Mark Evans has written a few posts about how AdBlock Plus, an ad blocker for Firefox, is “evil.” He argues that readers who block online advertising are cutting off a major source of revenue for the sites they visit. The subject is worth considering in regards to blogging and priorities – to both your readers and advertisers.
I’d like to flip things around and critique “intrusive” online advertising – the main reason why ad blockers exist. I feel disrespected as a customer when I encounter ads that excessively waste my time or annoy me. Here’s a short list of “intrusive” advertising types with specific examples:
- Ads that require an action to disable: pop up or pop under windows (I have to close the window) or ads with music (I have to turn off the music or turn down the volume).
- Ads that deliberately obscure the content: ads that drift with animation over the text on the page, ads that take up the vast majority of the top of the page, forcing me to scroll down, or even ads that take up a large corner of the first paragraph of the content, forcing me to search for the first line of text.
- Ads that are deceptive in order to generate a click: ads intentionally disguised as or placed very close to user interface elements, or colored words that are actually links to ads (these look annoyingly similar to text links to other web pages).
- Ads that interrupt the websurfing experience in a time-wasting manner: preroll ads on videos, ads on their own page placed before you get to the actual content, or web pages that are deliberately split into ten pages, each loaded with ads, in a weak effort to get you to read every page, thereby increasing ad and page views.
As you can see, I’m quite annoyed at several, common forms on online advertising. But I have a simple justification:
I, as a reader, am a customer and in an ideal world, should always be placed first. When a content provider deliberately wastes my time (1, 2, 4), tries to trick me (3), or takes advantage of me (4), I don’t feel the site hosting those ads is treating me as their #1 priority. Call me naive, but I still think the customer should be placed first – business models be damned. And therefore, I don’t see any reason why I should be obligated to support a site or advertiser that doesn’t respect me. AdBlock Plus may come into play – but more likely, I won’t visit that site again.
My personal advertising views influence the sites I visit and the ads I run on my blog. My primary blogging goal is to write compelling content. Because I want people to read my posts first and foremost, I carefully consider anything that could intrude on that experience. As a result, I’ve settled on Google Adsense and the occasional Amazon link, as they are the least intrusive and the most contextually relevant to my audience (I write about technology with movie and music reviews).
But my priorities are such that if I had to choose between advertising or my readership, I’d take the ads down – and write for free. In a sense, I’d be my own “ad blocker”.
So if ad-blockers are “evil,” would a blog with no ads be “evil” as well? I don’t think so. Therefore, I feel this whole attempt to make ad-blocking into a moral issue is a bit misguided.
One cool thing about blogging are the multitude of different reasons why people are drawn to the medium (as varied as there are bloggers). To say those that don’t have ads or block them are immoral is putting people down who may simply have no need to treat the Internet as a gigantic billboard.