It's interesting to imagine a world where you have to explicitly agree to be exposed to information. I think I would rather like that world.
Correct, Banksy never asked permission before shoving his advertising in my face.
Happy enough to use the system when it makes him money.
Anyways, property can still be argued about, and cities will make laws to make sure nothing gooes out of control. I prefer seeing graffitis than large ads.
And I don't necessarily agree with your preference. My family used to own a large, historical house that had a huge front wall because the terrain was very elevated from street level. And I can tell you from experience, most "graffiti" is worthless crap scrabbled by drunk teenagers without ANY artistic talent or ANY worthwhile message to the world. If you give graffiti a pass because there's the one-in-a-million Banksy, you should also tolerate ads everywhere because a few of them happen to be awesome.
That's an interesting conception of one's natural rights in a public space, given that basically nothing in a public space "gives you choice whether you see it or not" by the definition of "public space." The following does not sound different in principle from the quote:
"Any member of the opposite sex (who with their looks implies you're not sexy enough and all the fun is elsewhere blah blah BLAH) who gives you no choice whether you see them or not is yours. They're yours to take, 're-arrange and re-use'."
I honestly don't see a difference except in degree (and hence in jail time I'd prefer to see resulting from actions based on each of the attitudes, roughly 15 days and 15 years, respectively.)
There's a big difference between blocking ads on my machine and spraying ads in a public space. The latter is a small-time prank of course and nothing close to a serious crime, but the philosophical basis for it cited above couldn't be more off IMO.
Except for that thing about human rights and dignity, the violation of which is fundamental to the reason why there's jail time for transgressing upon it.
Whereas ads are... really just ads, as long as we don't have anything equivalent for them.
What if I paint the walls of my house and a street artist decides my taste is intolerably poor and sprays the walls?
What if I own a shop and advertise something in that painting and it gets sprayed?
What if it's a corporation who puts up the ad?
What if a guy (say Bill G) runs a corporation that someone dislikes and throws a pie at them (as someone in fact did?)
What if someone doesn't like seeing women or people of color on ads and sprays them? (a real-life situation)
Where's the line - when are you free to act in public disregarding others? I for one would imaginably prefer a pie thrown into my face to having something I painted on a wall sprayed over. Why is the former a question of "dignity" while the latter isn't? Is it because corporations have no dignity? What about a model whose image is altered by misogynists - is she entitled to "dignity"?
I think that being too particular about rights ("ads are just ads" hence not covered by rights etc.) is the way to lose all the rights.
(By the same token - not being too particular - all the cases above should cost the perpetrator the same IMO, 15 days of detention, tops I'd guess, although the guy throwing the pie at Bill Gates is much less scary to me than the ad-spraying misogynists; unless you manage to prove the latter constitutes hate speech or such.)
* "publicly distributed information" is a shop's name and a perpetrator adds racist slurs to that name (the shop is operated by a member of a race disliked by the racist in question.)
* the act of "rearrangement" performed by a "street artist" to a human being is having a pie thrown at them. the human being in question ran a Ponzi scheme and just got out of the courtroom, having proven plausible deniability.
Which one feels subjectively worse? Is this example consistent with "rights assigned to information" and "rights assigned to human beings" residing on entirely different planes?
Well, that's pretty concerning.
OK, that's it. You're done. You've passed the point of no return in this discussion, and are no longer participating honestly. You're just going for shock value.
Not only are they publishing it, they're announcing its presence on social media, performing "search engine optimizations", and cross-promoting it on other non-web technologies (radio, tv, printed media, etc.).
... At no point, as a consumer of this content, did I get presented with so much as a simple "In return for consuming this content, you agree that you will look at the ads being shown here".
I also haven't agreed to such things for cable tv or radio - but guess what? I don't generally consume those media products, in large part because the formats are linear and full of "unskippable" ads.
Nothing is stopping the web from moving to this format. There are many sites out there that present an interstitial of some sort before moving onto the main content. And every time I end up on one of those sites, if my ad blocker isn't dealing with it somehow, I generally remember and avoid visiting the next time.
If you want me to pay for the web content that you're publishing because that's the business model you've decided on, be up front and attempt to get a paid agreement from me. Or deal with the fact that I'm part of the audience that doesn't look at the ads in print media, mutes or skips channels on TV, and installs ad blockers for the web.
Isn't it common knowledge that many sites rely on ads for their revenue? Sit-down restaurants in the U.S. don't tell you as you walk in that you're expected to tip, but it's common knowledge that wait staff aren't paid minimum wage because customers are expected to tip. Yet, it's generally considered rude to not tip even though it's even easier than installing an ad blocker and restaurants won't refuse you service, whereas some websites try to block ad blockers.
Edit: Added last sentence.
That's also something the rest of the world scratches its head about. I'm not sure the best way to make your point is to use an example of how absurd the US is.
Similarly, ads have issues, but blocking them is not fair to the creator, who reasonably expected ad impressions in exchange for creating the content and paying for visitors' traffic.
Very likely "unkind", but I categorically reject your framing of it as "cheating by the customer".
The practical and ethical responsibility for a livable wage lies with the employer, even if your specific state's laws permit them to violate it.
The real culprits are (collectively) the lawmakers and their donors, who allow this "race to the bottom", followed by the employers who benefit every day from the workers' powerlessness.
Or, to put it another way: "Donate cash to my salaried employee out of pity, so I don't have to pay them for their actual work! If you don't do it, they'll starve and it'll be all your fault!"
Tipping is a cultural thing. And practically wait staff make much more from tips than they would if they were paid hourly by their employers.
I agree with the OP. The content creator was not upfront about wanting money and used adverts, and we are within our right to say no, I'm not lowering myself to watch this advert.
It's time we accept that adverts are not the solution.
In addition, is it just me or are most adverts just crap and garbage that lower the overall experience every time?
* No tipping. Employers are required to pay a living wage. ($17-21/hour, depending on some factor)
* Sales tax is included in the price. No "add x% at the register" crap.
"Common"? No it isn't. ~65% of Americans live in states where that would be ILLEGAL, and those employers would be committing the crime of wage-theft.
Maybe the real problem is your state's laws.
Where I am, at the very least, wait staff are required to be paid minimum wage, like (almost) everyone else.
Nowhere did I imply that. Everything I mentioned was webpage reading/viewing content that the publishers themselves announced across the world, hoping to get readers - who in turn would view their ads.
I don't have a problem with people using adblockers (I use NoScript myself, which has a similar effect), but let's not pretend that it's some kind of ethical action you're taking; that because a website hasn't entered into a formal contract to show you ads, that it's ethically fair that you block them.
And while you didn't imply the situation I described, that situation is using the same arguments you are using - "it's public" and "I wasn't asked not to".
Whatever; doesn't matter.
To make the leap from "I chose to view that page" to "I chose to view the ads on that page" is specious and unsupported, and I'm under no obligation whatsoever to enter into an agreement between two other parties on the basis that they happen to have a standing agreement.
To suggest otherwise is tantamount to suggesting that because I chose to walk down a specific street at a specific time, I somehow also chose to see a specific dude taking a specific dump.
I can promise you, I didn't. Just as with ads on the web, however, my consent is apparently not a factor in this equation.
(Why, yes, I do live in San Francisco. How ever did you guess?)
EDIT: And, yes, before you judge or jump to conclusions: I do have paid, auto-renewing subscriptions on subscription-model websites, and I use ad and tracker blocking plugins. It's not my fault that some of the sites I view have chosen (what I think are) shitty revenue models.
It's irrelevant what the behind-the-scenes relations are. The party you are engaging is providing the webpage with all it's content; that some of it is outsourced doesn't matter. Using your rationale, you should also be blocking any work done by freelance journalists.
If a company outsources it's billing, does this now mean that you can ethically access their services for free? After all, if a different company is the one posting you the bill, "I didn't agree to anything with them", so you don't need to pay up. It doesn't work that way. If you've ever been chased by a debt collection agency, you'll know that argument is no defence.
Perhaps walk into a diner and have a big meal. Then refuse to pay because you don't have an existing contract with any of the point-of-sale EFT providers or the manufacturer of the cash register. Those are contracts that the diner has with other parties and you have not consented to a contract with them, so you are within your rights to ignore them.
> I somehow also chose to see a specific dude taking a specific dump.
If you know a street is extremely likely to have a dude take a dump, then yes, choosing to walk down that street is accepting that you're also going to see a dude taking a dump.
Regarding your edit, I really don't care. I just think that talking about blocking ads as some sort of morally pure action is nonsense. It's not. You're consuming the content without the full bundle that the content provider put together - if you want to see the article, you're expected to see the ads along with it. I'm not saying that you shouldn't block ads, I'm just saying that if you do, don't pretend like it's actually an ethical action. If you want to be ethical, then don't use the site at all.
No, using that rationale, I should be blocking any work done by anyone I choose to block.
EDIT: As far as the "ethics" of ad-blocking, I'm not the one arguing ad-blocking is an ethical position. For me, it's an aesthetic position (ads are ugly), and — as The Fine Article does point out — one of choosing to have my browsing habits remain untouched, unmolested, and unanalyzed and re-sold by the demonstrably unclean hands the advertisers are grabbing at me with.
I guess you can call that an ethical position if you want, but it's not about what's right or wrong in my behavior, so my ethics are pretty much moot.
You were complaining above that you were presented with content from a third party that you hadn't consented to, and didn't have a contract with.
I'm not the one arguing ad-blocking is an ethical position.
If you're not arguing about the ethics of it, why have you been talking about consent and the structure of contracts between parties? Nothing in your first, largest comment has anything to do with aesthetics, it's all about consent. Why, in the same paragraph as this statement, do you demean advertisers quite heavily about issues other than appearance? (deservedly or otherwise)
I'm still interested to hear your opinion on walking out on a bill because you don't have your own contract with the third-party EFT vendors.
As for your question about skipping out on my restaurant tab because I don't have a contract with that restaurant's EFT vendor, I have two thoughts:
1. It's disanalogous, and so irrelevant. If some restaurants give away their food, some restaurants charge a monthly fee and let you eat as much as you want, and some charge per plate, and I don't know which is which before entering — before ordering, even — your question might be cogent.
As it stands, however, it's pretty much universal that if you walk into a restaurant, you'll be paying for your meal. So, I guess, to move that analogy to websites, if every website always had ads, and I was making an argument about blocking them on the basis that "I didn't know I'd be seeing an ad", I'd be full of shit.
But that's clearly not the world we live in, is it? So, moot.
2. Pursuant to my point above, that we live in a world where one always (or so close to always as to be practically indistinguishable) pays for one's meals at a restaurant: if Joe's Diner only accepts payment via Whiz-Bang EFT, Inc. and I don't have the means to transact with Whiz-Bang EFT, Inc. (say, I only have cash, or I don't have their app installed on my employer-provided phone — which is the only phone I'm carrying — and don't have rights to install new apps on that phone , or whatever), then it's not my fault if I can't pay Joe's Diner for my meal, is it?
My contract isn't with Whiz-Bang, else I'd already have a means of transacting with them, but I do have an (implicit) contract with Joe's to pay them for the food I ask them to serve me — again, we're talking about a world where one pays for one's meals, on a per-meal basis. If Joe's imposes an insurmountable obstacle to my fulfilling my contractual obligation, they're the ones who've voided that contract, not me.
Again, however, this is disanalogous to ads and websites, so I don't think it's terribly relevant. I'm just answering the question you specifically re-asked.
 Yes, that's unlikely to the point of absurdity, but so is this entire argument.
EDIT: formatting, phrasing, and clarification.
In short, I find it really odd that you take a "that's the way the world is" with the diner, but not with website advertising. You talk of consent and contracts as if website advertising is some kind of weird outlier that you hardly ever come across.
Just as you don't have a contract with the EFT vendor, neither do you have a contract with the web ad vendor. But the product is a whole - you're supposed to get one without the other. Blocking web ads is like skipping out on paying the bill at a diner. The individual damage is much less, and trivial, but ethically it's the same thing.
I do it. It's a selfish thing - I value my convenience more than I value the trivial fraction of a cent it costs the content provider. My problem is with people who will torture philosophy to try and make it sound like they're fighting a morally pure fight by blocking ads. It's not ethical, but it's not a great sin either. Just admit it's a selfish action and stop torturing the philosophy around consent and contracts. This kind of debate tactic is like the libertarian who redefines 'violence' to include receiving a letter from the tax department.
If you want to be ethical and you feel violated by ads, simply don't patronise the site. I don't care about blocking ads, but I do care that people describe it as some sort of morally clean action rather than a selfish convenience.
If a page's headers could somehow tell me, "Hey! This page has ads! Do you still want to load it?", and I choose to continue viewing the page, then I've consented.
Absent that kind of exchange, I am in principle being involuntarily subject to unwanted content.
Ads aren't — as ad-blocking software perfectly demonstrates: the day a site legitimately doesn't work (in the sense of being unnavigable, or somehow otherwise unable to be utilized in the way its creators intended, irrespective of its revenue model) because advertising content — which someone has chosen to include in order to monetize my eyeballs — doesn't load, then maybe you'll have an argument.
It's as simple as this: ads, if they're on a page, aren't what induced me to view that page. If the stuff that does draw me to a given page doesn't work, that's a problem. If ads don't load, my (personal) experience of the page is, in fact, improved. How exactly is that a problem, again?
Example, I've just been looking at https://www.consul.io/ - no menus, no special boxes. All you need is a spacebar to navigate the page, and you click on links to go to other pages. It's perfectly workable - fancy geegaws are not essential to navigate the site. Just like not all sites have ads, neither to all sites have drop-down menus and similar.
Perhaps I should have used HN as the example - it's also nothing but space/pageup and links.
In fact, our reluctance to pay for any type of content has led to the state we are in today. Paywalls largely don't work for many types of content and advertising is much more lucrative for the sites you patronize. Who's paying for that "Which Harry Potter Character Are You?" quiz on Buzzfeed that you gleefully wasted 5 minutes of you life on? Certainly not you; it was the advertiser who paid in exchange for an opportunity to influence you in some way (either direct action or indirect branding).
When you think about the 'morality' of ad blockers, it's not about the ad networks that we're talking about, it's the publishing sites that produce the content you consume. When you block an ad, the network doesn't pay the site. Simple as that.
Then how come, every time I pay for content, that content still has ads? The paywalled newspaper sites I frequent do this. Or, notice how they do this in every movie theater in America now -- you can't sit there in peace before a movie. Instead, before the trailers start, you're subjected to a barrage of loud ads.
Even on the March Madness app -- I've logged in with my Comcast credentials, they are going to show me the regular TV ads, and yet they make me miss live game action to show me ads specific to the app! And they do this every time you leave the app and come back.
Every place that an ad can be placed, it will eventually be placed, in every medium and whether a consumer paid for that content or not. Throwing ads in our face is so widely abused that I'm completely unsurprised that adblockers are mainstream and still growing. Our web browser is one of the few places we still have control.
Even on the Internet, remember the good old days of popup ads and blinking banner ads (that you couldn't easily scroll out of view)? I don't know what sites everyone else visits, but I don't use an ad blocker simply because most of the sites I visit either have no ads (like this one) or have few and unobtrusive enough ads that I can easily ignore them. (I don't care about tracking.) A notable exception is YouTube, where the obnoxious video ads caused me to start ad blocking recently.
Oh, and... while there are plenty of ads out there plaguing mobile devices, most good apps (at least on iOS) either don't have them or have an in-app purchase to disable them. Compare that to the websites the apps replace, and you can see a significant improvement.
You bring up good points, but thinking about this particular line more, I wonder if it really is heading that way.
Anywhere you find exclusivity for content provides the opportunity to put in an ad. You can be as customer-hostile as you like and get away with it because there's nowhere else to go. I put up with the March Madness app because I have no alternative -- I must watch that content there.
So if we're headed towards many players of exclusive content, why wouldn't a Netflix or HBO pull the same cash grab once their subscriber growth goes flat? Hey, I probably would if I was in charge over there.
Another example just from today: I saw an ad before an Amazon Instant video. Granted, it was for an Amazon product, but Amazon built an ad system of some sort to deliver it. Curious they made that.
If they do I am done watching. I don't think I am alone in this (I don't watch broadcast TV or youtube on my phone for the same reason).
Also their content isn't as exclusive as they like to think: you can get it on pirate sites.
There must be a balance between "no payment" and "no ads" - the optimum profit doesn't necessarily happen at one of the extremes. Do you think you'd choose a higher priced subscription if it offered no ads?
That said, if my local paper started producing the swill I encounter merely seconds after turning off adblock, I would consider the "no bullshit" version as well!
FWIW I think it's mostly the latter (e: was thinking specifically of cinema when I wrote this - nl is right it depends on the medium).
I don't use ad blockers because I generally support your position. I do block flash because it is so annoying and especially noisy ads and downloading video I didn't ask for on my limited bandwidth.
It seems to me it isn't 100% either way. There is an issue of being a free-riding meanie when you block ads those providing content rely on for income. There is also an issue of sites being overly obnoxious in their serving of ads. The users right to control their computer makes sense.
The risk of privacy violations and serving malware are real and impact the ability to claim blocking ads is fair.
Those that believe in blocking ads mainly don't believe it is ok for some ISP or others to replace website ads with their own ads. This is normally based on the idea they don't have the right to change web content clients request and this argument largely relies on the same idea those that say ad blockers are wrong rely on. It is true there is space between these arguments to slip in the claim that while others don't have the right to eliminate the web content and replace it with their own the end user does. This is a reasonable argument, but it is not, IMO, without a reasonable counter-argument (that those providing the web content are doing so with the ads as part of their offer).
I don't think ad blockers are immoral or unethical but I do think they are not 100% pure either. They are a reasonable thing to resort to given an understanding of the whole situation. But they do, it seems to me, take away an earned benefit from those providing content.
Your browser asked for it though. Maybe fix you browser so it isn't doing things you don't like?
Of course with HTTP/2, websites will be able to send you stuff that even your browser didn't ask for.
One way I'm trying to overcome that is to actually pay for content. I've started in a small way by supporting people who producing the content I care about at Patreon.
Example: I would be more ok if Coursera/Udacity and the like went with an ad-based model rather than a pay-per-view model. Why? Because the people it's meant to help - the individual who can't afford to take out massive loans to pay for school or the kid from the bad side of town - can't really benefit if it costs 100's or 1000's of $$ to study, say, computer science or the like.
Retort: But there are a number of other free resources! See link here or here!
Retort back: Those aren't the highest quality, and usually those are free because:
a) they're supported by ad spend
b) they're supported by VC funding and will eventually move behind a paywall of some sort eventually.
Part of why ads are so irritating is that they shove tons of attention seekers on every page just to earn a tenth of a cent.
If anything, advertising is what allows poor people to have the same access to content/information without having to pay real wages in return for access.
What types of online ads that you see do you consider bullshit?
Ideally there'd be two types: the one-off, and the time-limited subscription. Not only would this provide a bit more data to the content-creators, but for me the consumer it would play better with my budgeting. Having to remember I have N subscriptions going on at any time is far more tiring then knowing I have X disposable income and want to apportion it out, or that I've committed to a maximum of subscription period of X before I'll decide to renew it.
It really discomforts me that a lot of creators seem to feel obligated to provide a higher level of service for patrons.
Facebook tracks me and builds a shadow profile whether I use their shitty site or not.
>In fact, our reluctance to pay for any type of content has led to the state we are in today.
And yet if I pay for something, it invariably still shoves ads at me. Paying TV subscribers have to watch commercials. If I pay a subscription to the Economist I still see ads in print and online.
>Paywalls largely don't work for many types of content
Content isn't worth as much these days.
>When you block an ad, the network doesn't pay the site. Simple as that.
And that's why I love ad blockers. I don't want anyone to get money for forcing me to watch ads I don't want.
The problem here is that the trade-off is not "I tell you a story and you see this ad in return". The real trade-off is "I tell you a story and you have to allow these other shady companies to track you and run their code on your computer". Ads demand too much in terms of attention, performance, privacy and security.
Fixing the country, though, is ssssocialism, and we can't have that. Instead people who entertain us should beg for scraps, I suppose. That's sustainable.
No, really. Compare user payment habits on desktops/websites versus mobile devices. Sure, there are the issues that users have become attuned to $1 apps, that many are incredibly reluctant to pony up even that, etc. etc. But at least some users pay $1, because it only requires a few taps and the purchase is associated with their existing $devicevendor account; good luck getting that to happen on the web, where not everyone has PayPal (to which the most common alternative is pulling out a physical wallet and filling in a long list of text boxes) and you need to make your own account system.
What would the web be like if micropayments had actually become a thing?
Ten years ago, fifteen? Maybe. At this point I feel like the entitlement of free ridership has won pretty hard.
People's reluctance to pay and their aversion to advertising is, I think, understandable and reasonable.
It is just a quirk of the time period that we find ourselves in that there is any "moral" dilemma attached to this situation.
The reason people perceive it as a moral situation is because we've established a society in which one must extract money out of others in order to survive.
Our welfare system is not yet currently capable of providing people with the basic necessities: food, shelter, clothing, clean water, healthcare, education, and equal access to opportunities.
If it were, you would find that the cost of content really would approach $0. If, for example, artists did not have to worry about any of the previously mentioned necessities (if it was just given to them), then most of them would probably be perfectly happy to continue to produce content for free and without advertising.
I know, as a software developer and entrepreneur, that I personally would be happy to not charge anything for any software that I create (or charge very little), if these basics were taken care of.
As more people continue to lose their jobs to robots and automation, we will (if we can avoid destroying ourselves), move in that direction.
Even if the welfare system was capable of giving these, people would want more. We can examine this by looking current people model. Their desire to earn more is not decreasing when they reach the minimum or optimum level of necessities.
I think the problem is life standards that emphasized to us by ads. The goal will be always higher than our necessities. Because, this is the only way to keep alive current economic system, balance of production and consumption.
So, I don't believe giving more to people solves anything. But I do believe, people's desire should be left to themselves by standing a position against all ads or things serve to this purpose.
Heh, if that's true, that's another reason for folks to use adblockers. ;)
> So, I don't believe giving more to people solves anything.
When it comes to solving problems, the evidence is rather strong. Giving people more food, shelter, medicine, health care, education (even plain old money), results in striking benefits to individuals and communities.
This should not be surprising, but if you need studies, there are plenty:
But of course people would motivated more if they didn't have to think about their necessities.
Certainly. You'll note that as individual expenses go down, group expenses should go down as well since employers will no longer have to cover their employees cost of living. Prices of everything will continue to plummet (as they have been). If anything, they should be able to do more on the same budget.
EDIT: You might think "Well who's paying for all those basics? Surely that will imply higher taxes."
Compare the cost of a 1GHz CPU today to the cost 10 years ago. The price went down and yet taxes did not play a significant role in that. The basics could be covered by taxes, but they need not be. The price of basics goes down over time naturally as technology advances and builds off of the knowledge and efficiencies of the technology before it. Taxes can be used to accelerate this process, but they are not necessary for it to happen in the first place. Free, clean drinking water was not even a thing a few centuries ago. Now it is everywhere in first world countries. The same should happen with other necessities.
For example, do Swedish websites also rely heavily on advertising? How does the economy of Swedish content (in Swedish markets) compare to American content in America?
BTW: I should be clear that I am not advocating any particular type of welfare system. It does not even have to be government managed. The important thing is that a system exist to free people's minds from the mundane details of basic survival.
There is nothing ethically or morally wrong with an ad-blocker. It is no different than using any other technology to filter language or explicit content. No one is being harmed nor has property been destroyed or stolen (the owner was not deprived of their property).
Plain and simple: if you do not want to pay for the bandwidth and hosting charges, don't put material online. Just because you are trying to make a living does not mean anyone should partake in your business model. After all, should everyone that visits your site be required to click on one of the ads?
(Interestingly, in the current link to this article, http://mises.org/blog/whats-wrong-blocking-ads , the author credited is B.K. Marcus, despite there being no change in the article.)
I never liked advertising, but I usually liked the sites I was visiting and wanted to support them, so I didn't kill the ads. Even now, I let a small number of sites serve me ads, if they have shown themselves to be responsible and respectful of my attention. reddit is one of the very few, for example, because they almost never serve a really obnoxious ad.
And, of course, I have never heeded the alligator tears of the online marketing industry (or any other marketing industry...physical junk mail producers can rot in hell). I respect the desire of websites to support their business. But, I'm not obligated to accept the method by which they want to do it, if it includes behavior that I consider unethical or just annoying.
The author linked to a tweet which I think requires further examination "ad blocking is shoplifting for the Web".
This argument fails on several fronts, the main one is consent - by loading a website, I am not required to load any or all resources that the server presents to me - certainly in many cases e.g. text-based browsers there is no point to loading these resources - they simply cannot be displayed to the user.
An adblocker is the same, it is a consent mechanism - the server presents my browser with resources that it thinks would be worth rendering with the content, I am free to allow or not allow these resources to be loaded as I choose - and this includes offloading the decision making to other code on my machine.
I don't have a solution for the content creators, I wish I did - I regularly buy books from authors I first discover online. I would be open to micro-payments - however I am skeptical surrounding current implementations as it requires me to submit my browsing history and likes to a third party which is one of the other reasons I run an adblocker in the first place.
Let's face it: paywalls don't work. The alternative on the horizon is native advertising. Buzzfeed is now famously refusing to host ads. Instead they sustain themselves by publishing content that subtly supports the agenda of any company with deep enough pockets to pay for it. A viewer's ability to distinguish between native ads and regular articles is small and quickly vanishing. If separate ads stop reaching people, the path to monetization remaining is to change your content to reflect someone else's agenda.
I keep AdBlock off by default because I prefer a world where creators can make a meaningful articles and a useful apps without caring about who they are supporting, and can, as the price tag, separately attach an ad.
I do see it as a moral issue. There are good people making content that's being sustained by ads. I am never going to remember to give them my modicum of support if I don't consider them innocent until proven guilty. It's worth the small annoyance. It's worth the 2 seconds it takes to turn it on for the problematic pages. Hell, you can even map it to a shortcut. It sucks, but the alternative is positively bleak.
TL;DR: The bathroom may be dirty, but at least no one's taking a shit in my kitchen.
That's not a serious discussion. There are tons of websites out there, especially those with professional content, that you pay for. For trade magazines, one trick is to get your employer to pay.
LWN has presented the most quality content on Linux and related tech for about ten years now, and they do it professionally.
There are also lots of communities with entrance fees, like Metafilter. And even open access journals have business models of their own.
You can't survive on fees with a flood of mediocre content, but that doesn't invalidate the model for everything else.
You're right. Let's discuss paid content.
There is absolutely a place for paid content on the internet. But I don't think paying for content is a replacement for the majority of things currently funded by ads. The internet is inherently open. Paid content is inherently exclusionary. If we're talking about a genuine substitute for ads, that right there is a non-starter. Whether I'm paying for it out of pocket or through my company, the fact is that there are loads of people out there who are not getting access to that content.
A lot of what sucks about paywalls is the friction, and the trust needed of the host (that the content will be worthwhile). But even in a world that's solved these problems, there's still the fundamental problem that the majority of the world won't have access that content because they don't have the money to throw around.
Then there's all the low-quality content, which isn't outright spam, but no-one in their right mind would pay for. Most people would probably not mourn that either.
The problem with news, if that's what we're discussing, is that they can't decide which side of the fence they want to fall on. Celebrity gossip and researched content is vastly different and there is no reason to believe they fall under the same business model.
I think Buzzfeed actually does a reasonable job of it, it's pretty easy to see whether or not content is an ad, and who paid for it.
It's not like advertising-supported content was ever uninfluenced by its advertisers.
Who gets to decide whether something is necessary or not?
Maslow understood that humans "need" pathways to self-esteem and self-expression. An extensive collection of Marvel action figures could slip through that loophole.
Francis of Assisi lived in abject poverty, and would be a much harsher judge than Maslow, and would probably criticize either of us for bothering to own any electronic devices.
I'm neither a Franciscan nor a Maslowian, but the concept of "human needs" hardly lends itself to immediate and universal agreement.
It's both, right?
I think you could make the argument that you affect the content creator to a higher degree (larger percent of income) but I suspect you affect the ad company to a higher dollar amount. Nonetheless it's a negative for both.
With that in mind, there is a net-positive outcome for the ad-company if users who aren't going to click on the ads use ad-block, because that means they don't have to pay the content creator for showing ads that nobody clicked on. They only miss possible profit if you're using ad-block but would have clicked on an ad were it presented to you, which is unlikely considering ad-block is generally opt-in. Depending on the ratio of how much they make per-click vs. how much they pay the content-creator per ad, they could definitely come-out with more money due to users using ad-block and not requiring them to pay the content creator when they wouldn't have clicked on the ad anyway.
Everyone always says they only have ad block on for obnoxious sites, but that's such a load of shit. The free internet is run by ads, like it or not, and as someone who uses ad block I accept that I actively hinder it.
I don't mind if people use ad block, it's just the moral high ground people take that annoys me.
For me, at least, it's a tragedy of the commons out there. All it takes is one bad actor to spoil it all.
People won't pay for bad/terrible content, that is the hard truth.
Not necessarily. There is a threshold of value that must be met to make people pay directly for it. For example I run a niche site that gets 5K uniques each month - clearly I'm providing some value - but I doubt that what I provide is enough to make people pay me directly. Ads are the most effective way of solve that problem: reward content producers that can't meet that threshold but still add some value.
The main problem with ad blockers is that they're not very good technically. They're usually regular expression based and need too much information about the exact format of ad code, so they need constant updating. Some have deliberate holes. AdBlock Plus sells "block bypassing" to "good" advertisers. Ghostery blocks tracking but then does tracking itself. (If you use Ghostery, go to its preferences and opt out of "Ghostrank".) BlockSite became adware.
There's no money in the ad blocking business. Last year, the AdBlock Plus guy was trying to make money by selling hoodies. An automatic ad blocker with machine learning to adapt to new ads would be a nice open source project. You won't make any money, but you'll get lots of publicity.
My point is that these days, it seems like providing the same experience for most people, involves millions of dollars, thousands of dollars a month in hosting fees, forming a company and having a marketing department that buys ads on ad networks.
We can all dream of making our millions, but sometimes it's just cool to have a modern personal site and get on with life.
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Subscriptions or other kinds of paywalls are the closest to a capitalist solution, but they require artificially limiting supply. The most dramatic and poetic discussion of the evils of artificially limiting supply to increase profits would have to be chapter 25 of The Grapes of Wrath: http://genius.com/John-steinbeck-grapes-of-wrath-chapter-25-...
Ads produce such a tiny amount of revenue that the web ad industry is in a position of just giving up altogether, or trying to milk every penny out of the ads. And as others have noted, that's not pretty. Everything from obnoxious in-your-face-ads, to ads that don't let you leave the page, to ads that don't let you view the content for a few seconds, to video ads with audio that comes on automatically, to ads that track you all over the web.
I don't have a perfect solution, and I am not going to blame people for using ad blockers, especially if privacy and tracking are big issues for them. But I suspect that if everyone used ad blockers, a lot of web sites that we know and love would disappear. The best thing I can think of is that the big ad companies should offer a plan where you skip all ads, but pay the same amount the ad would pay to the advertiser for the privilege of viewing the page ad-free.
I am subscribed to some weekly email newsletters - they have a few ads, that make sense. I don't mind it, I like it when a product I may actually be interested in, is advertised to me.
Gruber has weekly sponsors - I don't mind, at all. I like it.
When google provides me with an amazon link when I search for a book, I am fine with that.
On and on. The only folks moaning at the ad-revenue being decimated are the ones who thought annoying their users with ads they don't want is ok. It's not ok.
The benefit to users is obvious. But there's also a lot of benefits to advertisers. After all, what can be better than a prospective customer saying, "I need to buy something, show me ads"? Instead we spend untold billions developing technologies and algorithms to predict people's behavior and end up invading their privacy and pissing them off.
That's what TV advertising banging you over the head over and over again is meant to do. Sure you don't consciously go 'oh nice chicks X brand of beer' but when you're awkwardly standing at a bar, you'll recall that maybe if you get that X brand of beer, it'll be more like that party in the tv ad instead. This is of course not conscious.
If western society ceased creating unnecessary demand (apple watch anyone?), we'd live in a very different world. So yeah, not happening. They want to show you ads even if you hate it and they will, because you can't do anything about it. Ad blockers are allowed only because they largely hurt the folks without any power, the small timers.
All big companies are interested in forcing ads on you, make no mistake about it.
In our tribe yes, but in general no. Otherwise "normal" people wouldn't be talking about it on Facebook.
>apple watch anyone
Status symbol: nobody needs a 10k gold watch, which is why it allows you to show that you can afford to throw 10k away.
Advertising creates demand and establishes brand awareness in potential consumers who may develop (either directed or otherwise) demand in the future.
I'm sick of marketing and marketers. They bombard us 24/7 on every medium they can.
- Turn on the TV and you're not only swamped with blatant ads, but they've pushed subtle product placement into everything possible.
- Turn on the radio and you're blasted with ads.
- Go on Facebook and you're hammered with "tailored" ads, clickbait, autoplaying viral videos and more.
- Go on Twitter and every popular hashtag is flooded with people advertising unrelated products.
- Walk down the street and ads are everywhere.
- Open a "free" news site and you're bombarded with ads and ads disguised as articles. Look up a tutorial and you're presented with a slide-based site that loads up new ads every time you click, or throws extra ads in on every other slide.
It's a battle and I will never entertain a "morality" argument from those in charge of the above.
Completely "free" content online is total junk for the most part. I wouldn't pay to read Reddit, anything from the Gawker network, ReCode, etc. as they haven't content worth paying for, and I won't support their ad revenue either as it makes no difference to me whether they survive or disappear. I would have previously considered paying for some of the mainstream tech news sites but they've absolutely ruined their content in recent years in the name of getting easy clicks for ad revenue.
An entire industry predicated on the idea of getting me to pay for something I don't want, and using my bandwidth to do it. Every advertiser tries to justify it, too.
"We only send emails to people who want them" or other such tripe. Nobody wants to be part of a sales funnel. If the product is actually good and useful, it will sell itself by word of mouth.
Where 'being seen' means robbing me of my attention for a moment to try to sell me something I likely don't want, and every company and their dog is lining up around the block to be seen.
This author has nailed it: "The ad industry has spent years cultivating a 'fuck you' attitude where they would do everything that was within their technical capabilities to spy on people and shovel ads on top of them. To now suddenly be concerned about the 'morality' of what other people do is the height of hypocrisy."
When Ad companies start respecting my wishes, I'll consider respecting theirs.
>If the product is actually good and useful, it will sell itself by word of mouth.
The cure for cancer will sell itself that way, yes. But even things that should sell, such as cheaper cellphone plans, don't.
Anyone who's specifically shopping around for cell phone plans doesn't need to be force-fed advertisements. If anyone's unhappy with their cellular plan, they'll be shopping around.
The hassle of switching cell phone plans greatly outweighs my dissatisfaction with my carrier at present. Therefore even if there are cheaper plans, they aren't so cheap that I give a shit. If Bell starts a 5$/mo plan with unlimited talk/text/data, word will get around and I'll switch.
And you are totally right that people will be asking around if they are unhappy, but how could they know they should be unhappy with their current plan if they don't know yours is so much better?
The rant is written as though advertisers snuck into the media, as though they infiltrated, they used subterfuge to penetrate an otherwise non-commercial, innocent world of dollar-free self-expression.
The whole thing is backwards. Advertisers and the advertising industry were the parents and premise of this world, not its covert invaders. I find it sad to see folks forgetting which industry we have to thank for the very forums on which we (piously!) castigate it.
As somebody who would like to build a business himself on the back of the Internet, my feeling on the existence of so frictionless a currency as advertising is mostly gratitude.
Apparently you never used the web in the old days? It was a "non-commercial innocent world of dollar-free self-expression".
> Advertisers and the advertising industry were the parents and premise of this world.
They absolutely were not. Web sites existed without ads and without sponsorship and they still can.
It's as if you are claiming that record studios invented music.
But then there's the increasing minority. The get-in-your-face-as-much-as-possible ads. The interstitial ads. The noisy video play-by-default ads. The scroll-over ads. The ads that follow your mouse down the page. The ads that go as far as they possibly can to disrupt whatever I'm browsing.
No. That's too far. That's why I block ads.
If there was a way to white-list "responsible" ads, I'd do it in a heartbeat. Until then, no, I won't subject myself to that arms race.
Perfect advertising could read your mood tonight and suggest restaurants if your mood indicated you wanted to go out. I could know which ones are already booked solid and not present them. It would would know if wanted a quiet intimate dinner or a louder venue. It would know which friends are free and suggest asking them along.
Yes I'm scared of some of the repercussion of getting to that state and all the abuse and how it will probably never get there but it's certainly a fun thought experiment to imagine what perfect advertising might be.
You're describing perfect advertising for you.
Even if the ads were limited to a topic you deemed relevant, the advertisers would still essentially lie (or elide truths). E.g., they'd show you good deals on hotels in Vietnam without bothering to mention that people are regularly knifed in those hotels, or that they have bedbugs, etc., etc.
Perfect advertising for the informed consumer would be a list of objective specs that can be compared between similar classes of products, allowing the consumer to choose the best product within their budget, needs, etc. If you're a company that produces an inferior product, how would you advertise it in that scenario? Reduce the selling price, or lie, lie, lie?
So no, scamming people is not perfect advertising even for the advertizer
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then they turn into a big pain.
Unfortunately "unblock-to-make-work" is step #1 when dealing with academic websites, in my experience.
Returning to the site one day, I see the technical equivalent of a "punch the monkey" flashing banner ad. Aaand, adblocking back on, plus I now block the anti-adblock ad. And I no longer feel guilty. You had your chance and you squandered it.
Ars Technica styles itself as a site for well-informed technology-oriented people. The ads should fit the site. Insulting your audience's intelligence might work on Facebook, but these days you don't deserve to make money from advertising (on what is essentially a niche site).
None of this is the fault of the site running the ads. Maybe it's inevitable, and maybe they just need to suck it up and evolve or join the ranks of obsolete business models, but it's hard not to feel some sympathy for the unfairness of the situation.
Not really. No-one is obligated to produce content; if a business model doesn't work, then you probably shouldn't do it.
So what business model should content producers use, if they can't use the "advertising can fund anything" hack? That's a broader conversation, and I think it's the right conversation for our society to have. Advertising is an expensive tax on our economy (and on human well-being) that doesn't need to exist.
While, I think there is room to fund content producers in alternate means, I don't think advertising needs to be written out of the playbook. It's just a matter of properly recognizing the cost of violating privacy and the alternatives. I think society as a whole has a bit to learn about the price of privacy.
"They were mean in the past so we can be mean to them now," is not really a valid argument.
But, your counter-argument is not really a valid counter-argument, either. If we act as though the present incarnation of the ad industry is to be held responsible for its past actions, that will encourage moral behavior going forward and discourage hypocrisy. Of course, I'm still anthropomorphizing the ad industry here, and assuming that it's even capable of "learning a lesson" might be assuming too much (for the record, I think it mostly is assuming too much). But I think that's supposed to be the point - sort of. By anthropomorphizing a thing, we might force that thing to behave somewhat anthropomorphically. Or, we might not.
I think we're all just trying to rationalize our behavior which is that we don't like looking at ads, and we have the technical means to block ads, so we block ads. Anything more than that feels awfully post-hoc.
By blocking ads, you're denying revenue to people whose content you wish to consume. There is no way around this fact. Maybe, by doing this, you will encourage forms of revenue generation that are less intrusive, or maybe you want to encourage a culture where revenue generation isn't necessary, or any of a thousand other 'reasons'. But, I think that if you tell yourself that this is the primary reason that you block ads, as opposed to 'I find ads irritating and don't wish to view them', you should take special care to look really hard for some cognitive bias in your thinking, because you'll almost certainly find some.
in the continuing present
Do you have a specific argument against the concept of "turnabout is fair play" here? That it's not okay to be "mean" to "mean" advertisers? I'm not convinced it's an invalid argument here.
Even if you do, I have another disagreement with your characterization of the argument here - on the one hand, "mean" is too mild a term for the sheer willful negligence on behalf of ad networks in preventing a flood of malware, fraud, and untold millions in economic damage at the hands of criminals in these and other fashions.
On the other hand, "mean" is too strong a term for committing basic self defense at the expense of a minor impact to a few revenue streams - when this is lauded as a good thing, to be achieved wherever possible, when it serves the consumer - to be encouraged through competition in a capitalistic society. It's an act which requires no malice whatsoever.
(1) I always assume morality doesn't exist, laws do, consequences do, but running on the premise that someone will make a decision for increased short term revenue is a sound one.
(2) I use affiliate links in my articles, and although I don't make a lot, $100 - $200 every month isn't bad.
If advertisers want to pitched their products, they should contract with websites for that website to display a relevant, clickable, ad hosted by the website. Such schemes are no different than buying space to paint a poster on a stadium wall. And as adblockers only target ads delivered by third parties, such displays will go untouched.
(Yes, i know adblock allows ad hoc image blocking, but the user will see the ad and must choose to block it every time it is updated.)
Advertisers than want to buy open-ended ad space on websites, that want to display different ads depending on who views the space, who want to track users to better target ads, who want to use "ads" as a Trojan horse for installing tracking cookies ... they can all rot alongside the good people from "windows technical service department" who called me at 4am this morning.
Honestly I think the best bet moving forward for sites is to have a small minimalistic form of advertising (the way HN does advertisement with job postings for example, even while its just for Ycombinators benefit, is a good example of non-intrusive advertising done correctly), and probably a small subscription fee ($1.99? $4.99? pay what you want? hard to set a price) for users to hide advertising and support the site/service they enjoy using.
Other options include government (known for relatively high-quality content in many parts of the world: for news, science, education, art, and other works that are widely considered to be a part of the common good).
But I'd like to see more of a rise in crowd-sourced "content pools" that, for example, would commission many works/creators in an ensemble centralized around broad topics (e.g. "participate in commissioning a cabal of high-quality tech blogs" if that's your fancy).
I think content is becoming cheaper to create, but there will always be business models for high-end publishers other than advertising. (Like many other forms of art)
Now imagine that advertising was solved. (I rather like the idea posted here of subscribing to an ad channel. It's not perfect, but a huge improvement) But just imagine that all the engineers currently employed by ad networks, are solving more acute problems of humankind? Cancer? Feeding the world? Harvesting solar power?
1. The tracking data that the online advertising industry gathers is bad for users and will ultimately be bad for advertisers. It should go away. Doing so will require a combination of technical and political restrictions on the way that advertisers do business. Solely one or the other will not be sufficient.
2. Advertising is and will remain the lifeblood of the Internet. The past is littered with the calcified husks of arguments claiming that subscription plans or microtransactions are capable replacements for advertising revenue. If a majority of users install ad blockers, society as a whole will suffer as content creators are squeezed out of the market. Whether or not this is a moral behavior is not the point -- users with ad blockers are game-theoretic parasites that feed off this weakness in the system. Societies have traditionally addressed such weaknesses by classifying such behavior as undesirable, shameful, or immoral. The movement to classify ad blockers in this category has already begun: in the future, either ad blockers will attain a majority or plurality install base among users or this movement towards demonizing ad-blocking users will intensify.
Oh noes, you mean there won't be more Buzzfeed crap or their ilk?
If your art is good enough, people will find a way to pay you.
Beethoven, Newton, Einstein... their content is SUPREME. They would have done what they did regardless. They didn't need advertising, and neither should you.
EDIT: And yes, advertising is immoral. By its very definition, it is a form of manipulation for own benefit.
Not requesting a particular asset over the network is probably not circumvention or exceeding authorized access. Accessing the APIs to retrieve content through an entirely alternate program, unfortunately, has been deemed circumvention and the site would have a case against anyone who tried it. Not that the court of public opinion would come down on their side, but the law certainly would.
I think in a world where using curl can get you charged and convicted, adblockers certainly stray dangerously close to exceeding authorized access under the CFAA. I don't think this is right, but I do think it's the reality we currently live in.
Do you have a cite for that?
What do you mean by "entirely alternate program"? Curl vs wget vs Firefox?
But I think it has been shown that iterating curl from a bash script was exceeding authorized access in Weev's case. Standard HTTP GET's to which the server replies "200 OK" but after the fact was deemed to be illegal.
Hence, there is some space between Point A and Point B but it's quite mirky IMO how large that space actually is.
We know, from a copyright standpoint, for example, that it's illegal to use an extension to surround someone else's material with your own ads. So you can't add ads, but you can remove them?
I don't know if there exists a case where a site has gone after users they knew to be using blockers (it wouldn't be difficult to determine this from the logs). But it would be an interesting case, to be sure.
If the first two ads in google search results are exactly the same as the first two actual search results, which link is is moral for me to click?
I am not prepared to view my favorite sites as evil because they attempted to exist.
That way the site owner still gets paid, and you can still get your character test fix, and no one has to suffer through blinking autoplaying crap.
This strategic technology is a game changer that can disrupt online advertising! Remember where you heard it first!
was the first person to jump on that guy and compared it to "muting commercials" which is more technically correct (and less illegal)
I think he was being obtuse for the sake of being obtuse based on his profile.