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ars technica says ad blocking devastating to sites you love
Many comments re right to freeload, yet no alternatives

 3:13 am on Mar 10, 2010 (gmt 0)

Ars Technica has an article explaining how ad blocking can hurt websites - especially techie sites, since their visitors are more likely to know about ad blocking.

Over 1700 comments; checking a small sample, see some sympathy - and some arguments that ars needs a different revenue model, with no real ideas about what this might be. (Other than going behind a paywall...)

Article follows an experiment by ars, in which ad blocking visitors were not served content.

Link to this perhaps ok for webmasterworld:



 4:25 am on Mar 10, 2010 (gmt 0)

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

That's quite the bogus argument.

A better comparison would be hosting a BYOB party where some of the invitees don't comply. As a host, you know that you can expect some of your guest to exhibit that kind of behavior. A reason to allow them in might be because they bring life to the conversation.

If your business model is make or break because a percentage might not see your CPM ads you might as well close your doors.


 10:54 am on Mar 10, 2010 (gmt 0)

People will block ads when those ads become a nuisance to them while browsing.

Ad blockers become popular when the ads reach new levels of nuisance value - such as when pop-up ads became commonplace. I think the current upsurge in the popularity of ad blockers is because of the level of ads with sound and video both of which cause more irritation than flat text or non-moving image ads.


 12:56 pm on Mar 10, 2010 (gmt 0)

People will block ads when those ads become a nuisance to them while browsing.

the problem with these ad blocking things is that they tar the whole web with the same brush. some popular site might start showing pop-ups, so people install an ad-blocker, but then every other site they visit loses out too -- even though their ads might be perfectly okay.

its like people putting a sign on their door saying 'no junk mail please', but getting all the innocent billboards, tv ads, newspaper ads and radio jingles wiped at the same time.


 1:54 pm on Mar 10, 2010 (gmt 0)

getting all the innocent billboards, tv ads, newspaper ads and radio jingles wiped at the same time.

Now "wouldn't that be loooveeely !


 8:24 pm on Mar 10, 2010 (gmt 0)

because they bring life to the conversation

What life exactly? Maybe on Ars site where they have loads of comments but on another site they are just parasites. If you don't want to see the ads don;t look at the content.

If your business model is make or break because a percentage might not see your CPM ads you might as well close your doors.

Why would that be? If you are a news site then most of your revenue will be CPM and some CPC, maybe a little CPA. That is the revenue model.

If a site has mostly CPM advertising revenue then say 20% more people start using blockers and are not seeing the ads then obviously it will badly impact your profit. You migth only have a 20% margin.

They are right to point it out and indeed adblockers make it worse for everyone else as it puts pressure on publishers to try more intrusive or 'innovative' advertising in order to maintain revenue.

Also you get a lot of straw men from adblocking fans. Like video playing or audio, whereas most big sites have user initiated video and audio. I mean you have people blocking Adsense with their javascript off etc.

I bet they lots of them will be first in line to complain when all the sites start going behind pay walls, which is the only alternative to advertising.


 9:07 pm on Mar 10, 2010 (gmt 0)

Me thinks this is a contradiction:
That is the revenue model.

behind pay walls, which is the only alternative

Maybe the model is wrong, maybe there are innovative ways to generate income that are less obtrusive. Maybe the prices for advertising should go up to account for freeloaders. Maybe there should be [shudder] less websites that provide the exact same regurgitated news?

I'm not making a judgement call here. All I'm pointing out is that if a substantial share of your intended audience does not react well to your monetizing efforts, the only viable choice is to change the revenue model...

Unless of course you see the audience as a means to an end - and not the other way 'round :)

Edit/add: if you think of visitors with adblockers as parasites, then show your true colors. Be blunt and direct about it - just ban... If enough sites are willing to do that, then maybe some will get the message. Or other sites the traffic, but that's the gamble you should be willing to take if you're sure that your content is that good. Put your money where your mouth is.


 10:34 pm on Mar 10, 2010 (gmt 0)

It is not a contradition. Advertising is the revenue for most content sites, paywall is an alternative but it might not work given people are used to free information on the web. I guess we will see next year when a few big players are set to go behind them.

It is not just news sites and we are not talking about, any content based site not behind a paywall has to put up with these fare dodgers.

I should not need to block people using adblockers, if they had any decency they would not be using them. It is very selfish, if everyone did it then 'free' content would disappear. I say 'free' because the price is supposed to be viewing the ads.

Also you say innovative forms of revenue generation...but I never hear any suggestions and every ad company and content business on the web must be wracking their brains. Adsense is pretty unobtrusive but plenty of these adblocker fans team it with blocking javascript as well.

Some of these people just want to be able to view whatever they want for no cost, almost a dogma.

In terms of blocking them, I'd be happy to put up a message to them on all our sites. Losing them as traffic is not an issue as they don't generate any revenue. There is no money to put in the mouth. It is them that need to follow their convicitons and not visit sites with advertising.

I am online all day and view hudnreds of sites a week and manage to read articles and get by without having to block every ad in sight. I can understand people blocking pops, especially after the last crash when they appeared everywhere. But blocking ads on every site is just selfish and maybe even naive as to how the real world works. It also shows some ignorance of how the sites they are viewing really work.


 10:48 pm on Mar 10, 2010 (gmt 0)

It is them that need to follow their convicitons and not visit sites with advertising.

In theory, yes... But the reality is that these "fare dodgers" not only exist, but are also a large share of the general population that might visit your website.

As webmasters, we can complain all we want about this, but it's not going to change their behavior - or the mentality that everything on the web is (or should be) "free."

The fare requirement is implicit, more like watching a street artist on market square. And that's exactly why the revenue model must change. Either ask for a cover charge (like in a music venue), or just accept a share of freeloaders...

And if you can't earn your keep while doing that, close the shop. Sad, but true.


 11:06 pm on Mar 10, 2010 (gmt 0)

Well I think the only reason it is tolerated is that it is pretty low level. Personally only one of my sites is a tech one, where use will be much higher, and most of the general population don't tend to use anything above blocking pops.

If it did rise then you can be sure search engines, browser makers, ISPs, datacenters and even webmasters would all soon wade in as it would undermine a big chunk of the web. I reckon general use would never be allowed to get as high as with some tech audiences. It would either be paywalls or technical means to block blockers or even pressure on browser makers to ban them.

I don't need to change our revenue model to make money. However, I don't think they should be reading what we publish while floating through their imagined web utopia. After all if the content is not good enough to be read with an advert then why read it at all.

If more sites do what ars did then I think it would be a healthy thing and maybe even open some eyes. We are not powerless in this by any means.


 11:09 pm on Mar 10, 2010 (gmt 0)

I'm not against sites displaying ads, but when ads cost you time and money to dispense with then they achieve an annoyance level which has to be dealt with.

Pop-ups are a case in point - you have to spend time closing down the pop-up, now you can either block every site that you come across that uses pop-ups individually or you can block pop-ups en-masse. The latter option is the least cost solution therefore you choose it.

Personally I get most annoyed by ads that use sound, as I often listen to music or cricket commentaries via an internet stream while I am working - the last thing I want is these being rudely interrupted by a site I click through to via a SERP.

Okay most sites that show ads may be well behaved and non-intrusive, but they pay the price for those that are not.

Everyone uses the technology available to improve their own lives - those who show ads are improving their lives by earning revenue from the ads they show, those who block ads are improving their lives by removing annoyances. Are you implying that site owners have a greater right to use technology for their own personal gain than those visiting sites.


 11:30 pm on Mar 10, 2010 (gmt 0)

I personally block all ads when surfing. All too many out there are (my opinion) abusing the ad model and the noise level is too great. I am one of those "techies" who knows how to do this. I'm also the same guy who sets up several hundred machines for clients every year and do the same for them. Each client is given instructions on how to activate ad viewing if they want it. I wear two hats: webmaster and systems consultant. While I want ads to appear on my sites I also listen to clients who want their systems to perform specifically. One hat pays better than the other (guess which?).


 12:18 am on Mar 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

Some changes to ad blocking software might be worthwhile, tho don't know if the software writers would be up for this.
For me, a button enabling "this site's ads are annoying - I want to block them" could be good.

Yes, ads with sound annoying at times.
Worst for me are flashing ones announcing I'm the #*$!th visitor, and I've won something - hideous, distracting, and lying. I think little of sites allowing such things
- but indeed, such sites with appalling ads should not tar the rest of us; too bad a few sites might encourage people to simply block all ads.


 10:34 am on Mar 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

I am amazed at the people who block ads. I was chatting to our security guy, who works part-time on all our servers and also writes for our tech site. I was talking about a new ad format coming to the tech site.

He tells me, "oh I don;t see any ads, block them all." It had not occurred to him that his wages for both his security work and writing come from the very ads he blocks...really wonder what sort of pills these server monkeys are popping. :-)

Ian, in terms of improving their life with technology...all very well but don't visit my sites in that case. A fair enough deal I think. I renamed some of my content css classes today to match some of those on adblockers list, will be interesting to see if any traffic change.


 1:00 pm on Mar 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

...all very well but don't visit my sites in that case

That it say in your site's description in the SERPs that you run ads ?


 6:47 pm on Mar 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

No, but I am sure they are aware nearly every news/review site on the web uses ads. I cannot think of one that does not.

Also adblocker does not identify itself, although I think it used to, else I could redirect them or greet them with some information, without having to poll some file via a script that they could get round anyway.

Seems users had their feelings hurt by nasty messages displayed by some sites when they did id the plugin, what did they expect.

I browsed the plugin's forum and it is full of people wanting to get around websites who do obscure their content if someone is using adblocker. I mean judging by their forum for many it is not about a few irritating ads, they obsessive about blocking everything commercial.

I think a lot of these people are, to use that unfortunate term, freetards and clearly have way too much time on their hands.


 8:15 pm on Mar 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

I renamed some of my content css classes today to match some of those on adblockers list, will be interesting to see if any traffic change.

I've been putting images in folders with names found on these adblocker lists for a few years now. No-one has ever contacted me to complain about not being able to view them, so I imagine adblocking is at pretty low levels still for most general audiences. This particular type of adblocking, at least.

I think it's a symptom of what's to come: if you want your ads seen you will have to disguise them as content to some extent. Stop using standard banner sizes or folder names. Stop using large 3rd-party networks. Put them in text, not Flash. Turn back to a simpler time when ads weren't the most annoying thing on the net, and a few large companies didn't track your browsing habits across most of the internet.

Feel free to dismiss the above paragraph as a utopian dream.


 8:27 pm on Mar 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

The point that seems to resonate with me is that if someone has blocked ads it is most likely they are the type of person who has no interest in the ads, will never click an ad, and can visually ignore them anyway.

If Adblockers are stopping ads from being delivered to people with no interest in seeing them, then this in turn means that the people that are viewing them are more receptive, and so while you get less views the views you do get are more densely populated with people who are receptive to the ads. Which is the whole point, deliver ads to people who will receive them well.

When I was a kid my dad "flanged" up our TV with a wire and switch that muted the volume. (this was before remotes)

And so to this day I mute commercials when I watch TV. The only difference is that the station counts me as a viewer and can boast it's numbers to advertisers BUT those numbers aren't the true numbers because people go to the bathrooms, people get snacks, people mute commercials.

Wouldn't it be a more true system if they counted actual eyeballs and ears that got the ad rather than the amount of TVs tuned into a station? That obviously isn't possible with TV, but it is possible online.

To me it makes the ad system better when people who will never be receptive to an ad aren't counted as having viewed the ad.

You had 10,000 impressions but only 80% of them cared.
You had 8000 impressions but 98% of them cared.

Which is better? I know as an advertiser which I would prefer paying per 100o on.

Yes ars is losing "per view" revenue, but is it fair to ask advertisers to pay to show ads to people who have expressed a desire not to see them?

How would you feel knowing you were paying a site to show your ads to people, only to find out some of those people expressed no interest in those ads, and asked the site not to show them the ads, but yet the site insisted on showing them anyway so that you, the advertiser, would have to pay to show ads to people who have flat out said they ignore them completely?

After all if the content is not good enough to be read with an advert then why read it at all.

Well that is cynical, If the ad is going to be completely ignored and in some cases viewed as an annoyance, why have it display?


 9:39 pm on Mar 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

Well said Demaestro, I completely second that including your handling of TV ads which is also my way.


 1:41 pm on Mar 12, 2010 (gmt 0)

Well I was not being cynical when I said that, that is just what real life is about. I have my own bills to pay, staff with kids, medical bills etc. Not a charity.

In terms of advertising being shown to those who do not want to see it. I think the blockers using that excuse are vastly underestimating the power of branding. A site like my main one is mostly brand ads, not looking for clicks. Looking to say highlight a movie being released next weekend or a new car model. They don't need to click but if they see it, no matter what they say, it will be in their mind at some level.

They would say "Oh I'll never use that product again because of that ad." But I bet they might use it in conversation, oh have you seen movie X yet etc and mostly that is all bravado I think. Most of these ads are not about clicking through for a sale.

Rosalind I agree about the numbers on general sites, it must be low.

Less direct advertising is far more insipid, advertorial and behind the scenes sponsorships of video or features is worse - like I read another tech site in response to ars was saying oh we get our video sponsored. As a publisher that sort of thing, which is given as an alternative by some of these adblocker fans, is actually much worse and they are either underestimating the control companies want over such pieces or a little naive. Then you are going to have advertisers censoring the sites content, which they can do jsut now in a small way but this would be much worse.

I prefer visible advertising not some tricky mix of content and adcopy...that is the route to vapidity.


 3:42 pm on Mar 12, 2010 (gmt 0)

I do see that side of it too fatty, but you have a situation where someone has opted out of ads.

If a site owner were to block people who opted out of the ads I would understand that, but if those same people opt back into your ads just to get on the site now I feel like the advertiser is paying for them to visit your site even though they aren't mentally receiving them.

If I said to myself that I want to support Ars and I whitelist that site's ads, to me it is like clicking an ad to support the site the ad was on. Yes the site gets money but I cost someone else money when they have no hope for an ROI from me.

I do see both sides though.

I just don't know what is better.... to cost advertisers money with no hope on an ROI from ad dollars spent to have me visit sites, or to cost sites a CPV percentage which affects their income?


 4:05 pm on Mar 12, 2010 (gmt 0)

everyone is susceptible to ads. you've just got to catch them at the right time on the right day. if someone has installed an ad-blocker, that doesn't mean that they're totally immune to a sales pitch.

it might just mean that they frequented a site that had annoying pop-ups about loans and timeshares. they didn't like them, so they blocked them. but does that mean they won't be interested in our one-line ads about theatre tickets and music shows?
alright, so they might not buy anything. (maybe they are wary of using their credit card online.) but for website owners a click is all they need. and the chances are that these same users will be perfectly happy to click on the ad to gather more info about the product. (maybe so they can go and buy it down the proper shops later.) but these ad blockers prevent us getting even that.


 4:25 pm on Mar 12, 2010 (gmt 0)

I prefer visible advertising not some tricky mix of content and adcopy...that is the route to vapidity.

I think so too. But disguising ads doesn't have to be that extreme: just display them as plain text served from your own website, and don't wrap them in divs that label them as ads. That simple approach alone will fool a lot of adblockers, as well as doing away with a lot of the nasty stuff that people legitimately hate about online ads. No 3rd-party tracking, annoyances, or malware.


 4:39 pm on Mar 12, 2010 (gmt 0)

everyone is susceptible to ads.

Maybe, but I don't go to movies, and the movies I do see aren't being advertised, for Hollywood stuff, my son rents those types of movies and I will watch them with him.

I listen to the radio solely, and I almost, never buy anything online and when I do it is because it is something I needed, researched then bought, not because I saw an ad for it.

I am being honest when I say advertisers' money is wasted on me. I never click ads, because I know I won't buy and I know that someone somewhere is tracking that click and is paying for it.

I still feel conflicted about whether or not it is right to cost advertisers money or website/content producers money, either way I am costing someone money.


 6:59 pm on Mar 12, 2010 (gmt 0)

but you dont have to buy. we can get paid by impressions if we want, all they have to do is look at it, which just means they've got to wait for the page to load. but these adblockers begrudge webmasters even that.


 10:12 am on Mar 13, 2010 (gmt 0)

I would block them randomly, say every other week


 1:30 pm on Mar 13, 2010 (gmt 0)

If I offer free content Im dependent on Advertising, so if a user blocks those he dont respect my work, so there must be a way to block such a user that blocks ads, so they can not reach your content or with a message unblock before entering site

JAB Creations

 1:48 pm on Mar 13, 2010 (gmt 0)

I block ads period. Now if I traffic a website regularly I'll be more then happy to donate a dollar every now and then. If you can detect your ads aren't being displayed then put up a donation box in it's place. Oh and setting set donations doesn't work as you'll always get more money from people donating $1 then from people who donated $5 or more unless you're really lucky. I've donated to several people for their software and I'd be happy to donate a little to good websites. But it's a very bad idea to block people blocking advertising because those people tend to be more savvy technically speaking, more likely to post links to your site among other things, visitors you don't want to lose.

- John


 2:45 pm on Mar 13, 2010 (gmt 0)

I agree wholly with @Demaestro. With arstechnica, the ads are placed consistently in the right-hand 1/3 or so of the page, so it is easy enough visually to ignore them.

The mind is the most powerful ad-blocker of all.

Indeed *most* feeds I follow regularly have a predictable position for ads, easily ignored, and by habit, I x out any pop-ups. No biggie. We're not in a hurry.


 4:29 pm on Mar 13, 2010 (gmt 0)

even if you're saying you dont buy anything from ads, and believe that you're ignoring them, that doesn't mean that they are totally wasted on you.

advertisers might be building up brand awareness. if you visit a site about sports shirts, and every other ad is for nike, then the chances are that when you want to buy some further down the line, you'll remember that nike sells sports shirts. just because you never click it or go out and buy something doesn't mean that the advert is wasted on you.

that is an example of an advert that is totally benign. how can users object to those? the user might only see it for half a nano-second out of the corner of his eye, but just because he visited some dubious site with pop-ups six months ago and installed the adblocker, every innocent site that he visits from now on which gets paid by the impression loses out.

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