How ad blocking is bad for the sites you like

Sunday, March 14, 2010 2:42 AM

I posted this on our Facebook page, but thought I'd repost it here as well...

Why ad blocking is devastating to the sites you love - Ars Technica

It's a good non-threatening explanation about how ad blocking is bad news. I can really identify with a lot of what is said in that post, and it's also one of the primary examples of why paid subscriber arrangements (like CoasterBuzz Club) make a real difference.

But I suggest reading it really for all sites you frequently visit. It's not specific to any one site.

Sunday, March 14, 2010 3:01 AM

Y'know, I don't block ads. I have blocked a few badly behaved ad servers (basically, if loading your ad code causes my browser to crash, then I blackhole your server), but in general I don't block ads. I do block Flash, but the Flash blocker is designed to load the non-flash alternative if it exists. Thank Adobe for apparently being among the worst MacOS programmers in the business (worse than HP, but perhaps a little better than Cisco).

But as I look at this page, there are three gaping holes where ads are supposed to be. Looks like they're all for Orbitz, and they are all coming from This tells me that we're still looking at ad service that is being poorly done. I should not be seeing big white boxes with gears in them; I should be seeing ad graphics. And frequently I do see ad graphics, often with the gear icon overlaid on top. I have graphics set to load, I have JavaScript enabled, I have animations enabled...but I don't load Flash unless it is absolutely necessary. So why are these ads coming through with no non-flash substitute graphic?

(I have philosophical reasons for not joining the CoasterBuzz Club. But as the Club becomes less about subscribing to the site and more about being an actual organization, that may change. And if I were a club member, I'd probably still use the ad-supported site out of plain inertia... :) )

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

Sunday, March 14, 2010 3:12 AM

Well, Dave, this organization did a hell of a lot to repair a lot of strained enthusiast-park relationships when it started, and it runs a lot more smoothly without the bureaucratic nonsense of a non-profit.

But you also completely miss the point of the article. Servers, software, bandwidth and peoples' time are not free. I don't know where this utopian fantasy about the Internet that suggests otherwise comes from.

Sunday, March 14, 2010 9:27 AM

I think there are two sides of this story though Jeff.

Yes, Ads generate revenue, but some ads have been known to inject bad code in browsers and either crash or spike the process to the point of turning your computer into temporary brick. So should the user be punished due to either poor code on browsers or websites?

Some popups/flat ads are used to encourage folks to click on malware that would immediately become invasive to someones machine. Yes this is user education, but good luck making that pervasive.

Some ads are completely intrusive. Internet I think in some cases has been inherently "slowed" down experience wise due to the intrusive pop up/flat ads that some sites hit you with.

(By the way.. all these are documented cases in the Gov't sector I work in and you would be surprised how much I block at the proxy level for them, because of most of these reasons).

That said, there are legit sites such as yourself, that don't fall within any of said boundaries, but unfortunately unless the user doesnt run the blocker at all or whitelist them, yes I agree, it could take revenue from the author. But unfortunately, some of the bad out there has affected the good.

I disagree with the Author though. We could extend this complaint out that DVRs are effectively Ad Blockers for Television. It's used to essentially disable the effectiveness of advertising, which like INet ads, is used to fund the programming. Yes its not metered by the page views or clicks or what have you, but its purpose is to get someone to buy something they may not normally purchase w/o seeing it. No purchase, no sale, no revenue.

There, in fact, was movement at the advent of DVRs from advertisers and Networks to figure out a way of preventing FFing though ads. If there was no fear in revenue loss of any type this would have never even been brought up.

Do we say, get rid of DVRs as well? I dont think the two technologies as far as purpose are that far from one another.

Last edited by ridemcoaster, Sunday, March 14, 2010 10:27 AM
Sunday, March 14, 2010 9:36 AM

Personally, I never understood why sites who depend on ads for revenue and survival don't just block content to users who are blocking ads. Put up a nicely worded message asking them to allow ads to receive the content and it seemed to me like it would help out.

This article mentions this as an "experiment gone wrong" but I didn't quite understand why they felt it went wrong. It says most people were willing to do what they could to help so I couldn't figure out what went wrong about it. Was it that some people who are effectively stealing from them anyway got mad at them? Doesn't seem like a failed experiment to me unless there's something about revenue from people using ad blockers that I don't know about.

- Jeff

Sunday, March 14, 2010 11:22 AM

Uncle Coaster said:
Put up a nicely worded message asking them to allow ads to receive the content and it seemed to me like it would help out.

They rely on people linking to their content and other viral factors. If someone visits the site and doesn't see any content, they will never read the article, never send out or bookmark the page and never come back.

Sunday, March 14, 2010 11:36 AM

RideMan said:So why are these ads coming through with no non-flash substitute graphic?

I suspect your flash blocker doesn't work as well as you think it does. I have done some tests with ClickToFlash for Safari and it blocks alternative content as well as the flash content.

Sunday, March 14, 2010 3:51 PM

That could be. It's still something I am investigating. I wish there were a better solution, but the Flash problem has gotten so bad that the alternative is to remove the Flash plugin entirely...but there are entirely too many sites where doing that makes the site not work at all. I wish I could just switch the plug-in in and out on the fly.

And Jeff, I totally get the point. That's why I don't block the ads, and I'm actually kind of annoyed that the non-flash ones don't come through (the page actually doesn't even look right with the holes in it...). My choice not to join the club comes down to two simple points--

1) I am a member of several of the 'legacy' organizations and I support the work that they do. As a result, from a purely selfish perspective, another membership is not necessary. After all, what useful benefit do I get by becoming a member of this, or any other organization? That's a continuous evaluation process. So far the primary benefit of CoasterBuzz Club apart from the site (I'll get to that in Point #2) is that it's cheaper than ACE or NAPHA when I want to go to a park-sponsored event. But I am already a member of both. Given what has been happening with events of late, this might well be the season for joining the club. But I haven't made that decision yet.

2) The philosophical point has to do with the kind of site that CoasterBuzz is. Quite simply, I don't see the point of paying someone else so that I can listen to myself talk, especially when there is somebody else (and I am not talking about you!) willing to underwrite that conversation through advertising. Which is why I don't block ads. :)

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

Sunday, March 14, 2010 4:22 PM

I am an ad blocker (but Im a CBuzz Club member) for the simple reason that Ive gotten (without even clicking on an ad) viruses in the past. That is the major difference between the internet and other forms of advertising. I can recognize and choose to ignore spam, sales calls, junk mail, etc I cant filter and stop malware while allowing legitimate ads through. Even on "good sites" people frequently post that an ad has given their computer a virus, and that is reasearched and proven to be true. It sucks but thats the real world and why a whole lot more people use ad blockers then dont.

The internet advertising industry needs to step back realize their product is corrupted and fix it, but seeing as malware providers pay the same (or sometimes even more $) then legit advertisers it will never do that, so I will continue to block ads, if sites allow me to aid them in other ways I will if I support the site but othewise sorry, if a content provider has to shut down its less of a problem for me then having my computer get hijacked and lose all of my files on it.

Last edited by Touchdown, Sunday, March 14, 2010 4:28 PM
Sunday, March 14, 2010 9:18 PM

ridemcoaster said:
Yes, Ads generate revenue, but some ads have been known to inject bad code in browsers and either crash or spike the process to the point of turning your computer into temporary brick. So should the user be punished due to either poor code on browsers or websites?

No, the user should be banned from using the Internet. ;) Seriously though, I think your argument is weak and based on fear and use of IE6. It also assumes that every site runs crap ads from crap agencies. The site feeding CoasterBuzz ads (along with Google) is the same company that serves ads for little sites like Digg and AnandTech. If someone is sophisticated enough to use an ad blocker, are they really unsophisticated enough to get malware?

Sunday, March 14, 2010 9:26 PM

^You can tell what browser we are using? Wow didn't realize you could do that.

Sunday, March 14, 2010 9:49 PM

Maybe I'm stupid... Is an ad blocker and the pop-up blocker that is already built into my browser the same thing?

Sunday, March 14, 2010 10:15 PM

I made no assumption that every site runs crap code..I believe i used the word "some" several times. But there are some that do and would be naive to think otherwise. Personally for me, it takes one poorly coded site to annoy me. And its not just IE6.. Ive had some flash ad sites foul my FF up to the point of having to force quit.

There are millions upon millions of sites. Your 3 listed are far from litmus and all it takes is a poor insert of code or an instability with the vast amount of plugs ins to potentially foul up a browser.

Also, you cant assume that because someone non-tech savvy that they cant have an ad blocker. On the contrary there are places install them on users PC so they are already there..Coupled with family members who help less savvy family members, etc.. Has no bearing on the persons capability so I find that justification flimsy at best.

Lastly I shutter when people are still on ie6. The concurrent connection limit on IE6 will kill you on an ad latent website alone, as its only 2 per host by default.. So every new stream is queued until the 2 are freed up.

Monday, March 15, 2010 12:23 AM

Touchdown: Every HTTP request carries with it a user-agent string that (in theory) tells the host what browser is being used. Many sites use this data either to deliberately break their CSS so that it will work in Internet Explorer 6-, or less appropriately to actively deny access to people not using the site owner's preferred browser.

For that reason, some people have had to spoof the user agent string to get the pages they want to see, which is why I note "(in theory)" above.

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

Monday, March 15, 2010 1:00 AM

Maybe I have just been lucky (knock on wood) but I have never had any problems with viruses/spyware/malware from ads. Only had one problem with a virus/malware because my virus/malware software just mysteriously stopped working and I was too stupid to be paying attention to notice. Didn't lose any data.

I do not block ads. At this point, I am so unsed to them being there that I don't even give it a second thought. Some can be a little slow in loading but that isn't an issue. To pay to skip them on a site like this, I would need to be getting something else besides no ads because a lot of other sites I visit have them with no options to buy out of them. And removing them from one or two sites isn't worth it just for that.

Monday, March 15, 2010 10:23 AM

RideMan said:
I wish I could just switch the plug-in in and out on the fly.

There is a Firefox extension for that.

I tried running ClickToFlash to prevent flash for a few weeks but found the performance improvements to be overrated.

Monday, March 15, 2010 10:58 AM

Interesting discussion. I remember a few years ago Jeff being pretty ticked off at folks who talked about using ad-blockers. Of course, that was before all the standard browsers integrated basic ad-blocking into their features.

I've heard some internet analysts talk about how eventually the business model will move away from ads and more towards subscriptions even though they haven't been very successful with news sites so far. Personally I have no objection to paying a yearly fee to get just the content of a site. If it's something I'm really into, I'll pay, otherwise I'll just deal with the ads because it's not worth the money.

Monday, March 15, 2010 2:26 PM

Things were a lot more dire a few years ago, when the ad market for small to medium sized publishers was drying up. If I didn't get picked up by FM, and Google didn't start to really do an exceptional job at filling remaining inventory with actual paid ads, it'd be a different world. And in the interest of transparency, the site took on debt again last year in the seven months I wasn't working, because I chose to have it be my "unemployment benefit" instead of getting it from the feds.

I'm a big fan of a lot of the ideas that the 37signals guys put out there on their blog (the best of which are in their new book, Rework). They very much validate several principles I adopted years ago: Ignore what everyone else does, grow only when growth makes sense, and above all, if you provide something of value, don't be afraid to ask for money.

That last thing I originally did for the sake of survival, but in the long run it turned out to be the right thing to do. If the site only serves to "hear yourself talk," so be it, but hundreds of other people feel that it's more than that. I'll gladly pay for anything that I get value out of, whether it be this site, Vimeo, eHarmony (met my wife there) or various other sites. I encourage others to do the same. Relative to the price of a coulpe of lattes at Starbucks or Happy Meals, I think it's a pretty good value.

Monday, March 15, 2010 7:49 PM

I will admit, Jeff, thats one thing I appreciate about your business model is the fact you are transparent, even right down to the upping of the membership fees and reasoning behind it.

Personally, I much rather spend my money on electronics, but shelling out a few dollars every year to this cause is definitely worth it to me because of how up front you are even if I dont really take advantage of all the perks.

Oh yeah because it also allows me unrestricted banter time with Gonch.. Those ads slow down my rebuttal time :)

Last edited by ridemcoaster, Monday, March 15, 2010 7:53 PM
Monday, March 15, 2010 8:33 PM

I don't like to spend money on anything, but I find CoasterBuzz worth paying for, even if there is a free version.

Don't want to make anyone (Jeff) mad here, but I am honest to a fault, so here it goes...

I use AdBlock Plus with my Firefox. I really think most Firefox users do. Online ads, with the noble purpose of being more viable and attention grabbing, only get annoying and obnoxious. Some are even misleading, not really telling you what they sell, but promising "free" expensive stuff. Being tricked, or annoyed, is not a good experience.

I enjoy the ads when I watch Lost and other TV programs online. It's just a TV commercial. It's not deceptive or annoying (for the most part :) ). I wish online ads would be more serious, and also advertise products and services that one may actually be interested in.


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