Tag Archives: adblock

Ars Technica’s Ken Fisher on Ad Blocking

I’ve written at length before on the subject of ad blocking and how it hurts your favorite websites. My diatribes have been a little strongly worded in the past, which may blunt the effect I intended them to evoke. Fortunately, a much larger site than I has published an article on the subject, and their article, I believe, does a better job at explaining the publishers’ side of things.

Ars Technica’s Editor-in-Chief, Ken Fisher, recently penned Why Ad Blocking is devastating to the sites you love, a piece that presents, quite well, the facts of what ad blocking does to a website.

There is an oft-stated misconception that if a user never clicks on ads, then blocking them won’t hurt a site financially. This is wrong. Most sites, at least sites the size of ours, are paid on a per view basis. If you have an ad blocker running, and you load 10 pages on the site, you consume resources from us (bandwidth being only one of them), but provide us with no revenue. Because we are a technology site, we have a very large base of ad blockers. 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. Just like a restaurant, we have to pay to staff, we have to pay for resources, and we have to pay when people consume those resources. The difference, of course, is that our visitors don’t pay us directly but indirectly by viewing advertising.

Whether you block ads or not, I encourage you to read the full article. Even if you think you have made-up your mind on the matter, you should still see what the editor of one of the largest (and highest-quality) tech news sites has to say.

When someone blocks ads on a website they frequent, they are taking money from a company that has to somehow pay its employees and provide funds to run servers. It may not be a pleasant fact, but it is a fact nonetheless. I don’t know about you, but I don’t relish the idea of paying subscriptions for websites.

I don’t ask that you give-up ad blocking entirely. (After all, how would we have survived the pop-up infestation of the ’90s without resorting to blocking them?) I do, however, encourage the adoption of less aggressive blocking rules, and that you whitelist your favorite sites.

EasyList Blocks Me: Yet Another AdBlock Rant

In the past 30 days, this blog pulled in about 37,000 pageviews. While that’s not an astronomical figure, it’s more than the 30 days before. This blog is slowly, but steadily, growing.

To my dismay, my ad impressions are lower than ever. Only fifteen thousand in the last 30 days. That’s down from 20,000…which is down from 25,000. (A few months ago, the ads were getting over 30,000 impressions!) It seems that my ad impressions are decreasing at a rate that’s far faster than the rate that my traffic increases.

Before I do much complaining, lets get a few facts straight:

  • My ads are served by the wonderful BuySellAds marketplace.
  • As per BuySellAds’ regulations, I don’t run any Flash-based ads. That means no sound, no video, no annoying salesmen dancing across the text you’re trying to read.
  • The ads are six small squares, sized 125×125 pixels, in the right-hand sidebar.
  • I set my own pricing. This means I can charge what I think is fair to both the advertiser and myself, instead of being stuck with pennies. I had been charging $30 for a thirty day period, which at one time had meant upwards of 30,000 impressions.
  • I manually approve the ads before they are shown here.
  • The ads pay for hosting and domain expenses, as well as the hours I put into writing. It’s no picnic pushing 6-7 posts out each week; a constant struggle to meet the daily deadlines without being reduced to releasing subpar-quality content.

Obviously I was not happy when I discovered that only one of my ad spots was still filled, the others having vacated earlier in the day as advertisers checked on their investments and took care of their ad bookings for the next month.

You see, advertisers will only pay for what they see to be a good investment, which is figured with a ratio between the cost and the number of times a banner ad is viewed. $50 for, say, 100,000 ad impressions would be considered a very good deal, as it works out to be about $0.50 CPM (cost per thousand impressions). Now if a website charged the same $50 for only 25,000 impressions, that would work out to be $2 CPM. If you could get more eyeballs for the same amount of money, why would you go with the lower-traffic site?

These aren’t Pay-Per-Click ads (like Google’s) we’re talking about here. The advertisers don’t care too much if their ads get clicked. They’re more worried about them being seen. If the ad views go down, I get a lot less money. Period. I can either cut my rates, and make less money, or not be able to book the ad spots at all, and make less money.

What happened to the impressions? I’m pretty sure it’s a result of AdBlock. I’ve, for awhile, used Thaya Kareeson’s excellent BuySellAds WordPress plugin to prevent my ads from being blocked by the EasyList filter, which had included a line that would block content from s3.buysellads.com. That meant that my ad impressions were nearly in line with my pageviews. Guess what happened. I found this little gem in the EasyList filter:


They added a line in to block ads on this website specifically. Here I had been thinking they were just blocking BuySellAds’ ad HTML at the DOM level instead of just blocking the script server, but no, they went and made it personal. Anything with a class of .adblock (which includes ads generated by BuySellAds) is stripped from my web pages. Upwards of four million internet users have the EasyList filter installed and, whether they know it or not, they can’t see the ads if they come here.

An Approach to Fair Ad Blocking

Wladimir Palant, author of the ever-popular AdBlock Plus extension for Firefox, recently penned an interesting article on the AdBlock blog: An approach to fair ad blocking.

As I stated many times before, my goal with Adblock Plus isn’t to destroy the advertising industry. In the end, the Internet does need money to run and ads are still the most universal way to distribute that money. The only problem is that ads are becoming increasingly intrusive and annoying as webmasters try to maximize their profits which is the main reason people install Adblock Plus. So the idea is to give control back to the users by allowing them to block annoying ads. Since the non-intrusive ads would be blocked less often it would encourage webmasters to use such ads, balance restored.

Now it isn’t a secret that Adblock Plus hasn’t been performing particularly well towards that goal. While users can theoretically choose not to block ads on some sites, most users simply install Adblock Plus, choose a filter subscription (which will block all ads without exceptions) and forget about Adblock Plus.

I’ve long been one of the many who feel that ad blocking has gotten out of hand, but it certainly is interesting that the author of the extension has similar views. I think of AdBlock as a pop-up blocker; it’s for nuking the Flash ads that play sound or dance across your screen, not for removing all ads, and the publishers’ revenue with it. No, I don’t click ads, save for the occasional 125×125 banner on a tech site, if an interesting one happens to catch my eye.

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Anti-AdBlock Plugin

Thaya Kareeson, maker of the useful WP Greet Box Plugin, has just released Anti-AdBlock, a WordPress plugin that detects if the user is running the AdBlock Plus extension for Firefox and displays a message “humbly asking them to support your website by turning off their AdBlock software.”


The plugin allows you to customize the message to be displayed and the accompanying image. The box will, by default, log a cookie to prevent the box from showing again after the first visit, though you can set it to show more than once. Also, the message can be set to not display until a user has visiting more than X pages on the site, and it is set to a reasonably high number by default; a nice touch.

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What You Need to Know About Blocking Ads

Thaya Kareeson from Omninoggin recently pointed me in the direction of a site called AdBlock.org, a site that seems to have a similar view of of ad blockers as my own.

Adblocking software is a response to abusive activity by advertisers.

It’s the continuation of what amounts to an arms race between advertisers and adblock software developers. If the cycle of ad blocking and more agressive advertising continues, ultimately we all lose in a classic “tragedy of the commons” scenario, where overuse of a common resource can cause it’s ruin.

At adblock.org, we’re interested in discussing the issues, and pushing for all parties to stop the battle and work toward cleaning up the advertising mess that’s been created on the Internet.

They hit the nail on the head. Ad blocking software came into existence because of bad advertising practices. Badly designed ads, once that were intrusive and useless to the reader, drove people to a method of escape: Block the ads.

But not all ads are bad. The ads most people think of are the ones from major banner ad networks, and the Pay Per Click ads from providers such as AdSense. Those are the ones most people have a problem with, because they all too often provide little value to the end user, and lessen their experience on the website.

What of the other ads? Not every ad is as bad as the rest. What of the unobtrusive ads sold directly to advertisers, without a middleman ad network, ones carefully approved for lack of annoyance. What of the ads from the new breed of smaller, caring ad networks, such as Buy Sell Ads?

Not all ads are created equal, which is something people don’t seem to understand. Yet it is vitally important. Websites are supported by the advertisements that they run. Without the ads, many sites would cease to exist, and they certainly would if ad blocking went fully mainstream.

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How to Keep AdBlock From Hiding Your Ads

One of Firefox’s more popular extensions is AdBlock Plus, an add-on that can stop ads from showing as you browse the web. There are two ways to use it. You can selectively kill ads that are so annoying that you can’t stand them (e.g. the ones that float over content or play audio), or you can install a filter subscription that will automatically block any ads that fit the extensive criteria.

Now I like AdBlock, don’t get me wrong. I use it selectively, to remove ads that I find offensive or that hinder my use of a site too much. However, I don’t blanket-block ads like many people do. Why? Because the ads pay for the sites that produce free content for my consumption. I don’t like the flashing “Click here for a free iPod” ads any more than anyone else, but not all ads are like them. There are some ads that just sit there quietly, promoting a product that I don’t mind being shown. Those ads, the reasonable ones, are the way ads should be. They benefit the site, the advertiser, and ideally the reader. AdBlock only came into existence because of the annoying ads, the ones that give online advertising a bad name.

Imagine my indignation when I realized that the “EasyList + EasyElement” filter for AdBlock (one of the most popular filter subscriptions) was automatically blocking the 125×125 ads in my sidebar. I go through a lot to put those ads there. I work hard to make sure that they are unobtrusive, and I spend a fair bit of time communicating with companies to make ad deals. Not only does blocking them cheat the advertisers out of what they are paying for, it hurts my chances of them continuing to advertise.

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No Free Lunch: Ads and RSS Feeds

The upcoming launch of AdSense for RSS has sparked an explosion of outrage throughout the internet (especially in places like Digg). Many of the Diggers complained that RSS is no place for ads, and that the world is coming to an end because feeds will have, the horror, ads in them.

Listen up: Don’t expect to get good content for nothing. If you want to read full content in your RSS reader, expect to start seeing more ads. Many feeds already have ads in them, and the publishers have every right to put them there. Are you paying for the content? Probably not. So why are you complaining about some unobtrusive contextual ads?

The core principal behind RSS is to provide notification of new content. While it’s true that full article content can be offered in a feed, don’t get bent out of shape if it isn’t. You either get summaries, or full feeds with ads. Yes, there are a lot of sites that don’t mind giving away content for free, and aren’t too worried about everyone seeing ads (myself included), but don’t expect everyone to be that way. You’re given ad-free RSS feeds because the publisher wants to; you don’t have a “right” to have ad-free content. If you don’t like it, you can unsubscribe.

In my opinion, the full RSS feed concept is flawed. I believe RSS is supposed to serve as a notification of new content, not a way of getting content without visiting the actual website. (Note that the Webmaster-Source feed is full anyway, as a convenience for people who don’t share my reasoning.) The way I normally use RSS is to have just article titles, which click through to the web location of the article. NewsFire for the Mac OS can be set-up this way, and the MyNT RSS reader works much the same way by default. I prefer to visit the article on the actual website, both to support the website, and to view the content as originally intended.

On the Digg page regarding AdSense for RSS, several users immediately started giving advice on how to block the ads via the Windows HOSTS file, and saying that the AdBlock developers had better get going and write software to remove ads from RSS. (Some of the Diggers have some sense, though, and have left comments pointing out the idiocy of the anti-ad arguments.) Let it be noted that I’ve defended AdBlock on a few occasions in the past. However, there is some merit to the argument that blocking ads is stealing from the publisher. I do not blanket-block ads. I do use AdBlock to nuke particularly irritating advertisements on occasion, but I think it’s rather selfish to insist on not having any ads at all. As tempting as it is to block every network ad imaginable, I don’t do it. Plugins like AdBlock shouldn’t even be “necessary.” It’s the publishers’ responsibility to not place annoying ads. If they don’t keep ads to a tolerable level, by all means, strip the ads out with AdBlock.

There’s a scientific term that’s fitting here: “There is no free lunch.” If you’re not paying a subscription, why are you complaining about some ads? I can see complaining about Forbes.com, but what about a site with reasonable ads?