and click on the third option - but NOT when you have a subscription already (you need to cancel it first)


Despite "EU" and "GDPR" in the name, it works outside of EU too

Absolutely serious question:

What fields of research should I study - for example game theory, advanced psychology, etc - that will allow me to contrive laws with embedded side effects that politicians will never be able to figure out before ratification?

This GDPR thing - and the impact it's having on privacy/tracking/advertising - is nothing less than awesome.

Did you actually try to sign up with it? It does not work outside the EU.

Really? I am signed up now. But, I started to sign up in EU, so that might be why. I am now outside of EU and it keeps working. I assumed wrong then

It's also cheaper than the cheapest subscription offered in the US.

I switched from digital news to paper and I couldn’t be happier. It took a little getting used to not checking the 24/7 news cycle, but it’s less stressful and the quality of articles is higher.

I did specifically chose a news paper with high quality content, and one that only arrives once a week to further the distillation of what News makes it my way, but it’s danish, so it wouldn’t do you much good. I’ve really grown to love the format though.


It takes a few months to get used to, but going back to traditional media consumption methods (paper, television, radio) reduced my stress and anxiety/FOMO level considerably.

The reason this works is because the newspaper eventually ends. The magazine eventually ends. The CBS Evening News eventually ends. That finality means I'm not hooked on a dopamine-fueled scroll->reward hamster wheel of diminishing quality "news" articles.

I'll admit that I will occasionally slip and lose an hour of two plowing through the endless Apple News feed. But for the most part, I only use online news sites for breaking news, weather, and occasional research.

As a side benefit, I have a surprising amount of extra time in my life to actually live a life.

Hvad er dansk avisen? Min dansk er meget enkel, men jeg kan købe det et par gange om året.

(I think double-checking with Google Translate made this worse; now I'm just confused.)

What's the Danish newspaper? I might buy it very occasionally, and puzzle through with a dictionary.

Have you considered voting with your wallet?

I couldn't agree more. Everybody complains that monetizing content is really hard on the web, and then they try to triple dip the same user (subscription, ads, data).

While we're on this subject, check out Blendle. I find that they have the most interesting stuff from WaPo (and others) there anyway, but I pay per article (micropayments), and the reading experience is consistent across all outlets.

Fair question. I have, and have even cancelled before over it. But they still do quality journalism and it keeps bringing me back into the fold. Now I consider paying but using an ad blocker to be a more targeted instance of paying with my wallet.

I briefly subscribed, was astonished that the site was still covered in ads and even crashing on mobile Safari, and canceled. I had just assumed that of course a paying account would have no ads, but I guess I'm crazy!

> What infuriates me about WaPo is that even though I pay for it, their site is pretty much unusable without an ad blocker.

Counterintuitively, being a paid subscriber probably makes your data even more valuable to wapo and their advertisers so there is probably even more incentive to track you.

this is where safari shines. the site thinks tracking is on but it’s effectively neutered. i guess on FF you can containerize the site.

Can you explain how it is prompting users? Working fine for me (using 62.0.3 on OSX)

Are you or proxygeek by chance subscribers to WaPo? If not, I'm not sure why. Also, opening articles in private windows also has it pop up on my laptop.

BTW, if the take away is subscription is the answer for their sustainability over having to serve ads that utilize tracking, that's an argument to be had. Of course, inherent in that argument is that non-tracking ads are simply not profitable enough for them, which sounds terrible but I don't work in ads for a living so I wouldn't know.

I worked in ad tech for a number of years, so maybe I can address this one.

Ads that are annotated with tracking/targeting capabilities are in fact substantially more valuable. There's the obvious aspect (targeted ads in general) but there's also the ability to measure whether your ads are actually working. Analytics requires tracking too.

This is an oversimplification, but let's say you're buying ads at 10 cents per thousand impressions. But you have no ability to tell who saw which adds and clicked where. Would you be willing to pay... say, 12 cents per thousand impressions to get actionable analytics? Would you be willing to pay, say, 20 cents per thousand to specifically target people who looked at your product on Amazon? Maybe not at those exact numbers, but you'd probably be willing to pay some substantial amount more, because that strategy (retargeting) works measurably better for converting an ad view into a purchase.

there's also the ability to measure whether your ads are actually working.

This is not unique to online advertising. It's possible to tell is ads are working in paper/radio/television, as well. Companies have been doing it for literally hundreds of years.

The only value online ad tracking adds is near real-time feedback, and granularity. Which is useless to 99% of companies, since the process of making large ad buying decisions still takes weeks or months.

The benefits of online ad targeting have been perverted from a nice add-on to something that is absolutely necessary because it helps fuel the paychecks of the advertising middlemen.

Want to advertise your movie to movie fans? Put ads on a movie fan web site. Want to attract car buyers in Bedrock City? Put your ads on a Bedrock City web site. Want to increase sales of Slurm Cola to American man 18-25? Put Slurm Cola ads on content of interest to American males 18-25.

It's not rocket surgery.

You are applying a lens of what you think should happen to a question of what is currently happening. Sure, I actually do agree with you about ad tracking, but if the question is why ads with tracking data are more valuable, then my answer is a statement of what advertisers are willing to buy, which is not what I think the advertising industry should be doing.

> Want to advertise your movie to movie fans? Put ads on a movie fan web site. Want to attract car buyers in Bedrock City? Put your ads on a Bedrock City web site. Want to increase sales of Slurm Cola to American man 18-25? Put Slurm Cola ads on content of interest to American males 18-25.

And then some company decides that there is an arbitrage opportunity in inferring who the 18-25 year old males are and selling you the ability to target them on cheaper websites and on undifferentiated inventory. In order to get access to that inventory, publishers are paid part of the difference. Voila, programmatic advertising.

> This is not unique to online advertising. It's possible to tell is ads are working in paper/radio/television, as well. Companies have been doing it for literally hundreds of years.

That's not true. That's certainly not what pretty much any big brand marketing department thinks. It's notoriously hard to tell whether any specific strategy is working if you do a lot of advertising. Which is why the extra granularity is considered valuable, regardless of their ability to infer conclusions from it.

> The benefits of online ad targeting have been perverted from a nice add-on to something that is absolutely necessary because it helps fuel the paychecks of the advertising middlemen.

That's certainly a factor, but they're not all idiots. Some of it actually does work in theory and in principle, and dismissing that is underestimating the beast you are fighting.

What is probably unique to online advertising is widespread fraud by sites. If you run an advert on TV, radio, or in the paper, then their circulation will have been audited by third parties to ensure that they're actually reaching the audience they claim to be. There's no real equivalent to that online that doesn't involve tracking cookies. Without the real-time feedback, you have no idea if the ad you just bought is being shown to real readers, robots, or some hidden iframe on another site entirely.

> Maybe not at those exact numbers, but you'd probably be willing to pay some substantial amount more, because that strategy (retargeting) works measurably better for converting an ad view into a purchase.

I do believe that, but I also wonder... Retargeting, i.e. ads of particular product stalking you everywhere you go, is the single method that so far guarantees I just won't buy the advertised thing, out of pure spite. It's also the one aspect of ad experience that I see regular people noticing and getting angry about. I wonder how big an impact of such reaction there is on retargeted ad performance, and if ad people even factor it into their calculations.

I'm sure it does have an effect, but retargeting is also so common that I don't think anyone is able to remember all but the most egregious cases.

But with subscription, they track you with even more accuracy. Unless you are ready to subscribe using a different identifier everyday.

I would like the publishers to understand that I use the blocking software because their JavaScript is so poorly written that it consumes 90% of my CPU power, which is not acceptable on a laptop. There must be a better way, and I'm happy to pay for the subscription.

I guess privacy will be destined to become a purchaseable product. I guess that's just a inevitable conclusion considering our economic system.

But it's okay so long as it is a corporation doing it to us and not the government right? Never mind how corporations have grown to be bigger and more powerful than some nation states.

On the internet, humanity can be it's true self, and we are ugly. Marketing has been ugly forever (or at least since the introduction of psychology to the field post WWII).

It makes sense that marketing on the net is malicious to the point of attacking the user. That's who we are deep down inside.

I get why companies feel they need to do this (although I personally find the tracking to never be OK). I'd suggest a modified approach to these "please turn off" notices: Show a form asking for alternatives and also having users enter how much money they would pay for the site to remove all ads and/or tracking. A step further could even be to allow people to enter what they'd pay for 1yr along with payment info. If the site decides that is a fair price at some point in the future, they charge the card.

Problem with that is that they will still be able to track you as you will need to login to get the subscription, and now they will have all your information.

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