To Block or Not to Block

While reading a post from Amidst a Tangled Web (a ‘blog that I read frequently) regarding the bombardment of advertising that we’re seeing in the world around us today. One of his points was in reference to online advertising, to which I (respectfully) have a different perspective.

Regardless of whether you’re a “big site” or just a little blog, the costs of running a website are not zero. It should be said that there are two types of online advertisements: pay per click, and some sort of pay per impression (the latter isn’t as simple as that, but for the sake of simplicity we’ll pretend that it is).

Pay per click ads (like I use on www.JoeLevi.com) present information either inline with one’s content, or in an “ad block” somewhere on the page. The site owner is only paid if someone clicks through the ad (and sometimes only if the clicker actually makes a purchase — affiliate programs work this way).

Impression ads typically pay you either by the amount of times the ad is shown on the page, or a flat rate per month (or other amount of time). Back before the dot com bubble burst, most advertising schemes worked this way, it was great for the site owner, but not so great for the advertiser.

The tricky part is, most people don’t know which type of advertising it is and just decide to block all of it (or all that they can). Whether they use a browser plug-in, standalone application, or a custom HOSTS file (or a combination), the bottom line is that the site owner, the person that is publishing the information that you’re reading, has decided that his or her content isn’t free, and rather than making you pay for a subscription (like the New York Times does), or micro-pay for the content, they opted to put ads on their page in the hopes that they wouldn’t be doing all this for free.

There are other site owners and content providers out there that have decided to give away their content (bandwidth, hosting costs, their own time, etc.). To these people I tip my hat; I’m not one of them. If people want to look at my information, they have to look at my ads. If they want to they can click on them so I get paid a little bit. If not, I don’t.

In my opinion, by blocking ads, you may as well be walking in to the bookstore and pocketing that book without paying for it. You’re looking at content that the author has presented on the condition that the ads be seen, and you’re preventing that.

Maybe there’s a way that I can have my web application look and see if a visitor is blocking ads, and if so block the contents of the site and present them with a message that they’re stealing.

The only caveat that I can see are malicious ads (any ad that spawns a new window or attempts to launch or install an application, steal data, or modify the behavior on my computer is malicious, again, in my opinion) or ads with questionable/objectionable material (True.com, pr0n, anything illegal in your jurisdiction, etc.). In which case you should write an email to the webmaster (and/or president, owner, moderator, administrator) and let them know that you value their content but not the ads that they’re running (include a screenshot, if possible). Tell the webmaster that you’ll check again in a week, and if the ads are still there, you’ll either discontinue visiting their site, or block their ads. At least you will have given them the opportunity to remove the offending material.

Thoughts?

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