Ars Strikes A Chord: Ad Blocking Will Kill Your Favorite Sites - HotHardware
Ars Strikes A Chord:  Ad Blocking Will Kill Your Favorite Sites

Ars Strikes A Chord: Ad Blocking Will Kill Your Favorite Sites

We've been good friends with the folks at Ars Technica for many years now.  Not only does their fearless leader Ken Fisher, hail originally from the Boston area (which of course makes us a bit partial), where HotHardware also had its start, but there is little arguing that the Ars team punches out high quality, informative and engaging coverage in the Tech space, week in and week out.  So, it's no surprise that we caught something rather riveting over at Ars recently that we'd like to share with you but this time, the messaging Ken Fisher himself came across with, hit home like nothing we've read in a long while.  We've been saying it all along to a few of you regulars around here at HotHardware.com but Ken put it quite precisely when he titled his piece: Why Ad Blocking is devastating to the sites you love.

Fisher notes...
"There is an oft-stated misconception that if a user never clicks on ads, then blocking them won't hurt a site financially. This is wrong. Most sites, at least sites the size of ours, are paid on a per view basis. If you have an ad blocker running, and you load 10 pages on the site, you consume resources from us (bandwidth being only one of them), but provide us with no revenue. Because we are a technology site, we have a very large base of ad blockers. Imagine running a restaurant where 40% of the people who came and ate didn't pay. In a way, that's what ad blocking is doing to us. Just like a restaurant, we have to pay to staff, we have to pay for resources, and we have to pay when people consume those resources. The difference, of course, is that our visitors don't pay us directly but indirectly by viewing advertising."

A free lunch is tempting -- of course the quality might be directly proportional to what you paid.

Obviously, HotHardware.com runs very much on this same model, as do virtually 99% of the sites you visit on a daily basis, whether they're Tech sites or otherwise.    It's real simple.  If you ad block, you are directly inflicting financial loss on the sites you visit every day.  As the Ars Technica piece points out, we have a budget here that has to be met, only one component of which is bandwidth and the rack of servers we have to maintain in order to serve you pages here from our database of articles.  Also, obviously, there is a team of writers here whoes livelihood is supported by the business model of Internet advertising as well.   It should almost go without saying and perhaps it's common sense, though common sense isn't all that common sometimes--ad blocking and even blocking Flash animation is very much like consuming any resource, while expecting someone else to pay for it.  Those "other" people never add up to enough support and eventually that resource will dry up.

In fact, we'd go one step further and offer that, especially here in the Tech segment, where etailers are big business and often times offer you better deals online than at brick and mortar shops, we'd encourage you to support the web advertising model more aggressively by researching products via ads here and other Tech sites, that you might be considering for purchase.  And if you find a good deal, help your click through "convert" to an actual sale.


IAB Internet Advertising Revenue Report – 2008, Published March 2009

The great thing about the web as an advertising medium is that it is very easy to calculate return on investment in ad dollars and as a result more and more, big business is advertising here.  Unfortunately, with that kind of accountability and traceability, it's also easy to see when ads are being blocked and those ads of course go unpaid.  For the most part you can't really block advertising well on any other media, TV, Radio or Print.  Granted, there are exception cases where a site might abuse your bandwidth with very obtrusive ads but there is always an exception case and treating an exception case by penalizing all cases, is never a solution. 

In short, if you want the web's business model to continue to grow, evolve with more capabilities, power and resources for you as an end user, we'd suggest you do the right thing and support it properly.  Don't block web site advertising.  Thanks.
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News:
A free lunch is tempting -- of course the quality might be directly proportional to what you paid.

Yeah, I see your point, and I'll have to pass on THAT free lunch.Ick!


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>> Don't block web site advertising. Thanks.

Got it - blocking = bad.

Hiding it via AdSweep (which downloads the ads and runs the scripts but makes them invisible via CSS) is still okay though, right?

(grinning, ducking, and running!)

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3vi1:

>> Don't block web site advertising. Thanks.

Got it - blocking = bad.

Hiding it via AdSweep (which downloads the ads and runs the scripts but makes them invisible via CSS) is still okay though, right?

(grinning, ducking, and running!)

I used to do the exact same thing, but I figure just completely turned off my ad blockers, because if I can't directly hand these guys, or any webmaster of any website I frequent, then I should at least help them gain revenue from their partners from advertising.

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Yep, by the way Dave/Marco how much do you guys make form these adds? :) lol

the only bad ads i hate on this site are the ones that pop up. it blocks you from reading and i have to close the add my self :( lol (i know im lazy Smile)

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Yep, by the way Dave/Marco how much do you guys make form these adds? :) lol

the only bad ads i hate on this site are the ones that pop up. it blocks you from reading and i have to close the add my self :( lol (i know im lazy Smile)

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Why in the world would you download the actual ADs, aren't you trying to get away from it? BTW, how exactly could you go about making "them invisible via CSS"?

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Well, you're kind of digging up old threads here, but the reason you would want to download the ads is so that the script for their frames get executed.  Not only does it make sure that the site owners still get paid, but it prevents things like the Ars detection described in the article from working.

That said, I don't block any HH ads - because they don't let the completely off-topic and annoying "WIN SOMETHING FREE BY HITTING THIS POLITICAL FIGURE WITH A HAMMER" kind on their site.  I have been tempted to specifically remove the Jeter Gillette ad via a proxy, though.  :)

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Yeah, you bumped this thread a bit, but I guess a month isn't bad compared to the people who bring threads from years ago back. Like 3vi1 said, the only way for the advertisers know someone viewed that ad is if you downloaded it. The only reason I hate ads is because if you're on a gaming website or something, and like 3 or 4 video ads for the same game is displayed, it slows my computer down a lot.

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The key to this for me at least is what sites I trust. While some users may receive a free lunch, I allow adds from the sites I like, and who do the job for me in a way I deem as preferred delivery or correct, however you want to look at it. That means that a solid site like HH among others are whitelisted in Add Blocker, and everything even pop ups come through. The difference as representable by this site is that the pop ups are targeted and acceptable. Whereas many site they are all over the place off subject etc. My ABP indicator in the upper right hand corner is Green here, and will remain as such.

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Thanks guys. rapid1, I can tell you you'll never see a pop-up ad on this site. 3vi1, I'm guessing that's not kosher at all actually since I'm sure sophisticated networks like Google/DoubleClick etc can detect this is happening.

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>> I'm sure sophisticated networks like Google/DoubleClick etc can detect this is happening.

I dunno... I just went to a couple of ad-block detector sites in Chrome using AdThwart (which works similar to AdSweep), and they could not detect any blocking at all - though the ads are gone.

I doubt anything that uses HTML/CSS tricks to simply make the output invisible is going to be detected. The ads are actually loaded and executed, their visibility is eliminated after the ads have already been fetched/initialized.

Of course, I still do not condone blocking ads on sites you frequent. And, like Drago, I will still be blocking ads when visiting my parents - since there's no non-satellite broadband in their area.

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adblocking + dialup = internet halfarse usable. Ever since HH started the motion adverts back in 07 i have been blocking ads when im on dialup, otherwise i couldnt even attempt to read any articles or post on the forums without the pages refreshing when i was in the middle of typing a response or reading an article. Progressively even with ad blocking it has gotten to this point now so that i barely come here to post as i just get pissed when what i was typing in a reply ends up disappearing when the page refreshes, which by the way has managed to do about 3 times while i was writing this reply.

As for the analogy of eating at a restaurant and not paying by not viewing ads is not even a close analogy. If you said stealing sugar or sweetnlow packets, that would be a much more appropriate analogy. The internet revenue model has been flawed from the beginning, and while yes it does net money, it also makes good sites whore themselves out for it. Ad revenue was never ment to be the ONLY source of income for a site, but a supplement, maybe enough to offset the cost of hosting the site at best.

Really though, if a site isnt getting enough money to stay up, it isnt cause people are blocking their ads, it is because the site's content has gone down hill, a competitor site is beating them out, and/or they dont have a REAL source of income.

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Drago, I couldn't DISAGREE with you more.

What do you think we do here? Do you think HotHardware.com, for our team, is a hobby or side gig? We have full time staff employees as well as freelance writers on staff. Even the freelance folks are full time at what they do, for us and other publications. Everyone has to make a living to survive here, so how do you propose we pay these people, along with the bandwidth and hosting costs, test equipment and even utilities (electricity etc) it takes to keep things running around here? What model do you think would pay for the costs and the payroll associated with a site like this? If not ad revenue, and since we don't directly sell stuff, then what? We actually do have a merchant engine here but if we were to rely solely on price search sales conversions, I can assure you we wouldn't earn enough revenue to even keep one of our writers on staff and cover hosting.

So, what you're saying is, ads are just supplemental and you couldn't be more incorrect. They are core to our revenue stream, and in reality our only revenue stream. And that goes for many sites on the internet. Without advertising, you wouldn't only be paying for a dog slow internet dial-up connection, but you'd be paying each site under a "paywall" subscription model, otherwise they couldn't afford to serve you content.

No, it really is like coming in for a free lunch if you ad block... not just the sugar packets. And at HH, I might be partial, but I think the lunch we serve here is like Filet Mignon and Lobster tails...

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and another thing, Drago (can you tell he got me fired up?), working at HotHardware.com is sort of like the Peace Corps or raising children. It's the "toughest job you'll ever love"... There are many of us here that work VERY long days (I personally average at least 12 hour days, sometimes 14 or more as does Marco) but we love what we do.

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I don't mind ads, we are receiving a free service and its the least we can do, when i have time or nothing to do i even click the ads to help out even more (if it counts on clicks). I know how much money you guys put in to this website alone (im guessing your hosted on a dedicated or VPS) Then there is buying the parts to review (those that are not sponsored :D)

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I would have no problem viewing ads if they were just static images. What really annoys me is when I'm trying to read an article, and I start seeing a flashing ad or something else that just takes my eyes away from the page (even if I've actually looked at the ad already). Worse are the ones that embed sound clips in them for no reason (classic example are those old 'OMG! NO WAY!" smiley adverts - not that HotHardware used them).

That said, even an animation doesn't always have to be distracting - just get rid of the jarring color changes and I'd pretty much be content to live with the ads. Oh, and I hate Adobe Flash ads.

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Yes, I'm replying to myself.

I actually just whitelisted HotHardware on my ad blocker, and have to admit that you guys are indeed doing things the right way. No ads between news articles, and the ads aren't taking up enormous real-estate on the screen (something else I see too often on several other sites). It's also great to hear that you guys are taking the time to manage the ad stream to ensure quality.

Kudos on that one guys. Consider HotHardware the first (of hopefully several) sites that get a green ABP icon in my browser.

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Ads are great... when they're on the Superbowl. (Or are clever and well-written and hire actors like myself instead of being slideshows of stock pictures.) But we can assume that the ads on our favorite TV shows are formatted to be compatible with the TV screen and won't cause us, say, to lose half of the picture when the show restarts.

Websites in general force a certain look on the browser-- sometimes going so far as to require one particular browser, or to install the hacker's friend named Flash, to see their content. That's annoying for a fully sighted person. For a handicapped person, it can effectively block the usefulness of the site.

One of the reasons I like HH is that it only minimally imposes a look using fancy scripting instead of solid HTML (the polls need a little work though). I can enlarge the type to a point where I can read it and not have the designers' assumptions work against me. If we now introduce a third party, whose understanding of humans and their abilities takes a back seat to throwing flashy crap at the monitor, we now have impacted the whole site-- and it's seldom a positive impact. I can't think of any web site that's become better because ads were introduced.

I'm afraid that if advertisers want us to view their ads, they're going to have to become better programmers or at least hire a few Human Factors consultants. Oh! and what does Kem have to say about going to the bathroom during the commercial break? That essentially opting out of the advertiser's message!

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@Clem - That was a well thought out response, thanks. That said, I can tell you to rest assured quality advertisers and the quality web site companies that run those ads, are maniacly focused on delivering ads that are both very relevant and non-obtrusive, with the caveat that the main goal is to still get your attention, of course in a positive way. In fact, we regularly beat on our publicist and ad partners (sometimes quite literally) to ensure we're delivering high quality ads, that are well done and more importantly, relevant. The bottom line is, if an ad meets those criteria, the ad campaign does well for all parties involved. If it doesn't, it doesn't do well, for all parties involved.

So again, in short, if you like a site, it's probably because the folks that run it have a clue, are professional and will take time to manage the ad stream you see to ensure quality. Perhaps that can't be ensured 100% of the time but let's say something like 80% or more. So, that being the case, please don't block ads. Whitelist that site at the very least in your ad block program and help keep the people that make the Internet such a wonderful resource in business for years to come. We are the "new media" and guess what, that "new media" includes you too now. Web 2.0 is all about reader participation. You shape the news. You decide what stories go viral and cause the buzz, not some media blitz from an overly left or right-wing TV or Radio program. The beauty of the Internet is that you have a say in what you think should be deemed important coverage or quality content. You can't say that about virtually any other media outlet; at least not directly. So support the ecosystem that is supporting you back.

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Right back atcha, Dave_HH. The only thing I'd add by way of response is that the Web, whichever version you're talking about (can't wait for Web 2.1 to fix the bugs in 2.0!) has elements of what the advertising community calls a "saturation medium" and a "targeted medium." Print ads traditionally were the latter; radio, the former, with TV tending toward saturation as well. Target ads are the ones people actually read, saturation ads are the ones that try to make themselves part of your subconscious so that, when you have to make a snap decision, you say "I'll have a Coke with that." or "Let's buy a Ford. It's built Ford tough."

The existence of bad browser ads in quantity is what's making people block all ads-- and I'd say that the burden of responsibility is on the advertisers rather than the consumers. But, I will be more selective in who I block-- and while I'm not interested in getting my GED or becoming a nursing assistant, HH may continue to put those ads into the RSS news feed. .)

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I hear you Clem, with respect to bad ads. I personally go NUTS when a weight loss or "get ripped" ad sneaks though our filters. Our publicist's help desk line gets lit up a like Christmas tree with email after email from me until it is removed from our rotation. It drives me insane. Still, I realize there are some sites that sustain themselves on junk ads that are very annoying. It's safe to say that their in the minority though and the net is getting better at regulating the low quality stuff, keeping it contained to low quality content.

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Sounds like you're doing the right thing Dave. I know I never think about turning adblocking back on when the ads are for relevant/tech stuff. Those Derek Jeter Fusion razor ads to make me think about setting up a proxy to block specific ones though - haha.

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I blocked Ads for a long time. But,.......I had to allow each and every script permission to run on every page I looked at and it got to be a real PITA for me. So I downloaded a bunch of free security programs and installed them. I have four of them resident in memory and they do catch allot of "Secret-Agent" style shenanigans in their tracks. I scan the computers every other day and remove the bogeys that some Ads still manage to slip onto your computer on the sly.

The goings on on this site are tame and usually relevant to my interests, so I click through a lot of times to check them out.

I thought that the one about the lady marrying a three toed sloth was too much though.

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There are only a some sites I block ads on. For most sites, I allow ads. Like one of my friends puts it, you keep adds on certain sites because it adds to the site. For example, I like keeping ads on pc hardware sites because I like seeing ads for that latest top of the line OC'ed graphics card. I guess you could say that it contributes to the atmosphere.

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Good stuff gents - once again, I've been enlightened. I am or was precisely the user Mr. Fisher was writing about. Not an intentional freeloader by design but simply an average web surfer that didn't know enough about ad revenue models to realize I was undermining your revenue potential. Accept my apologies and rest assured that Whitelisting and I are about to become good friends.

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