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Monday, 08 March 2010


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Get the cool shoe shine!

Martin Wisse

Don't thank me, I've got adblockers and hence am killing my favourite sites, according to some dick on Ars Technica.


Yeah, man, fuck people wanting to get paid for their work.

The point of the Ars Technica rant was to explain that, yes, if you view the site with ad-blockers you are draining their resources without contributing. If too many people do that, the site won't be sustainable. The whole "but I don't like ads!" thing is irrelevant.

P.T. Smith

Because advertisers will never, and have never, found new ways to invade our lives. It isn't irrelevant.


I don't get what you're saying, here. Ads on a webpage aren't "new ways to invade our lives", and what does that have to do with the fact that ad-blockers cost Ars money?

P.T. Smith

Ads on a webpage are new ways they invade our lives, and I think the connection to ad-blockers is pretty clear. They'll find a new way to advertise and Ars will eventually be making that money again. Or the loss of revenue due to ad-blockers will be factored into the spending money on ads.


Sean, people in television tried the same line with Tivo and DVR: "If you use those devices to skip TV ads, you're stealing TV programming!" The reaction, rightly, was a big guffaw. Do you ever listen to NPR without being a member? Come to that, do you ever change the radio or TV station when an ad comes on?


The difference, to my mind, is twofold. Firstly, that with Ars (and sites with a similar model) their advertising revenue is directly linked to how many times the ad is viewed, and that number is tracked by the company. Because of this, the difference between loading ads and blocking ads is a direct difference in how much money Ars gets. Secondly, the operating costs of a website - at least in terms of bandwidth - are tied to how often the site is accessed. So accessing the site costs Ars money, viewing the ads makes Ars money, if you do them together Ars stays afloat, if you do the first without the second Ars loses out.

Neither of these is the case with TV advertising, or broadcast radio*. It doesn't cost the TV or radio station any more when I tune in, and it doesn't make them any less if I skip the ads, because they can't detect either (since I'm not in one of the samples from which TV ratings are worked out). So the two cases seem quite disparate to me.

*I'm a UKer, so I'm not sure how NPR works - I have little sympathy for people dodging the BBC licence fee, but since that's actually illegal it's probably not a good analogy.

Martin Wisse

Just because their business model is undermined by improving technology does not transfer any obligation to me to not use said technology.


No, it doesn't. But your not being under an obligation not to adblock doesn't change the fact that adblocking hurts them. If you're fine with that, then you're fine with that - which is exactly what Ken Fisher was saying at Ars Technica:

I am not making an argument that blocking ads is a form of stealing, or is immoral, or unethical, or makes someone the son of the devil. It can result in people losing their jobs, it can result in less content on any given site, and it definitely can affect the quality of content.

Nobody's launching a moralistic attack on adblocking (which seems to be what you're trying to defend against) but a practical one. A hypothetical imperative, not a categorical one: if you want Ars Technica to flourish, you should support it.


Ken's claim not to be making an ethical complaint was, I thought, extremely disingenuous. Look at what you quoted: it's not unethical to do block ads, but doing so is the equivalent of getting someone fired who doesn't deserve it. Or look at these other claims that follow this "it's not an ethical issue" protestation (emphases added):

If you read a site and care about its well being, then you should not block ads

I think it is far better to vote with page views than to show up and consume resources without giving anything in return.

I think in some ways the Internet and its vast anonymity feeds into a culture where many people do not think about the people, the families, the careers that go into producing a website.

my point still stands: if you like this site you shouldn't block ads.

blocking ads hurts the sites you love.

How are those not ethical claims? It's not unethical to block ads, it just makes you a leech who does what he shouldn't do and hurts people who don't deserve it? I would respect the piece a lot more without his incoherent insistence that he's not making an ethical claim.

Having said that, I don't think that it's wrong for a site like Ars to publish a request like this. I would compare this issue to the question of credit cards. Customers like using credit cards because they're convenient, plus sometimes we get rewards points for them. However, merchants don't like credit cards because they have to pay a fee to the credit card companies, which cuts into profits. So merchants have a choice: they can just suck it up, they can refuse to take credit cards, or they can (I suppose) put up a sign saying, "Please consider paying with cash." If a business put up such a sign, I would consider complying, based on how much I supported them and how much of a bother it would be to pay with cash instead of card. However, if I did decide to pay with a card, I wouldn't feel guilty—I'm not breaking any rules, but simply choosing not to grant a favor. If the business wanted, they could simply refuse to accept credit cards, so if they allow them they can't complain if I choose to use one.

Similarly, Ars has the option of blocking visitors using ad blockers (they did so for a time; that's the premise of the piece) or of going subscription-only. Since they've decided not to do that, I presume that they've decided it's worth the loss of revenue to have more people reading and linking to their stuff. If a site I visit regularly (for the record, I have never read Ars Technica except for the article under discussion) makes a similar request, I'll consider complying, but not with any sense of obligation.


As for the TiVo comparison, I think you (and Ken in his article) are picking around the edges of the analogy without challenging its fundamental validity. Advertisers know that ad viewing has declined (relative to TV viewing) as a direct result of TiVo and DVR, and that advertising time is less valuable as a result. Why do you think TV executives initially complained that TiVoing was "theft"? If you buy a TiVo or DVR, you're contributing to a decrease in revenue to the shows you love.

In fact, Ars Technica has an advantage that the broadcasters don't. Ars Technica can block anyone who isn't contributing revenue—either by subscribing or by viewing ads—from getting the content. The broadcasters can't.

P.T. Smith


Keep in mind, in your credit card comparison, it isn't that difficult to pay with cash at the small business, and then take out your card when you walk into Borders. Doesn't really work as easily when you're using adblockers (at least the one's I've used).


Actually, a lot of people claim to have put Ars Technica on their "whitelist" for AdBlocker Plus as a result of this piece. You can apparently designate sites that will not be blocked, at least in certain programs.

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