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Adblock Radio: An adblocker for live radio streams and podcasts (github.com/adblockradio)
471 points by albertzeyer on Sept 24, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 269 comments

There's something deeply satisfying about the idea that the annoying tone and shoutiness (and volume increase) of most ads could be used against them for filtering.

Carl Sagan, in the novel "Contact" (1985), actually predicted an ad-blocking technology that worked along these lines! He called it "Adnix" [0]

[0] http://www.technovelgy.com/ct/Content.asp?Bnum=2223

You'd think Google AI could easily block audio ads with TensorFlow. Oh, conflict of interest. Never mind.

Tensorflow is open source so you can build this at anytime and Google won't stand in your say.

at the same time, i don't know how comfortable i feel about incentivizing ad distribution companies to become more stealthy.

Take a closer look at that feeling. If you're not comfortable with what they're trying to do, but also not comfortable with trying to mitigate it, as it'll only incentivize them to do worse - then how comfortable are you with them existing?

The problem is ad distribution companies here and now. The problem won't be gone until they're gone.

The problem is people are willing to pay for certain products with their attention, via ads, but not with money.

Given the choice of paying $1 for a podcast or pirating said podcast, sufficient number of people would not choose the first option to make it a viable business.

> The problem is people are willing to pay for certain products with their attention, via ads, but not with money.

1. People who are adblocking are saying that they are not willing to pay with attention. You can only compare their relative willingness to pay with attention vs money when you provide both options fairly.

2. I don't take it as given that businesses have the right to make money however they want. There are human right principles and I think an important fundamental right missing from the UN Declaration is the right to not be subjected to subtle influence techniques that compromise your beliefs (even if those belief are about which soap you should buy). Any business strategy that goes against this principle should be illegal and if certain industries and businesses die as a result, so be it. I would take no economic growth over compromised human rights any day.

> 1. People who are adblocking are saying that they are not willing to pay with attention.


As a person who's adblocking, that is not what I'm saying. I'm perfectly willing to pay with attention; I'm not willing to pay with my data, I'm not willing to be tracked across sites, and I'm not willing to let my browser execute whatever garbage the ad network is sending down the pipe at me.

Ad blocking is like eating apples. Some apple eaters are vegans, some are vegetarians, and some are just regular omnivores. A diverse population with many reasons for doing what they're doing.

Myself, I'd prefer to pay with my data if the terms were clear. I have an issue with manipulation, and I'll be blocking all ads I can until the ones that are left are non-attention-grabbing, non-interactive, not manipulative, related to the site I'm in, moderated, and preferably pull, not push.

Different folks, different strokes. I'm also adblocking and I started way before it became a privacy thing, because I don't. Want. Ads. In my content.

Do you pay for your content then?

I listen to music on Spotify, I watch shows and movies on Netflix and Amazon Video. I buy my video games on GOG and Steam. I buy my books and read them on my Kindle.

What does that leave? I don't pay for YouTube, for example. Not that I care that much, because the stuff I watch on YouTube is mostly not the stuff I would miss. The stuff I would miss would probably be available even if YouTube didn't exist (e.g. Zero Punctuation).

Since we're talking about paying, here's another question: do I resort to piracy? Yes, because there are often good reasons to do so.

Movies and shows? Netflix and Amazon mostly don't have subtitles in Spanish, so when I wanna watch something with my wife, sometimes the only way is to download it.

Music? I'd love to be able to come to some agreement with Spotify that lets me save a number of songs a month or a year and let them be mine, so they'll never disappear from my playlist just because Spotify pulled them.

Books? Usually the first book I read from an author I haven't read before is a book I'll pirate. If it's good, I'll buy it and buy that author's subsequent books. We used to use libraries for that kind of stuff.

As you can see, most of those problems aren't solvable by ads.

Here's a question for you, though: do you think Wikipedia would be better off with ads?

Volunteer Editors

The alternative to advertising is paid subscription content. I don’t see how you’re going to achieve greater privacy by giving someone your credit card number.

Civilized Internet economies have moved way past people giving every service or merchant their credit card numbers. There is a number of alternative payment schemes which share less information with the money recipient, and doesn't let them pull money off one's account.

>There is a number of alternative payment schemes

Can you please explicitly list those alternative payment methods you had in mind?

When I last researched this, alternatives like micropayments, Flattr, cryptocurrency, digital wallet donations, etc are not viable revenue amounts in comparison to credit-card subscriptions or sponsored ads.

As for the mobile phone payments that are more popular than credit-cards in China and Africa, those are not privacy-preserving from what I can tell.

Well, in my country there's a number of payment intermediaries like Przelewy24, PayU and a bunch of others, which proxy a payment without themselves receiving your card number either. The way it's constructed, you get redirected to your own bank's webpage, where you log in just to confirm a pre-filled transaction from your account to the intermediary service.

Then there's also Blik, which is the same except I don't even have to log in on the web page; I read a random six-digit code off my bank's app, enter it on the payment intermediary site, confirm again on the phone, and money moves.

Why? First of all, why must there be a dichotomy here? Second, why must I give each site my credit card number directly? Why can't we do that differently?

The conventional wisdom is that ads are more convenient. I hope that, sooner or later, this will stop being true and we'll have a variety of better ways of supporting content.

> the right to not be subjected to subtle influence techniques that compromise your beliefs

i strongly disagree. everyone's beliefs need to be challenged. that is the only way we have progressed as a society throughout the ages.

Challenging someone's beliefs involves being explicit, so that one's aware their beliefs are being challenged. It's the exact opposite of manipulation, and thus advertising.

I don't get where people found this expectation to be paid for random crap thrown out into the world. Once upon a time a lot of the things that are ad-supported now would be considered hobbies that people did because they like to do them, there wouldn't be any sort of expectation of recouping losses you were putting money into your activity in exchange for the joy of doing it. Now everything has become much more money focused and rather than sending out a podcast episode to start a discussion or voice your opinion people are doing it to get paid.

This is why I love Patreon, it has the possibility to shift us back into the "for the joy of it" production - removing the need to shill on a month-by-month basis. If enough people support you directly then advertising loses it's appeal by spurning potential listeners. Meanwhile your hobby is getting support from the other hobbyists and people with a slight interest can dip their toes in and explore the world.


The works GP criticizes still aren't being paid for. If you're serving something as "free with ads", you aren't being paid for your creative work, you're being paid for finding victims and delivering them to advertisers.

I'll pay with my attention, but not with my data. Radio ads are annoying because of the high volume and fast talking, but I'm not going to try to block them.

On the web, put up an add with no tracking (effectively a digital billboard) and I'll stop using my ad blocker. The advertising might be annoying, but the surveillance is a human rights violation (according to the UN).

> but I'm not going to try to block them.

Why not?

Because the effort and expense of doing so is greater than my annoyance.

I watch baseball games on the MLB streaming service and when they go to commercials, the screen goes to a static image with no sound. It's kind of jarring and I think I would prefer to have something still playing. The best thing would be if they just went to a wide shot of the ballpark with ballpark sounds, but the normal ads are better than silence IMHO.

That has not been established. In fact, the whole music, video and computer game industries are evidence of the opposite - even before DRM and convenient streaming/store platforms on-line, piracy was still just a drop in a bucket and businesses asking for money up front were perfectly viable.

People prefer free over paying all the time. Just see all of us wanting to avoid paying for the environmental externalities.

The only reason people don’t choose free over paying is if the convenience or cost is worth it. For music, organizing and having easy access to all music files is worth $10/month or less to many people versus risking copyright infringement charges. But raise that to $100/month, and see what people do...

The ease of transferring data on the internet and high bandwidth connections tilts the favor in choosing the free version.

Perhaps paid podcasts are possible if it’s easy enough, I might not mind 50 cents or $1 via Apple Pay in my podcasts app, or a subscription service that eliminates all ads.

Even if we ignore the piracy angle, an additional problem is if a vendor provides a service for free or cheaper with ads, people choose that one over one that is paid. So for items meant for mass consumption, such as podcasts, the more lucrative ones will be the ones with ads. Similar to how no one can compete with free offerings from Google or Facebook.

And people prefer paid over free all the time. Many of us are loaded with a dozen+ subscriptions. I have Netflix, Spotify, Prime Video, HBO, Showtime, Apple Arcade, iCloud Storage, EA Access, Xbox Game Pass, Adobe Creative Cloud, NY Times all as subscriptions, and countless paid apps and solutions. I'm far from alone in this. Clearly millions of people pay enormous sums for good products.

The problem is that often it's hard to get anything but an ad-buttressed solution because everyone wants to double-dip (e.g. NYTimes, Hulu). Further the conversation often comes up for things that have lower value, but the creators hope it's their payday. There are countless podcasts that seem low effort -- usually a group of guys chatting with no preparation or work about things -- that I have to imagine people turn on as background noise, but if faced with a pay wall would abandon quickly (examples would be Accidental Tech Podcast or the like, the Daring Fireball one, etc -- the "how can I print money with zero work" podcasts).

There are others that are absolutely brilliant that are worth it but have some byzantine, many-islands, poorly supported way of funding them -- Anthropocene Review, 99% Invisible, Hidden Brain, etc. As we get into a small number of large podcast subscription services I expect a lot of them will see great results.

That's just how market works.

> The only reason people don’t choose free over paying is if the convenience or cost is worth it.

This is how you make a profitable business even if free alternatives (like piracy) exist. Steam managed to pull that off for videogames (their DRM is unfortunate, but it's only part of the equation here).

> an additional problem is if a vendor provides a service for free or cheaper with ads, people choose that one over one that is paid

That's very true. It's why I argue ad-based models should be made illegal. They're distorting the market, as it's very hard to compete with "free, but monetizes your sanity and/or your data".

> In fact, the whole music, video and computer game industries are evidence of the opposite

Only anecdotally to make us all feel warm and fuzzy.

It seems pretty intuitive that people just prefer the thing that costs the least utility, whether that be time or money.

In fairness, $1 for a podcast episode is egregious. Almost no one would pay that. Piracy has gone down a lot in the past 15 years because content owners made reasonable decisions.

It's really not egregious. Just like $1/song is not egregious. $1/podcast episode (often 60 minutes or more) is some of the best time/$ value among a-la-carte entertainment products.

A song, ostensibly has a high level of repeatability.

How often does one re-listen to a podcast within, say, 6 to 12 months? Maybe a year after, if it had a real impact?

A song is typically 3-6 minutes, while a podcast is typically 10x that. I think that delta probably can make the difference reasonable.

People routinely pay $3 for a single cup of drip coffee or $6 for a shot of liquor

Coffee and liquor are made of matter, not information, and thus cannot be infinitely copied for near-zero energy expenditure. This is what gives them a practical price floor.

This is all speculation and without knowing concrete numbers, one can't make any definitive statements about why coffee costs $x and a podcast costs $y. I'm sure performing quality research costs many man hours, traveling, opportunity costs for stories that don't pan out, legal costs, etc.

At the end of the day, however, all you need is the fact that there are no successful paid podcasts, and the most successful ones use advertising. There's nothing stopping anyone from creating one, and it's not a novel idea. Same with newspapers. The very fact that one doesn't exist, when the alternative (paid version without advertising) is a known idea and easily executable, must mean that there is a problem with the business model itself.

Perhaps the problem is that it can't compete in the same environment with media that uses advertising. Perhaps a sufficient number of people simply aren't willing to pay a sufficient price for them to exist without advertising.

> This is all speculation and without knowing concrete numbers, one can't make any definitive statements about why coffee costs $x and a podcast costs $y.

There are economic principles, though. In competitive markets, price is roughly what the market will bear. Physical goods have a price floor, because you can't sustainably sell such goods for below manufacturing costs. Digital goods scale for free, which removes any realistic price ceiling - that's why piracy exists, and that's why there's a market pressure to make the price close to $0.

> Perhaps the problem is that it can't compete in the same environment with media that uses advertising.

This is precisely the problem, in my opinion. Moreover, there's no actual market pressure - only creator's own ethics - to offer ad-free, paid version. With the current market landscape, if you're offering a paid product, you can only gain by adding advertising to it.

What I always wonder is: what will happen when Star Trek style replicators are invented, and physical goods can also be copied and printed out infinitely many times at practically zero cost? Will that coffee’s price drop to $0.01? If I replicate that coffee, will I be an illegal coffee pirate? Will the government make replicators illegal?

Compare this with the current revenues that are being brought in.

Admittedly, I haven't looked at more recent figures, but as of 2014, the highest revenue podcasts on Itunes were bringing in about 3-10 cents per listener[0]. The average podcast probably makes a lot less per user/per ad.

To people who are saying, "I wouldn't pay a dollar for each episode of a podcast": would you pay a dime? That would put your 'value' as a listener on par with some of the highest podcasting CPMs I can find online. If your CPM is less than $100, and I offer you 10 cents for an ad-free episode, it seems like it makes a lot of economic sense to take me up on that offer.

Of course, the economics probably don't work out perfectly at scale, because fewer people would be just picking up new podcasts randomly, so listening numbers would probably drop. But would they drop by 90%?

A $1 per podcast download price would be the equivalent of a $1000 CPM, which is... insane. I can't find anything online that indicates anyone is making that.

[0]: https://www.celebritynetworth.com/articles/celebrity/popular...

In general, people find it difficult to fairly value the enjoyment they get from consuming arts and entertainment, compared with other uses of their time.

A person who will gladly pay $15 for a table-service meal, and add a $3 tip to it, for roughly 60 minutes in a restaurant, or pay $12 per seat to watch a feature film lasting 90 to 180 minutes, will nonetheless complain bitterly when paying $1 for a 60-minute podcast or e-book novella, or grumble about a $20 ticket for all-day admission to a museum.

If you don't pay for the content you enjoy, you are driving the content creators into the unctuous arms of the advertisers, and forcing them to keep their day jobs. Paying direct to the creator is one of the best ways to support their art.

$1 per podcast episode is not egregious, presuming it contains some scripted content or guided improv and some production polish, like editing and foley. It does, however, limit the number of podcasts one person can follow on a median income.

It might be a better model to lower the price of the admission ticket for podcast followers, and then sell premium physical-goods merchandise using the brand trademarks once they are in the fold, for those who can afford to spend more. That is, charge $1/month or $10/year to listen, and also sell limited-edition t-shirts, or figurines of the characters, or laptop stickers, or autographed episode scripts, or backpack/keychain fobs. A higher cost to access the lowest tier of fandom also limits the growth of the fan-base, and having a big fan-base is where the money really is, not from the mass-market canonical art, but from the exclusive perks available to richer and more dedicated fans. The end-goal of building a brand is selling one or more Veblen goods, and one of the ways to get there is by accumulating so many fans that some small percentage will be willing and able to subsidize all the others.

I pay $5/month for a podcast that releases weekly.

But you're right, I'm just an anecdote drop in a fairly small bucket.

It’s a market thing. A few are willing to pay more and not everyone has to pay. As soon as everyone has to pay the price becomes very important and it should be reasonable for the content. If a podcast that takes 40 man hours a month to produce and has 10,000 listeners and charged $1 per episode... idk it doesn’t add up to me.

Why does it matter if everyone has to pay the price or not? Why does it matter to an individual consumer how many people pay for the podcast episode? The consumer's choice is about paying $1 for the episode in hopes that they will receive value from the episode such that they consider it to have been worth the $1.

I value my time anywhere between $10/hour and $100/hour, depending on the context, and I would bet that the vast majority of Americans would do the same.

$1 for a 30-minute podcast episode is $2/hour, which is far from "egregious" by almost any standard.

Counterpoint: $1 for a 30 minute podcast multiplied by 10k customers is $10k, which sounds like an absurd amount of money for something that probably took between 5 and 50 hours to make, depending on quality level. And there's no way in hell they're earning this kind of money through advertising, so if someone's going to honestly ask for money compensating lost ad revenue, we'll be talking $0.01 to $0.1 per episode.

I suppose though I pay $18 to go to the movies and they show me 5-10 minutes of ads followed but another 5-10 minutes of trailers. I generally look forward to the trailers but the ads drive me nuts given I paid (guess I should stop going)

Disney back in the 90s threatened to not allow theaters to show their movies if they ran ads. I think that died though


>The problem is people are willing to pay for certain products with their attention, via ads, but not with money.

This sounds like projection - are there any numbers or data to back this up? Because the market shows that people prefer to get things for free, either subsidized with ads or by ad blocking.

Google also tried this with contributor.google.com but they shut it down due to lack of interest.

Sometimes I feel like I'm the only one on HN who is not bothered by ads and doesn't like paying for stuff.

Ehh, I'm kinda on the fence. I'm not bothered by certain kinds of ads. Anything static and non-moving, or advertising that's done tastefully, gets a pass in my book. For example, talk show hosts verbally running an advertisement in their natural voice; that doesn't bother me one bit. Neither do static images on websites, or anything in print media. I'm not that bothered by blog articles that are clearly sponsored reviews, provided the reviewer is still giving their honest opinion. These are, understandably, harder to pull off than simply sticking an iframe on the page and calling it done, but I think it's worth the effort.

Where ads starts to bother me is when they get invasive. If it moves, dances, or otherwise gets in the way of the content I am actively trying to consume, then I'd prefer to block it. The third party tracking is a little creepy; I understand the need for analytics, but most ad networks go too far. Even in the real world, when advertising becomes too saturating, like the billboards that blanket my city and blot out the skyline, in my opinion that's crossed a line. So... balance in all things I guess.

I'd urge you to value your time more, it isn't worth the price of your attention and productivity to be forced to listen to banal advertising.

Some reciprocity is warranted when you're getting something for free. The problem isn't advertising itself. Too much will just drive people away. The problem is unnecessarily intrusive advertising.

Lol, they will have to start writing songs (again)

Hello, author of Adblock Radio here. Thanks for posting this. I can answer questions if you have any.

You can read more on the context of this project in this article: https://www.adblockradio.com/blog/2018/11/15/designing-audio...

I know we don't want to see / hear ads. But at the same time, these ads on the podcast are making livelihoods/income for those content creators and If we strip that off of them, saying I don't like ads but hey I do like your content. Where do you think we can have the line?

My dream would be that people that are fine with ads should have them, while people against should be able to subscribe to the content. Like Spotify actually, but radio does not offer that.

Is this sustainable?

Sam Harris' podcast runs entirely on donations, so I think that model is at least viable for certain audience demographics.

I agree, it definitely is sustainable for certain types of content. However, even NPR has donation campaigns where they are running ads for themselves and they also run ads for other companies that support them. I guess if they were forced they could change this habit.

> Sam Harris' podcast runs entirely on donations

He seems to be shifting away from that. There is a "private feed" that will "increasingly carry content that will not be available on the public one" (from first 20sec of Making Sense #168). So yeah, he either wants more income or just donations isn't that great.

Their need to make a living is not a legitimate excuse to brainwash me.

If they cannot find an ethical business model, then they must go out of business.

I guess not every single ad is about Brainwashing. If that's the case of your wish, then every single company on the planet would go bust because every company would be selling something to you through ads or pitches at some point.

I hate Display ads because they're content heavy, irrelevant and suck my personal information. But podcast ads are not targetting nor using my cookie or phone id. It's just some content creator is getting paid to get the word out and in fact the podcaster would make it clear that this is an AD unlike in many other platforms where inline and native ads are common.

I would not cry over companies going bankrupt that sell products that I need to see ads for to realise I need or want them. Not every single company would go bust for many businesses provide things people need or want without having been exposed to ads.

Edit: Corrected autocorrect

So the only companies you would want to exist are the ones that have monopolies (or close to) in their markets? I would much rather see marketing from competitors, so I could at least have a launching point to do my own research.

Presenting ads and marketing as a line of defense from monopolies is disingenuous.

> But podcast ads are not targetting nor using my cookie or phone id.

You say that, but there are products to allow dynamically insert personalised ads server side when you download a podcast.

Podcasts are RSS feeds. Not "like" RSS feeds, literally RSS feeds. There are are dynamic ad inserts on some (usually from bigger companies), but they're limited to GeoIP and time. The OP is absolutely correct in that podcast ads cannot use cookies or device IDs.

This is in large part why we're starting to see companies make "podcasts" that aren't podcasts at all, requiring proprietary players. At that point they really don't need to sell ads against their shows, because they're collecting data on you in a way that a podcast you're listening to on a typical podcast player absolutely cannot.

I fail to see how RSS feeds can't still use cookies? Once you've got a cookie then the feed can easily add tracking links or a unique mp3 file with personalised ads inserted. It's trivial to do this with a web server.

Edit: This assumes using a web browser to access the feeds. Obviously cookies won't be kept with an app.

Maybe it will cause improvements in how ads are done.

I buy lots of games of certain genres. I'm always wanting to know about similar games in those genres that match my taste. But almost all game ads are for the major big games that I generally either don't buy or already know about and will buy ad or not.

Ads that inform me of new games that meet my taste will easily convert to sells far beyond the rate of standard ads. But such ads rarely exist at all, the closest thing being sponsored reviews but even those I generally have to know about to look up.

But at the same time, I want these relevant ads without giving up medical information, health information, relationship status, political views, or similar such information.

I'd like to give a shout out to one pod caster in particular that might be of interest to this audience: https://softwareengineeringdaily.com

There are ads, but they are spoken by the host in his normal tone. No loudness tricks, just one minute reading the copy. I suppose OP's tool won't detect this unless a human tags all the spots.

Second, the ads are focused to the audience and may actually be useful sometimes: hosting companies, SAS tools, etc.

You just described most podcast ads. The majority are read by the host(s) and are target at the audience. It doesn't make them better.

If ads were less invasive we’d tolerate them for sure. The problem is that they devoure any medium completely with an excessive quantity of ads, volume bumping, flashing banners, page hijacks, dubious js and are really innefective to begin with. If they were more expensive and used more sparingly they’d be tolerated. But they’re not and people are fighting back.

Podcast ads are so easy to skip. Don't even have to open your phone, just fastforward using headphone buttons.

I don't know about podcasting, but for music, streaming royalties are so abysmal that I can't feel guilt about blocking ads on those services. If I want to support an artist, I'll buy their music on Bandcamp, where I know they'll get the majority of the purchase price.

The "line" can be different for everyone. For some, all ads is bad and should be block, for other some ads are good and shouldn't be block. You should fight for your own preffered line, wherever that is.

In the reality there are no one "correct" line. The line is just the equilibrium between this opposing sides.

The line is different for all people. I love the concept of ad blockers in all forms of media. Why should I be forced to take in your ads? I can already skip them with a quick 2 or 3 taps of the skip button, why should I be forced to do that while I go about my day?

They get money on downloads so they have no idea whether i listen to the ad, skip through them manually, or use this.

I just tried it and it worked so well I started laughing maniacally

Wonder if this can be applied to generic audio on Android. Also for things like YouTube ads.

Possibilities are endless.

Can this be applied to sponsor messages on podcasts. Wonder if there's enough of a difference to notice it.

interesting project, kudos! what does the program do when it identifies an ad? skip it like tivo? how much seconds buffering would you need? some ads (podcasts) can be quite long. with a small buffer can it inject some smooth jazz or something? radiosilence isn't an option of course ;)

As a fellow tfjs user - what were the most annoying parts in the API access for you?

API was fine when I used it, my main concern is that it was significantly slower than the Python / native one. Maybe performance is ISO now, I haven't tested for a while.

Neat software, but I think this is less defensible than other ad blockers.

With web ad blockers you protect against tracking, privacy violations and potentially malware and thus don't see "unacceptable ads". In contrast this seems to be about blocking ads just for the sake of blocking ads.

There is a reason ad blockers are called "ad blockers", and not "tracking protectors" or "privacy protectors" or "malware protectors" (the latter three being their own category of software). It's because they exist precisely for blocking ads "just for the sake of blocking ads".

Ads are malicious. It's perfectly fine to block them. Privacy protection is just a convenient side effect.

I agree that it's perfectly fine to block ads. And that ad blockers' primary feature is blocking ads.

At the same time, I think most ads aren't malicious. They aren't "intending to do harm". Ads sell things. Sometimes things people want. I'd guess that most people who use ad blockers just don't like being sold things.

I choose to define "unsolicited attempts to take my attention away from things I care about" as harm.

I am happy to be sold things, on my own terms. I don't need ads to find out about things to buy.

You can't get much weaker and softer than this right here. I'm just trying to imagine the PTSD you must experience when faced with billboards on the highway or when you attend a sporting/musical event and see BoA plastered around the venue.

Also, it's not "unsolicited" when you made the choice to turn on the radio and turn up the volume. If you don't like the ads, turn the radio off.

> I am happy to be sold things, on my own terms.

I'm pretty sure everyone is happy with everything, when they define their own terms.

> I'm just trying to imagine the PTSD you must experience when faced with billboards on the highway or when you attend a sporting/musical event and see BoA plastered around the venue.

GP isn't getting PTSD, but ads here are like mosquitos. A few here and there you won't notice, but once there's lots of them buzzing around and biting, the quality of life goes down very quick.

As for unsolicited - they are. They are a malicious third party injecting itself where it isn't welcome. Also, be it TV or radio, ads weren't supposed to be there. This is where the infectious nature of advertising shows. They came and took over these media, and dragged their quality down.

> when faced with billboards on the highway

I've always had a problem with this, who thought it was a good idea to allow large colourful structures literally designed to capture the attention of people operating heavy machinery next to places where they are travelling at high speeds?

The PTSD thing was at best rude, so that leaves me wondering...

Which advertising relaated business are you in?

> If you don't like the ads, turn the radio off.

This is pretty much exactly what the OP project does.

The point of ads is to create demand where none existed, as much as adtech people want to pretend thats merely via informing people of all these wonderful products they were previously unaware of (which I admit, does happen), the vast majority of advertising is trying to convince you to buy useless shit you don't need, or even worse, stuff that actively harms you. (these are the most profitable things, thus the most profitable things to advertise).

They do this by preying on insecurities and making you feel less valuable and incomplete. Another tactic is either outright lying about the product, or constructing statements where a reasonable person would "fill in the gaps" to produce the lie they intend, even if they don't explicitly state it. Closely study some ads sometimes, they are incredibly psychologically manipulative.

This is before such considerations as privacy, tracking and data leaks with online advertisement, and the general idea that advertising is a zero sum game, and the only way to "beat" your competitor at it is to blow even more money on it, thus its a massive economic inefficiency, advertising doesn't create value, it merely shifts it around.

While advertisement is rarely actively malicious in a targeted way, they are a systematic evil much like pollution, everyone would be better off if it didn't exist in the first place.

> Closely study some ads sometimes, they are incredibly psychologically manipulative.

Also, study the 101 of the domain. Like the famous Cialdini's book Influence: Science and Practice, or Cliff Ennico's How To Sell Anything To Anybody talks. Moral bankrupcy is in the very DNA of the practice, so no surprise that most ads just reflect this.

> Moral bankrupcy (sic)

Ironic you'd bring up ethics in a discussion of ad blockers. Considering how radio & podcasts depend on sponsorship, isn't it unethical to remove ads that pay for the content? Effectively it is stealing.


Yes. Radio and podcasts aren't entitled to their business model working, especially if their business model involves purposefully exposing their listeners to harmful material.

I believe ad blocking is ethically justified on the grounds that it's just defending yourself from other's unethical behavior, and that you're entitled to do so - claiming otherwise would imply you're supposed to be forced to sit through entirety of a performance. That would be absurd invasion of your autonomy.

Also note that you are not paying radio hosts/podcast authors through advertisements. The ad network is. The exact payout structure is complicated and agreed upon without involving me the listener, but it boils down to parties speculating that a fraction of ad impressions will turn into eventual boost in sales, and money flowing from advertisers, through networks, to publishers, based on that expectation. At no point was I consulted in this, so I feel no obligation towards participating in whatever deals these parties set up between themselves - doubly so given that I'm being harmed by those deals.

Is leaving the room during a television commercial break also stealing?

Advertisements are a form of adversarial thought control. Absolutely malicious.

Sometimes. It's not a good defence of a thing, if it is good only sometimes and only for some people. By implication it's not good for the others.

> Ads sell things. Sometimes things people want.

You've captured my issue right in this place. Ads sometimes sell things people want. All the other times are what I consider doing harm.

Further, if you buy a product that was advertised, you are paying for an unwanted service. The price of the product must be higher than the product is worth in order to fund the ad campaign.

> It's perfectly fine to block them.

I think there were some legal rulings IIRC in the UK regarding software to auto mute/block/skip ads on TV/Radio, but for the life of my can't find them.

If it was ruled illegal, then it being "perfectly fine to block them" might be correct ethically but not legally, although I suspect the details of implementation might be the important point.

If it's illegal to mute ads automatically, is it therefore illegal to mute them manually? How can automating a human function be illegal? Computers don't have legal capacity they simply do what humans tell them to. All computer actions are ultimately human actions, I don't see how they can draw a distinction between the two cases.

That's a very interesting development. If you ever find those ruling, could you send me a message with links to them?

I can't be the only one who literally can't stand the sound of radio advertising. They make a point of using as many annoying and attention-grabbing sounds as possible, not to mention the cheap and cheesy jingles.

I'll often find myself turning the radio down to the second-lowest volume it goes, so I can turn it back up when there's actual music. Equally often I turn it down and then forget about it for the rest of the trip. Honestly, a trip in silence is sometimes preferable to one where I have to micro-manage the volume knob, let alone one where I have to listen to radio ads.

Ever since raising the volume on ads was banned they simply switched to using using limiters, that basically boost all frequencies to achieve the same effect. They'll even use common ring tones or the buzz of a silenced phone to draw your attention.

Personally I mute or switch channels as soon as the commercials start and I've actually turned down at least one job offer because they had radio on the office floor.

Since (commercial, music-based) radio in the US became dominated by a handful of companies running syndicated programs, I just found myself moving away from it in general.

Too little variety, no real local personality, basically none of the things radio was great at doing.

When I'm in the car now, it's all a mix of public radio/podcasts for news and discussion and Shoutcast-type streaming radio for music. I do sometimes pull up specific stuff from my personal uploaded music collection on Google Play Music or find something else I want to hear on YouTube, etc. but not often.

The funny thing is that I've found more streaming "radio" stations that do a better job of (the things I liked about) radio than actual radio stations do. It dropped off a lot since the '00s when the cost of legally running a station skyrocketed but it still beats the endless Clear Channel wasteland on the FM dial.

Had absolutely the same sentiemnt, forgot the radio off and realized how much joy I got from it. I gave up on TV about 14 years ago and felt a lot less invaded in my home.

I block ads because I don't want to be conditioned to buy things I don't need or legitimately want. I don't want the mega rich to gradually chip away at my mind day by day, hour by hour in order to make themselves another fat pile of cash. If a site shows me some sad puppy image about me stealing their money by blocking their brainwashing, I just add their whole site to my filter.

Content on the internet powered by ads is almost entirely content made to distract people. Cutting it of my life is only doing me good. Until everything decides to block me, I'll just be blocking ads because I hate them and the industry behind them.

My clients are small business owners. They run ads. They are not "mega rich" and are not building a "fat pile of cash". You need to step outside your bubble, and consider the broader ad landscape.

The well has been poisoned. If most ads were politely advertising local businesses, nobody would object. But the essence of advertising is to seek attention, and the inevitable result of that is ads that are obnoxious and discourteous. Even if they are not outright dishonest or manipulative.

Businesses do not communicate between themselves using obnoxious language. Business letters are stereotypically formal. They reserve the brash language of advertising for their potential customers, and those subjected to it are within their rights to point out this hypocrisy.

> Content on the internet powered by ads is almost entirely content made to distract people.

If you honestly believe this about podcasts running ads, then why are you listening to them at all!?

That’s nice. Do you use gmail and other services? Because those were built and delivered for free based on the same ideas you dislike.

I find this argument very weak. Should communists not buy anything? Should anarchists not use roads?

When your political beliefs are at odds with the current legal framework, you have no choice but to compromise to some degree. That doesn't mean you don't actually believe what you claim.

My point was it comes from a entitled position. I'm not making the absolutist position, nor am I dismissing all advertising like OP, but these business models exist for a reason and that is why we have so many of our products online.

It's easy for us to use adblockers as the minority of technical users, but that's a privilege based on the other 90% still seeing them (which I personally see nothing wrong with and clearly most publishers dont want to poke the bear either).

Otherwise of course people would love to have everything free plus no ads. But ads built and paid for a lot of good things on the internet, which wouldn't have been possible had they all expected payment or other models.

I'm all for pushing Google et al to be less aggressive with ads and make the web more usable and not requiring adblockers in order to have basic performance. But I don't disparage advertising as a whole because I understand the tradeoffs.

Well if you hate ads so much, then just pay for the damn radio.

He can't, because free-with-ads is the only option on the table.

SiriusXM, Pandora, Spotify, Apple music...

Remind me to which frequencies should I tune my receiver to pick those?

Anyway, paying for ad-free and surveillance-free experience is increasingly not possible, as companies try to double-dip.

There's nowhere to buy ad free podcast episodes though.

Lots of podcasts have paid, ad-free streams

Why would anyone have to defend blocking ads? It’s a personal choice that doesn’t negatively impact anyone. You could argue that if enough people did it, it could effect the potential advertising revenue, but if that were the case then the end result is not that “people are bad for blocking ads” but rather that the current state of advertising is incompatible with user needs and desires.

TV and radio ads are probably embedding inaudible signals meant to be overheard & catalogued by your smartphone, smart home devices, etc.

Don't defend advertisers. They are vampires. Don't mournfully look upon them and proclaim, "Even these wretches must eat." Plenty of jobs need doing. Advertising is not, never has been, and never will be one of them.

I would like to assume at least Facebook and Google are doing it through their apps and devices but they might not even need the inaudible tones.

Has anyone developed a system to embed redundant inaudible signals into an audio signal? Seems like you could support publishers 100x+ more than any other listener by spoofing these, while poisoning the advertiser's dataset.

On the contrary I would say it's more defensible than other ad blockers. When blocking ads/analytics the potential advertiser sees that the ads reach just part of the audience. With audio blocking, advertiser has no feedback and only thing he an do is to guess how many people listen to the station. This blocking would have to become incredibly widespread to start matter.

Podcast ads are extremely annoying though. They tend to repeat the same message 2 or 3 times, then spell out the name of the products as if people were dumb, and this like 5 times in an hour.

I feel like I'm living in a parallel universe where podcasts either don't have ads (and are Patreon-supported) or the ads are read by the podcast hosts themselves as a humorous "bit". Which podcasts are you listening to?

The Joe Rogan Experience. I set my podcast client to skip the first 400 seconds of his shows as they are just adverts.

Podcasts feel like they are at an inflection point. Ad tech people are either going to wreck podcasting or there will be a podcasting bubble pop and the ad tech will go find some other field to destroy.

Yeah that's the point. Fuck ads.

> Neat software, but I think this is less defensible than other ad blockers.

Why is the onus on me to defend what software I run on hardware I own?

it's about users being able to control information flow on their own devices in whatever way they want. the privacy concerns are secondary.

Isn't technology supposed to make our lives better and solve problems? If skipping the ad manually is fine and defensible, then so is telling a machine to do it for you.

Frankly, I don't care whether people think it's defensible or not. If something's only purpose is to waste my time and sell me shit I don't need I will use every possible solution (whether technical, legal - GDPR complaints, etc - or else) to get rid of it and make my life better.

Maybe instead of thinking whether blocking/skipping ads is defensible, we should ask ourselves why as a society we are accepting having an industry whose only mission is to waste as much of humanity's time as possible while manipulating them to do things against their best interest?

I don't see why blocking ads for the sake of blocking ads shouldn't be a good enough reason to block ads. As a user I'm not in charge of ensuring that the market works, and I'm certainly not required to ensure that corporations make a profit. It's their duty to do so, and companies making a profit out of ads have proven repeatedly that they will seek profits however feasible. The worst thing one might be doing by blocking ads is to breach some contractual agreement, assuming that one was ever undersigned. The only reason one should refrain from blocking ads for the sake of blocking ads would be if that was illegal. But I don't know of any criminal law that punishes such a behavior, and honestly I don't think it would easy to draft one. I certainly will block ads whenever possible, which in first place means paying for the services I like (entertainment, email, productivity, news, etc.). But when paying is not an option, and too often it is not, I simply quit the service (e.g. Facebook), or block the ads when even that won't work (surfing the web).

You have a point that radio ads are less hostile and invasive than more targeted advertisement, but that argument feels a bit like "It's less defensible to resist a stabbing, because it's better than getting shot"

Resisting psychological manipulation by entities that don't want the best for you remains highly defensible.

Media creators want what's best for the hand that feeds them.

Both advertisers and mediums that host advertisements are subjecting me to messages that are intentionally designed to influence my behavior, often in ways that 1) I did not ask for, and would not elect given a choice 2) are misleading 3) are interruptive or otherwise undermine the utility of whatever I'm watching/listening to.

There's a similar justification/motive outlined on the main site https://www.adblockradio.com/en/

Many ads are justifiable to block in and of themselves because of the message they send.

"Do you have ugly crooked yellow teeth..." Why do we need to tell people that crooked teeth are inherently ugly. This sort of add is the reason we have girls under 10 worrying about getting braces when their dentist never even mentioned the idea and who are whitening their teeth.

Not all are that bad, and some ads exist just to inform. But given that someone doesn't know until they have already had to listen to the ad, it makes simple enough to justify.

Ads themselves are not defensible. Trying to manipulate others for gain is a disgusting practice. It can lead to depression in individuals and encourages extreme materialism in culture. There's no such thing as an acceptable ad.

Advertising is necessary (paid or not it's the same shit) for small businesses to get off the ground, at all. Cut off ads and you'll strangle thousands of startups/SMBs. Physical ads haven't lost their effectiveness. If they had then we'd be in real trouble.

I don't like ads either but remember there are multiple perspectives here. We should focus on purging bad actors than the entire practice. For now though, I see ad blockers as the tools of change and fully support them.

There is nothing wrong with simple ads. The problem is that at least a century of research into persuasion techniques have morphed ads into objects that can seriously compromise your beliefs and emotions in ways that you did not consent to. Modern ads are the equivalent of refined sugar products we have today compared to the relatively tame fruits. Eating fruits is great, eating refined sugar products is terrible for human health.

Currently, once a few businesses in the market start using refined-sugar type ads everyone else has to or they die. I want legislation that only allow ads that are the fruit kind, not the refined-sugar kind. Until that happens, I will block all ads.

100% there on the analogy. It's incredibly difficult to define but I think we can put some boundaries on it straight away - flashing ads, usage of audio for static ads.

Those things are just annoying. They are not even remotely the most dangerous tactics. See the discussion here [1] on Google Fi's advertisement for medium level tactics. Things like font sizes, colors, placement of text have already primed your mind to think 50 dollars. It will take a huge amount of rational thought to overturn the good gut feeling one has developed toward Google's offering based on the false 50 dollars statement.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21011175

>Advertising is necessary (paid or not it's the same shit) for small businesses to get off the ground, at all.

I think there is an issue here because people are talking about different kinds of ads.

A new restaurant putting an ad out that lets people know what the attraction of the new restaurant is (the first Hispanic Sushi bar in town) is not a problem at all (to me, anyways). But if you listen to ads you will find that many don't fall into that category. Political ads are a big example, but also many ads for cosmetic surgery and weight loss. The ads for scams are some of the worst (though generally those last only a few days per scam). Ads for gold that try to scare people into making investment decisions that aren't likely in their best interest are another example.

If ads self policed themselves better perhaps people wouldn't be so set on blocking them.

Maybe we don't need yet another penis enlargement startup?

I'm not talking about that garbage. I'm talking about the mom and pop stores. The catering service, the stationery shop, etc.. These services are competing with shit (other ads) right now. Wouldn't it be nice if we could clean up the ecosystem and have these companies benefit?

Absolutely agreed! And these services you mention have to expend great amount of money and effort at advertising, and often resort to dishonest practices, because the market is already saturated with advertisements.

I like to picture it like this: if everyone around you is shouting through a bullhorn, you have to use a bullhorn too just to have a shot at being heard by the person next to you. But how about taking away everyone's bullhorns? Suddenly, people would have a chance to have an actual conversation.

A floor needs to be put, to stop the ethical race to the bottom, and that floor needs to be put way above where advertising industry currently is.

If I need a catering service or a stationery shop I do a search and look for the websites, not the ads (which are blocked anyway). I don't see how ads disappearing would prevent them from getting business through their website.

At the moment everyone "needs" ads because everyone else does it. If this cancer would disappear then everyone is on a level playing field and can attract business by ranking well on search engines, etc.

Sorry, I never saw such ads in my life before. That garbage, however...

I agree. These ads exist (I do see them a lot in Search) but at a much lower proportion than other places. The reason is it's a quantity game and it's much more expensive to buy ads for irrelevant keywords whereas display ads aren't like that.

This is an over exaggeration that doesn’t imply a lot of thought for the consequences.

How are new products and inventions supposed to create word of their existence? As a musician I see ads for new VSTs and instruments or accessories all the time I’ve never heard of, and affect my workflow in a massively significant and positive way.

Why would you feel the need to defend it? It's your bandwidth. Your paying for it. Filter the content you access however you like with a clear conscience.

I have mostly given up on Radio when I am driving my car ( Thanks Bluetooth and Amazon music). It has gotten worse over the past few years. I live in Delhi, India, and we have our fair share of Radio channels here.

Over the last ten years, I have noticed a pretty interesting ( disturbing ? ) trend in the Ads that are streamed across all the Radio channels. Back when the whole Radio scene was just starting up, the ads were few, the RJs used to talk a lot more ( and made sense ) and songs were played in entirety.

Slowly they have changed to a point where RJs are just meant to be show pieces who are there to say not more than four-five lines of jokes/sarcasms during a two hour period.

The Songs are not played in their entirety. They are stripped at both ends.

The Ads have gotten louder, more offensive, aggressive etc.

And now some Radio Channels tend have small sound bites that are played repeatedly all day, that justify the streaming of Ads. This I really don't understand.

Edit: Typos

I've recently been to Romania and rediscovered radio. I haven't listened in a decade due to ads, but seems like at least one station there manages to keep a good balance: https://www.dancefm.ro/ - their ads are relatively rare and not obnoxious (I guess not understanding the language helps).

It's a cool technical achievement, sure. But as a listener of many podcasts I do not support this at all. I love that podcasters can make a living or at least a little money while I listen for free.

I suppose you've never once fast-forwarded through an ad in a podcast you listen to.

Do not use it, then.

I think the podcasts i listen to will not work, the moderators speak the ads themselves. Luckily it‘s easy to skip ahead 15 seconds at a time. At least ads in podcasts cannot track me so i don‘t feel i have to block them for that reason alone.

There's a thing called "server side ad injection" (more like cancer injection) that inserts arbitrary ads directly in the audio stream so the ad is independent from the original producer. Presumably they do some rudimentary tracking based on IPs, user-agent and whether your podcast client downloaded the file past the point where the ad is injected.

I worked in that industry 12 years ago, and already back then indeed there was a simple method to link some ID (usually cookie) to the injected content.

The startup I worked at used it for contests, out of 100k downloads of a podcast, 1 of them would get a different starting or ending segment to give away something. So it was persistent to your user-login on the podcasting portal (which was a thing back then :-))

I'm fine with podcast ads because I want the excellent podcasts I enjoy to continue existing. That said, I cannot stand injected ads, since they're often injected in awkward places and are jarring to the experience. I'll (not exactly happily but not angrily) listen to a live read where the podcaster has at least taken the time to try not to destroy the flow of the entire podcast.

All that said, the best ads (from a listener experience POV) are the extremely short, to the point ads that are honestly too short to put the effort into skipping. Planet Money (and the NPR podcasts I listen to in general) does this well. I'm curious what their CPMs are relative to a typical ad.

Yeah I listen to a somewhat niche podcast from the UK, and recently I've been getting ads in my native German in it.

Also, there's difference between a company sending in a clip to be played, and actually having the presenter say the ad out loud themselves.

The latter is unthinkable on commercial radio, where separating ads from 'content' is a skill unto itself.

Indeed in this situation it will not work in the current state of the ad detector.

I used to block ads on ShoutCast, 15 years ago.

StreamRipper cut the streams by ID3 tag change and accompanying silence. My script just played the ripped MP3s, and ignored the ones with an ad-like ID3 title or that were too short to be a song. You could either pre-record and then skip backward and forward, or listen live and have nothing played back in the ex-ad gaps.

I even had a remote control with "keep current" and "keep previous" buttons, to put the songs into my archive.

Until the Content Mafia ruined everything to keep their cocaine flowing. :/ (I worked in there, and I have enough material, to testify on the cocaine abuse that dominate[ds] the industry.)

Great idea by the way. Of course skipping commercials in any kind of media was always a thing to do and was not invented for web ads only.


Nice! Wanted to try something similar for a while using SDR to capture FM radio and start switching radio stations when the radio jockey starts speaking i.e. automatically switch stations when songs are not playing.

The Radio jockeys here (India) have started promoting ads as part of their regular content without any disclaimers or mentions that it is a promotion. e.g. They just say, 'you should put your child in this college for 100% placement' without mentioning they are being sponsored to say so.

So, just adblocker wont cut; I need (RJ+ad) blocker. I might have a jumpstart thanks to this project!

Contact the advertiser's sales department, waste their time, then chew them out for their shady advertising practices. Tell them that every time you hear an ad for them without a disclaimer, you will personally tell 10 friends or strangers that their organization is run by unethical crooks and should be avoided at all cost.

Since you're in India, I wonder how economical it would be to hire a telemarketing company to do this for you.

Although it might legally possible for me to take them to court for their advertising practices, integrity in Indian media is very negligible.

Only few news media, mostly those which had been existing for over hundred years as news paper, still maintain some integrity after switching to online media but obviously they are at the verge of bankruptcy as they cannot compete with limited attention, instant gratification, confirmation bias fuelling media houses.

A robodialer with a message complaining about their advertising practices could probably lock up their sales line for a couple days for the same cost as a few meals. Humans would likely be more persuasive though.

Be sure to complain when there’s no more free radio targeting your taste!

We also need to start seeing advertising as a way for publishers/performers/makers to cut a slice of benefit from corporate profits. If we remove advertising everywhere, corporates are just going to seek non-media ways to market , and the whole mediascape will lose.

As far as I remember there was an Internet without ads. I don't think we need literal garbage stimuli for media to thrive.


Not that long ago. When I was in university in 1996 there were almost no ads. When I left university in 1999 there were a lot more. The quality of content didn't really increase in that time.

Right now there are youtube channels that don't monetize, and have good content. There are soundcloud profiles, blogs and short stories that have no ads.

Most of the advertised internet is garbage, but it's also by far the most popular, due to the ads.

Advertising skews people's views of worthiness, and makes a mockery of honest recommendations. That's literally what it was invented to do!

That content is still there, with no ads. You can limit yourself to academic institution websites if you want.

Funny enough. Every time I visit my favored academic institution's athletics department website, I get asked to turn off my ad blocker.

Sounds like a net positive to me.

Media living in fear of offending advertisers limits the range of acceptable discourse and causes it to slant corporatist.

nah , ad-supported media are invariably more diverse. Fear of offending subscribers leads to much more self-censorship

Ad supported media tends to be much more "clickbaity", and I don't think self-censorship to avoid offending corporations is healthy for society.

being clickbaity and being diverse are orthogonal

Inevitably the goal of a project like this is going to start the fiery debate around artist compensation, free content, and advertising in general. BUT this is a great way to really see (or rather hear) ML work.

It reminds me a little of some TiVo competitor back-in-the-day where you could hit a "skip commercials" button and it would try to get back to the show by some visual or audible change/gap. Since then, somehow we've lost interest in being able to skip commercials but I still remember fast-forwarding on my VCR and how it hurt that DVDs prevented even that.

This is solid progress on one side of the fence because you know the other side is working on new things too.

This is not a good thing.

Ad-blockers on the internet are justified because of invasive tracking. Radio and podcasts have no such thing, and ads are are central to their sustainability.

If you want to push the world to improve, you can't just rage blindly, you have to identify and move towards a solution that's sustainable for everyone. In the case of ad-supported businesses and services, this means non-tracking, non-intrusive advertisement (combined with subscription models, but that doesn't work for everything).

If you want to push back against tracking in ads, you have to support non-tracking ads. Otherwise there's no incentive for anything to change.

> If you want to push back against tracking in ads, you have to support non-tracking ads.

Why? I don't want any ads whatsoever.

Maybe it's harsh but if they can't survive without ads then let them go? Many good podcasts already charge money.

Well for one thing, it would be literally impossible to establish a subscription model for radio stations. For another thing, online news sources have been trying to make subscriptions work for years and nobody's figured out how to do it yet.

But going beyond that, who are you to declare that entire mediums' worth of content is invalid simply because of the lack of available mechanisms for collecting the revenue they need to sustain themselves? What a gross oversimplification.

If you want behavior to change, you have to provide a valid alternative. You can only say "I won't put up with X" if there's a viable Y to replace it with. Otherwise it's just "I won't put up with you". In which case, when it comes to businesses, the other party will either get even more aggressive with their tactics, or just die altogether.

>just die altogether

Sounds good. I preferred when websites existed as a result of a person's individual passion on a particular topic, not the network of fake news clickbait vying for attention that we have now.

So you'd like online journalism to just die off because they can't figure out how to get money from the people who benefit from their work?

There's a few community radio stations in my home city. They play good music, support local musicians and local venues, and are largely funded by voluntary memberships. This membership gets you a bumper sticker and a good feeling.

Contrast this to the commercial radio stations which allocate a huge proportion of their airtime to annoying, dishonest, manipulative ads employing all sorts of shady tactics (like those discussed elsewhere in this comments thread) to try to part me with my money.

Sure, those sound great, but that's not a subscription, that's a donation. And sustaining something via donations requires a huge confluence of people caring about something all at the same time with single-minded intentionality. It's fantastic when it works out, but it's far from being something you can just prescribe as a solution. People are finnicky, and without a unifying ethos this model simply isn't realistic in the general case.

This is the biggest strength of government-organized public spending, by the way. Some people say private organizations - when you include nonprofits - can accomplish anything a government can. And that's true in theory, but in practice certain things don't work at all unless everyone's on the exact same page. And turns out it's really hard getting everyone on the exact same page. So democracy says "we're going to vote on what that exact same page is, but then we're all going to act as a single unit no matter how we individually feel about the decision". Some things can only work that way.

>> Well for one thing, it would be literally impossible to establish a subscription model for radio stations.

I get what you’re saying, but Sirius XM would like a word with you.

Despite the name, it's really not the same thing at all.

Usually, I don't like when projects describe themselves using large brands as comparison.

But this one is great

'Machine learning meets Shazam.'

This is like saying "SERP meets Google".

Actually Shazam is tech for acoustic fingerprinting, which is quite far away from machine learning. In your example SERP and Google name almost the same thing.

Ok This is incredible. Can we make PRs or something to propose new radio streams? I will definitely use it a lot.

Thanks I didn't notice. I love the initiative, will try to become maintainer of my favourite radio.

I'm totally okay with ads in my podcasts if they're helping fund one of my favorite activities without profiling and tracking me as an individual. I don't want even more podcasts to go to Patron route - I can't afford it. I seriously hope this doesn't become popular.

Right now, there's teams of people at companies like Spotify and Stitcher, frantic in front of whiteboards, trying to plan a future for podcasts wherein it will be harder/impossible to skip the ads.

First, they have to control the distribution. Then, they have to build the tech, which will obviously involve some kind of DRM.

To say that I hope they fail is an understatement.

But I know they'll try because in the internet economy, companies simply must fight, kick, and scratch for every last fraction of penny of advertising revenue.

I hope that they are unable to wrest sufficient control over the distribution channels to force this ugly future upon us. Indie podcasts will be safe, but the well-produced, mainstream podcasts will go the way of cable TV and it will be gross. Ads ruin everything.

I'm waiting for a podcast app with crowd sourced timestamp like sound cloud for people to mark ads. Alternatively for injected ads, it would be somewhat trivial to run the same podcast episode downloaded in different regions through transcription services and clip over the difference. Or build fingerprints of similar sounding clips from different podcasts to single out ads. I suppose you'll also have people manually clipping out ads once podcast piracy becomes more prevalent as shows become platform exclusives.

There was a post about NPR raking in ad dollars yesterday, and I've heard in passing that their research team have evaluated DRM before.

A lack of balance is why we can't have nice things. There has to be a middle ground where publishers make money to keep publishing and consumers of those publishing keep consuming the content without being annoyed to the point of wanting to abolish all ads.

The result of extremism here is that it wouldn't be viable financially to produce content. Paid subscription models don't seem to work leaving advertising the only revenue stream publishers have.

I'm saying all this from a content consumer point of view, not a publishing one.

'What about my business model' is not a valid argument. You are not in fact entitled to one. Personally I'd rather see 95% less 'content' on the Internet if it meant it were ad free. I'd rather have no Facebook than one that serves you personalized ads. I'd rather have no online news media than news websites that serve ads. I'd rather have no television programs than watch programs with commercials. 'Content creators' often overestimate how much people care about their 'content' and they think we couldn't do without them. Well, most of us can. And most of us hate ads.

I'm sure, in an ad-free world, that content creators who really care would find a way to make it work. Maybe there'd be less content this way, but so be it. Quality isn't quantity.

You do, and that's fine for you. But I rather have a reasonable amount of ads to support content, than have no content at all. I do use Facebook as a means to communicate with a lot of people and catch up with friends and family. I consume content form sites that do have ads. I agree the situation is not balanced at the moment, but cutting out 95% of the internet is not a solution. There has to be a balanced middle ground.

You're conflating 'no content at all' and 'cutting 95% of the Internet'. Honestly there's so much stuff out there that you wouldn't even notice even if 99.9% of the Internet content were removed overnight. There are always people somewhere willing to create content without serving you ads. This much content, however little (in proportion to the rest) should be enough to satiate anyone's needs. Who needs the rest.

Pretty good odds that the content you care about is in that 99.9%, so people would certainly notice except for those with such broad/pop tastes that they are easily satisfied with anything, which seems to be the only people you're talking about.

Maybe 10% or less of Facebook's current per-user ad viewing time would be enough to sustain a service that allows to keep in touch with people (thanks to economies of scale) but the problem is, once you introduce ads, greed comes along for a ride and that's why we can't have nice things. Since "being reasonable" isn't a thing that ad people understand, I'm happy for their entire shitty industry to die and burn in hell.

Not that I'm opposed to it going the way of the dodo, ad free Facebook just isn't viable. The product is shit and nobody would pay for it just like how the majority* would never pay for email. And why should they? They're already paying for their internet bill.

*HN users not withstanding

Ad-free Facebook would not be viable at its current (extreme) valuation. A honest business providing Facebook-like features would be viable if they don't have to pay back billions to investors.

Note that the product is shit because it's designed to waste your time ("engagement" and "growth" and all these bullshit words). The product would improve significantly if it was paid because then the incentive would be to deliver value to their users so they keep using the product & paying for it.

> They're already paying for their internet bill.

Why can't it just be included in your internet bill? If Facebook (or whatever paid alternative replaces it) becomes mainstream I can see ISPs just including it in their packages.

`content creators who really care would find a way to make it work` is a terrible way to think.

All that means is the barrier to entry increases from anyone, from any background and means to people who can afford to produce content already. You lose the young kids starting out, you loose those from poorer backgrounds, you loose the creatives working on their side projects while working a 9 to 5 because they can no longer afford to make content.

If _you_ don't want ads don't consume the content, you're not entitled to it. Quality might not be quantity but quantity (being able to continue to produce content without a huge financial burden) develops quality.

People are already making content without monetizing it, and have been for decades. As alien a way of thinking as it may seem to some, many human beings do not need a bizarre system of 'market-based incentives' to get anything done at all. They just do it, out of passion, boredom, to learn, or to share with friends. Are you seriously implying the 'young kid starting out' has Youtube monetization all setup in order, or has sponsors knocking on their door?

Your posts actually seem like the sort of perversion that ads have inflicted on our relationship with content and how they've trained us to value content at $0.

I don't really understand how waiting around and hoping for someone to make something out of hobby or charity is a reasonable stance when content brings me a non-zero amount of value and entertainment, when I can pay for it and get better results. Life is too short to sit and pray that someone else will feel like doing something for free that will happen to benefit me.

The idea seems a bit juvenile. Or as if we're all such simpletons that anything will please us all the same, it doesn't matter, so just wait for the next free shit.

I don't even understand how this idea survives concrete examples. If I happen to enjoy someone's free hobby content, then I directly benefit from their ability to make a living producing that content.

> Your posts actually seem like the sort of perversion that ads have inflicted on our relationship with content and how they've trained us to value content at $0.

Bingo. He's unwittingly the poster child for the devaluation of human capital.

>I don't even understand how this idea survives concrete examples.

Lol you don't understand how knowledge can be shared between two or more parties without one of them making a profit? Am I reading this right?

I think the concept you're missing is called a "gift economy". It's actually more fundamental to humans than the market economy, it underpins society, and it lets the market economy exist in the first place.

> when I can pay for it and get better results

That's called "commissioning a work of art". Or, iterated, can be turned into patronage. Unlike advertising, this is a honest and correct way of rewarding creation of art using market means.

What percentage of HN users do you think are posting because they are paid to do so?

This seems like a relatively high quality site compared to the rest of the internet.

People will make content as a hobby, but you won't see people doing it on the level (frequency or quality) they have been today. Internet likes and shares are nice but if they won't pay the bills, and a lot of creators will prioritize their time accordingly.

I have a hard time believing that someone on HN, a crowd whose primary job involves using free software and whose primary hobby is reading Wikipedia articles, would just idly speculate about things against the most blatant contrary evidence.

But then, this being HN, this sort of speculation is to be expected, heh.

Wikipedia is a great example. They have to go begging the world every few months to keep the greatest website in the world operating. HN (and dang's job) is funded by the excess of YCombinator, and the rest of us just show up to chat whenever.

But both of these sites show that:

1) Extraordinary value can indeed be created for free, simply because people want to contribute something. You'll note that all the money pays for in both cases is hosting.

2) Both sites can exist without involving the advertising industry and all its corruption.

I don't remember many young video creators before Youtube.

You know what Youtube runs on, right? It's not just the creators who get money from ads.

Young video creators have been around but not at this scale because youtube or instagram props them up and makes them influencers. They have no life experience and yet are influencing millions of other young people. The sad part is that everything is shocking content to get their visitors up. This is broken imo and can’t lead to anything good. Of course, few of them become millionares

No platform, no audience(+). No audience, no creators(+).

(+) In general.

Youtube itself had lots of young creators before they started the monetizing game and they were creating content for free and a lot of it was good, honest and creative. Along with the monetization and aggressive promotion everything went into a shocking craze to increase the number of followers, the number of views and the volume of content. A lot of it is just crap.

Sure, but the question is whether Youtube as a platform could survive without the ad income.

> If _you_ don't want ads don't consume the content, you're not entitled to it.

The vast majority of on-line marketing is outright hostile towards the people it targets; it's a constant battle for attention, PII, and bandwidth and it comes with side effects like actual malware spreading through ad networks. Until that changes, ads should be considered as threats, and they should be blocked at the door regardless of what the content creator thinks about it.

Music to my ears. It is always breathtaking to see the number of people who cling to the religion of ad-supported content as _the only way forward_.

Bad UX as a business model? It can't go away soon enough.

Paid subscription models don't work in presence of advertising, because advertising-based models have a huge advantage of being ostensibly free. If we could get rid of the advertising-based models, paid models would become profitable again.

(It's like observing that horses don't work for races because motorcycles outpace them. Well, get rid of the motorcycles and horse racing makes sense again.)

We can't have nice things because advertising is inherently cancerous in nature. It will grow and repurpose everything it touches until it too serves to feed the advertising machine and depends on it for survival. There's as much balance to be found here as there is with cell growth rates - you want them at the level that supports the functioning of the organism, and not somewhere in the middle between that and the fastest-growing cancer cells.

What's even worse is that customers that are actually paying for the service are the best target for ads.

They pay premium for access to those.

Why do paid subscription models not work?

Apple Music, Spotify and Tidal seem to work. Switched to Tidal recently, love the reach incl. ECM label!

(If there would be something comparable for newspapers I'd pay too, as is, I ublockorigin (or abstain))

They do work, I pay Netflix, Spotify and Prime. But there is a limit. I can't pay every single publisher. Micropayments didn't seem to have taken off, and when I hit paywalls these days I turn away - I don't want a subscription in order to consume one article. I now dread the day where content will be so distributed across publishers and subscriptions, we'd be back at the start in a cable-company style world.

I'm not saying ads are good, and no ads are great. I'm saying there has to be a balance. And publishers are best to realise this as well since the more they push, the more people will push back.

Maybe (just a passing thought as I'm typing), the ad pricing model should change? Maybe if ads were more expensive and more selective it would offset the revenue by quantity into revenue by quality ad-wise...

I can't pay every single publisher either. When I occasionally read articles from about 5 newspapers, I couldn't (well, don't want to) subscribe to all of them.

Ads are not my main issue, the trackers and the website-bloat are. If I could trust the intermediary I'd voluntarily supply my interests in order to facilitate better ads (but there would need to be a resonably small scope of where this information goes).

Trackers are indeed a big part of the problem. I have a feeling that sometime in the near future we'll see a rise of publisher-aggregators. Pay once, to access many. (that's a glove thrown there, in case anyone missed it)

Perhaps micropayments haven't taken of because of the ad industry.

The false dichotomy of "ads vs any content at all, whatsoever" plays perfectly into the narrative of the scummy advertising industry.

Consumer tastes change. Just as we saw a precipitous drop in smokers from the 1950s to now, we are witnessing a sea change where the human parasites are slowly waking up to the revelation that their business model has a sunset.

Consumers are starting to be more vocal and active in their (justified) desire to not be bombarded with advertising everywhere they go.

currently Malcolm Gladwell is doing sponsorship for Revisionist History by splicing episodes with mini 30-60sec advertorials in which he interviews AT&T Chief Marketing Officer about the awesomeness of AT&T's 5G. It's genius, because it comes across as

- informative

- non-spammy

and with the typical easy to digest Gladwellian narration.

What's egregious about it to my taste is that much like Gladwell's podcasts, it suggests to the audience that is simply the facts and totally fair, while all the questions are very much, "Is AT&T's 5G offering fantastic or awesome? And how long before I can use it?"

For someone literate in the topic it goes beyond the normal "don't let facts get in the way of a good story" that most podcasting falls into and you can hear the AT&T ad guys writing the script. But for the average listener it is just smooth, easy listening that draws you in without you realizing it is paid advertising attempting to win you over for a financial goal.

Native ad reads can be fun and deceptive. Linus Tech Tips WAN Show has the courtesy of including timestamps that allows you to skip past ads or at minimum, identify which segments are clearly delineated as ads. I don't suppose most content producers will volunteer that information and have it marked on the seekbar or some other clear UI element to indicate when advertisement is playing. Isn't that a legal requirement for videos even on youtube? Podcast gets away with it by dumping a sponsorship disclaimer in the show info metadata.

> trying to plan a future for podcasts wherein it will be harder/impossible to skip the ads.

Aren't most podcasts selling flat rate slots to run ads?

Example: Company A gives podcast author $X amount of dollars to run a 30-60 second ad in their 1 hour podcast.

If all 10,000 listeners don't listen to the ad then the podcast author still gets the same amount of ad revenue.

My thought process on that is, if I begin to hear an ad on a podcast and it's for something I didn't plan to buy anyways, then I will skip the ad by fast forwarding within 3 seconds. But if a solution existed where I couldn't do that then I wouldn't end up making the purchase by listening to the ad. I'd probably switch the podcast off for something else until the ad played out and that comes with the risk of me not going back to the podcast because I found something more interesting.

If nobody listens to the ad, how much more episodes will the advertiser be willing to pay for?

None, but the people who skip the ads manually now are not going to buy the ad's product if they can't skip the ad. They were non-buyers in either case.

Ad skippers are generally a different type of person who won't be convinced to buy something just because they were forced to listen to it. They will however buy something on their own terms and some of them also like to show support for the things they listen to or watch by donating directly to the content provider (I do this a lot with music).

People who skip ads are, in general, just as susceptible to them as most other people. So yes, if they are forced to listen to it, they will, in general, buy more of these products.

Advertising works because it is psychology. Nothing rational about it.

That's the thing though. We're not in a Black Mirror scenario where you're really forced to listen to ads (thankfully haha).

If an ad plays, you can just flip to something else just like tons of people do on cable TV. If a podcast starts forcing ad plays then ad skippers will just switch to something else until the ad is done.

If someone really doesn't want to listen to an ad then they will find ways to avoid it. This is partly why piracy is so popular. It usually has little to do with price. It's just wanting to watch or listen to something without having ancillary content forced upon you in a distracting way.

Fair enough, I misread your original comment and my reaction was to people who automatically skip ads (through some sort of adblocker). The idea was that when you have to do it manually, you'll do it less often than when it happens automatically, and you -will- hear the advertisements and, in general, it -will- lead to more sales.

People who furiously skip the ads manually will indeed remain unaffected.

If you think about how advertising works, you can partially inoculate yourself from this by changing your perception of ads.

If two products are the same price, but only one is advertised, the advertised product must be inferior because they are using your money to try to manipulate you.

Next time you watch TV, notice the brands and consider their competitors. Advertisers tend to be inferior quality and optimizing for short-term gains over customer benefit in comparison to their competitors.

Why does Mazda advertise so much more than Toyota? Because they provide less value per dollar, and have to make that up via thought manipulation.

If nobody buys the product, the Company won't buy ads again from that podcast

The problem is us. We don't pay. We spend ridiculous amounts on nice cars, vacations, fancy clothes, but everything else gets scraps.

50 dollar for a book? Ha! 9,99 max and that's pushing it.

100 dollar to get access to a podcast with 200 hours of quality content that may change your life. Ha! 19,99 if I'm having a good day.

100-300 dollar a month for quality TV? Ha!! I'll pay 10 and then watch BS commercials all fucking day.

i will never listen to a podcast on spotify, stitcher et al for exactly this reason.

Could it be.. Native advertising for songs? /s

In the same way that the mp3 changed the music industry, bittorrent changed how Hollywood made movies adblockers are going to reshape how the internet works.

Because adblockers drive down the value of ads so substantially companies will give up on trying to pay their overhead costs by using advertising and instead switch to a Netflix like subscription model.

The irony with this is that once you’ve had to log in to a site with payment information your privacy and anonymity are completely erased and you’ve often given the provider the ability to run background and credit checks on yourself.

Please do television next, I'll donate for this functionality even if all it does is auto-mute my "smart" tv, so I can tune out the mindnumbing advertising.

totally agree!

I Italy very often ads are in higher volume: so annoying, so maybe a filter will sure add info on how to spot ads

Smart TV's might have some developer accessible APIs, would love to contribute to an open source smartTV OS, anyone know if this project already exists?

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