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"Please Don't Block My Ads" by Troy H. Cheek on Feb 27, 2006
I was looking for a Firefox extension the other day and it took quite a lot of searching to find it. It turned out that I was looking for the wrong one. I thought I was looking for Firefox Adblock but it turned out that I was looking for a tool called Rip (Remove it Permanently) instead. Firefox Adblock keeps images (and I assume other things, I don't rightly remember) on specified servers from loading. Rip actually removes items from page layouts, so in addition to blocking advertisements, you can also remove other items that annoy you. In my case, that includes huge site logos, unnecessary flash, graphics on pages where I'm primarily interested in the text, blocks of text on pages where I'm primarily interested in the graphics, etc.
After I played with Rip for a while, I realized that trying to get all the annoying elements of my favorite websites cleared out without adversely affecting the content I was interested in was a fine balancing act which was more trouble that it was worth, so I removed it. Looking back, I believe this was my conclusion the last time I used Rip.
I didn't try Adblock because a) I've tried it before, and b) I've been using Mike's Ad Blocking Hosts file to block ads for quite a while now. This file is a very simple hack which takes ad server URLs and redirects them to non-existant numerical addresses. With the most recent version of Firefox I'm running, this causes a lot of "Unable to connect" errors. I was trying to fix this minor annoyance by going back to Rip, but I eventually decided that error messages are a smaller annoyance than accidentally telling Rip to kill all the content and preserve the dancing frogs hawking beer.
The reason for this article is not to mention all that, but to talk about something I noticed while doing all those searches. I saw many a comment preaching that I should not be blocking all ads, or at least ads on the site of the person leaving the comment. "Please don't block my ads." To do so would result in the death of the Internet.
I say that again: I encountered people who believed that my blocking their advertisements would result in the death of the Internet.
The "logic" was that websites are supported by advertisers. Advertisers pay webmasters when someone clicks on their ads or (in some rare cases) when they are simply displayed. If I used this or that wonderful product to block all advertisements, then I'd never see any ads and never click on any ads, thus stopping advertisers from paying the webmasters. Webmasters would shut down their sites. Without websites, the Internet would die.
Ergo, my unwillingness to watch animated bunnies extolling the virtues of free herbal male enhancement dietary supplements before reading about the latest Amber Alert made me responsible for the end of the world as we know it.
What the HellTM*?
* (Hell is a registered trademark of InfernCo, LTD.)
I, naturally, disagree with this sentiment.
First of all, much like any product I see mentioned in spam, I try to avoid spending money on any product mentioned in an annoying advertisement. If I see an advertisement for a product or service that I just can't live without, I seek out a competitor with a similar product or service. The gist of this paragraph is that even if I wasn't blocking every advert that I could, the effect on the advertiser's bottom line would be pretty much the same.
Secondly, I'm old enough to remember an Internet before the advent of the World Wide Web. Killing all ad-supported websites won't kill the Internet. In fact, given the number of websites I've encountered which seem to exist solely for the purpose of generating ad revenue, killing all ad-supported websites might be good for the Internet.
Back in my days in the halls of Academia, there was a thing called the LPU or "Least Publishable Unit." This is the least amount of actual content that you can put in a research paper and still expect it to be actually published and not brushed off as a self-serving fluff piece. A single piece of one-time research can be used to generate a dozen papers, each focusing on one small part of the research. I even remember one case where a group of students brainstormed and generated a single good idea for a solid A+ paper. Instead of one student writing that paper, they divided up the data and wrote a bunch of B+/- papers. LPU in action.
Looking forward to websites, I see LPU in action all the time. Some sites can turn a simple review of a simple product into 14 pages. Each page is little more than a paragraph, a picture, and lots of ads. Tell me if this sounds familiar:
Now we're going to talk about friggensnatz. As you can tell from the graph below, this product has more friggensnatz than last year's model but not quite as much as is projected for next year's model. On the next page, we'll talk about snatzenfrig.
On the last page we talked about the friggensnatz. Now we're going to talk about snatzenfrig. The pictures below show the back of the product and a good view of the snatzenfrig. We unfortunately have no hard data on the snatzenfrig at this point. On the next page, we'll see the new flabengeezer.
I've stopped bothering to visit some sites altogether because what little technical information they have is strung out over 23 pages with one little factoid apiece. Each page has a three minute load time because of all the advertisements, animations, menues, popups, popunders, popovers, etc. All for something that could really be put on a single page if they were more interested in getting information to the public and less interested in generating ad revenue.
There are perfectly good reasons to break an article up over a series of webpages. Sometimes, the article is just too long to read in a single sitting. Sometimes, information is not available at the time the article is written so a Part Two is only natural. Sometimes, the various points are so diverse that some of your audience will be attracted to some of them and not others, so it makes sense to give each its own page so people can pick and choose what they want to read.
However, having page after page with only a few lines of actual information, most of which is devoted to reminding the reader what was covered on the page before and warn the reader about the page after, reeks of LPU.
Even if there's a decent amount of information on a page, it's hardly worth visiting if I have to page down twice to get past the ads, then skip over two more blocks of them in the middle of the article, then page back up from another block of ads at the bottom of the page to find the link to the next part.
So I block the ads.
Is this going to result in the death of the Internet? I don't think so.
VCRs were going to result in the death of television. Broadcast TV is supported by advertisements. If you record your favorite television show, you can fast forward through the commercials. I DVR most the TV I watch simply for that reason. That's certainly killed television, didn't it?
Magazines and newspapers make more money selling advertising space than they do selling subscriptions. I skip past them when I'm reading. Some magazines have huge sections of ads in the back. I've been known to just rip that section out and toss it. That's certainly killed the print industry, hasn't it?
Movie theaters make more money showing commercials before the movie than they make from ticket sales. I've taken to showing up 15 minutes after the advertised start time to skip them. That's certainly killed the movie industry, hasn't it?
Ever since I got that MP3 player for my truck, I never listen to commercials on the radio anymore. When I hit a commercial block, I just switch to MP3 for a while, then back to my show. Since my father got his first TV with a remote control, I doubt he's watched more than a handful of commercial blocks without going channel surfing. I watch my DVD movies on a computer with non-standard player software that lets me skip over the advertisements and coming attractions and get straight to the movie I paid for.
I once downloaded a very nice free program for my computer. I used it a lot. Then, after I'd upgraded to the latest version, it stopped running. Apparently, my "free" program was supposed to have been displaying advertisements every time I used it. I didn't remember reading anything about that when I first downloaded the program. One of the various methods I'd been using to block ads in my web browser was also stopping ads in the "free" program, which the latest version took offense to. The author's recommended solution was to disable the ad blocker. My recommended solution was to uninstall the program and find another that did the same job.
So obviously I am going to block ads on websites. Throwing more and more ads at me will not change my mind. Making ads more obtrusive and intrusive will not change my mind. Telling me how I'm mucking up your revenue stream will not change my mind. Telling me that it's either filling the website with ads or shutting the website down will not change my mind, because by that point I've already stopped reading it.
Living with a constant barrage of ads is no more a requirement for visiting websites than is putting up with telemarketers a requirement for owning a phone, tolerating spam is a requirement for having an email address, or getting junk mail is a requirement for having a post office box. These are horrible side effects of the process, not the reason for it.
I have a few advertisements on my site (cheek.org). I try to keep them out of your way and out of your face. Most of the ads are for products and services I use myself (usually provided here without any compensation whatsoever simply because I am a fan of said product or service). Others are by Google Adsense and are supposedly customized to the individual page.
Click on them if you want. Block them if you want. It doesn't make a whole lot of difference to me. I'm just the webmaster. I provide the content. How you enjoy it is up to you.
Copyright 2006 by Troy H. Cheek. Reprint with prior written permission only. Comments and questions to
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|This page last updated on Feb 27, 2006 by Troy H. Cheek|