Ad blockers. Okay.
I have ads in this site. I have donation buttons. I make more via the ads, naturally, and I use the money to offset the absolute frivolity it is to run a web server. I also use ad blockers.
And I also understand the worry of ad blockers on iOS because I see the possible loss of income.
My ads are not obtrusive. I hope. I test them a lot on browsers. I don’t display them on smaller ones. I am picky about the ads. I don’t have pop-up/lightbox ads or alerts that congenially prompt people to sign up for a mailing list or try a service. I hate those things. They get between me and the content I’m trying to read. They prevent me from visiting sites. And if you’ve tried to click away an ad like that on your iPhone, you know my pain. Let’s not even get into the accessibility problems.
No, ethically I chose not to host the ads I hate.
And I lose money because of that.
A lot of money. Probably a hundred a month, easy. And I’m personally okay with that, because I can afford this website. I have the money to keep it up, and for what it costs me, it’s cheaper than other hobbies. It’s helped turn a hobby into a career.
But the same cannot be said of all websites. Many need those ads to survive and flourish.
So in the balance between content and money, with accessibility and speed on the line, what is the right answer? Who is more important? Where is the right path to earn money while showing ads and not pissing off readers?
And I’m not the only person who has trouble with this balance. The developers of Peace, an iOS ad blocker, pulled his product after two days, saying it didn’t feel good. He doesn’t like being the person who gets to decide what ads are right and wrong. That said, Marco is still a proponent of blocking for the ethical reasons of knowing who’s tracking you.
Disclosure time! I use an blocker on my computer. It’s µBlock, which Taylor Swift also uses:
— SecuriTay (@SwiftOnSecurity) January 25, 2015
But the truth is I actually block few things. It’s not that I want a blocker but I want an unobstructor tool. Just like we despised pop-ups, I hate the following things:
- Ads that redirect my iPhone to the App Store to buy your stupid game
- Ads that cover my entire browser window, forcing me to click away
- Ads that autoplay, making me scroll the hell around and figure out what I have to turn off
- Ads that popup in the background, making me address them before I can read
If you can’t see a trend, let me explain it for you. I hate all things that pull me away from your content.
The New York Times has reported on this: Enabling of Ad Blocking in Apple’s iOS 9 Prompts Backlash
“When ad blockers became the most downloaded apps in the App Store, it forced publishers and advertisers to rethink the role that advertising plays on the web,” said David Carroll, an associate professor of media design at the Parsons School of Design.
That illustrates the issue. It’s not that we hate ads. Most of us understand them as a necessary evil. We pay for Netflix to get fewer ads. We pay for cable to get higher quality shows… in theory. We get ads with free TV because it’s free and has to make money. We get ads on newspapers and in magazines because they are surprisingly low cost for what they are. Ditto comic books.
We know and we understand why ads are there. We rebel because the ads make it impossible to get at the content. The thing we came for.
I don’t have an answer. I know that, sometimes, I actually do click on ads that interest me. I also know that most of the time people don’t click on ads. I know that many sites need ads to keep going and to keep delivering content. But I know what we’re doing, making ads more and more in your face, is not the right way to win.
Right now I have no iOS ad blocker. I haven’t found one I like yet. I’m sure that will change.