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A while ago, I reviewed a program called AdBlock Plus, a popular Firefox add-on that nukes the annoying ads that get in the way when you're browsing. It is super-effective, stripping ads from the screen and leaving only clean, white space in their place. As anyone who has ever spent more than 30 seconds on the internet knows, you'll soon be assaulted by blinking, buzzing and flashing ads, my personal favorites being the ones that slide out and cover whatever it is you're trying to read.

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I thought AdBlock Plus was really cool and gave it a great rating, but just the other day I read this article by Ars Technica which made me stop and think. Could blocking ads be hurting my favorite websites?

Once you think about it, it's obvious that websites that don't charge for content have to make money some other way. One of these ways is advertising, and if we get rid of that advertising with an ad blocker, it can't generate the revenue that maintains the website. As the article points out, some argue that they never click on ads anyway, so there's no harm in getting rid of them. Well, the truth is that many large websites are paid by advertisers on a per view basis, not per click. Surely once you realize that, it changes everything.

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I wonder how many people will get rid of their AdBlock Plus after reading the Ars Technica article? There's a problem here, and its the same one I see when people get into the illegal download debate. We have spent a long time taking full advantage of the internet and all the free and accessible stuff it offers, and old habits are hard to break. The internet broke into the mainstream more than 15 years ago,  but back then content providers, vendors and producers didn't think of the future and what would happen if they gave users (or allowed them to take) their products for free.

Most users don't think of the consequences unless we're made to - downloading, watching and reading online are too ingrained. You turn on your computer and there it is. We expect to get lots of our content for free and see nothing wrong with sweeping ads aside in order to get it. Likewise, if users feel that advertising is too intrusive, for example, they don't think twice about complaining. But think about it:  it's a bit like being invited around to somebody's house for dinner and then complaining about the food.

If content providers want people's attitudes towards paying (however they do - or don't- do it) for their content to change, it's going to take a lot of effort. An internet-wide change would never work, so it is going to require the long, hard slog of educating users and appealing to their better nature. Do you think it will work?

Commented

  • Online Revenue Business Models | Ezebis |
    11/03/10
    Online Revenue Business Models | Ezebis

    [...] Ad blockers: Are they harming the websites you love? (onsoftware.en.softonic.com) ArrayArrayArrayArrayArrayArrayArrayArrayArrayArrayArrayArrayArrayArray [...]

  • ironmammoth |
    11/03/10
    ironmammoth

    I disabled Adblock Plus after reading the original article. However, after only a couple of hours of surfing I reinstated it!

    Those ads are just way too in your face, not to mention that many of the ads appear to install cookies or run scripts, which to my mind suggest security risks. I use NoScript to block scripts I am unsure about and once I disabled Adblock Plus, NoScript started flagging up scripts on sites that are usually clear.Obviously the ads involve running scripts I'd rather not have!

    If you are worried about harming the revenue of sites you like you can always set Adblock to ignore particular site you like. I have done this on one or two sites, where I know the advertising is likely to appeal to me.

  • Jon Riggall |
    11/03/10
    Jon Riggall

    Occasionally roll-over ads, and ads that make noises irritate me, but for the most part I manage. I can read an article even if there's an animated flash ad next to it. Perhaps the balance between the needs of advertisers and the needs of users isn't quite right, but most of the time I'm happy with the status quo.

  • Arien |
    11/03/10
    Arien

    The only thing I have against advertisements is that some of them might contain malicious code, most common being trojans or keyloggers. This hardly ever happens in general purpose websites, that's true. But there are certain groups of users (for example gamers such as myself) and websites targeted by these evil ads. For me, it's better safe than sorry. As long as ad networks or website owners allow this kind of thing to happen, I will happily have my AdBlock extension active.

  • raargh |
    03/07/11
    raargh

    Any site that relies on ads for revenue is STUPID. There are other ways to make money. Hint: amazon.com

    I make a big effort to NOT BUY anything I see in the blinking, flashing ads. And, any site that tries to tell me I have to turn off the adblock to go to it is a site I WILL NEVER VISIT.

    Want to make money off the web? Give me content worth buying, at a very, very reasonable rate. Otherwise don't bother trying to make money off the internet.

    Raargh

  • notmyrealname |
    15/05/12
    notmyrealname

    Say im watching someone stream and they play adds sometimes which are blocked by adblock, does this actually effect the revenue the player gets? How can add provider actually know the add has been blocked, the number of viewers of the stream will remain constant.

    I haven't downloaded this software yet but i may soon, if it was a different add for a different product each time it would be far more engaging to watch the adds, but as it is i've sworn never to buy my dog smacko treats no matter how wacko he's supposed to go for them.

  • PatK |
    23/08/12
    PatK

    What about sites that seem unable to respond promptly with the supposed content but have no trouble at all in keeping animated and complex advertising material running on my screen. One ISP comes to mind where when I use it on another PC which has only an adsl connection, I can wait excruciatingly long periods for an email to download but there is seemingly no problem in keeping up a stream of intrusive animations. And that's for a service that I'm being charged!

  • ruhihun |
    21/07/13
    ruhihun

    That's why I stopped watching TV, it became nothing but commercials, nonstop, all day all night.

24/04/14
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