• Posted on February 24, 2014

AdBlock Rant - It Does Matter

In the past, I have talked about how much I dislike ad-blocking software, such as “AdBlock” and other software which removes advertisements from websites. I’m not sure if I ever talked about it on this site specifically, but I feel like I should. I’m going to try to keep this post as unbiased as possible, but seeing as I make most of my income from websites which contain advertisements, I may become opinionated at some points.

For those who are unaware of what “AdBlock” is, it’s a web browser extensions (or plugin) that strips and removes advertisements from websites. It can remove all sorts of ad’s, such as pop-ups, pop-unders, inline advertisements, and others. It does this by using a custom set of “rules” inserted by the user and the plugins developer instructing the plugin on what elements to remove from the web page. Since the majority of advertisements are served by a few large companies, setting up rules to seek out the block of code publishers post to their sites is fairly simple.

Ad-blocking software is bad to have installed. The Internet runs off of content creators getting paid, or at least the websites earning enough money to keep the hosting and website active. The majority of the income to pay the content creators and website publishers will come from advertisements. If the creators of content no longer get paid, they won’t be able to dedicate their time to working online and the content will soon stop being produced.

When I asked a lot of my friends why they use AdBlock along with doing some research online, many people feel that since they never clicked, gave attention to, or watched advertisements, removing them wouldn’t have an impact. That assumption is wrong even though the AdBlock website says differently. And the sites AdBlock linked to in that article also believed blocking advertisements wouldn’t affect publishers. Seeing as a few of those sites are now offline, looks like ad-blocking software got the better of them.

The first reason why blocking ad’s impact income even if you ignore them is because of impressions. Now, an impression is worth fractions, if even, of a cent for most websites. Though, if you have heavy traffic to your website, the impressions alone you could make some cash without users even visiting the advertisements website. The larger income is from video advertisements though, such as those before YouTube videos. The pre-rolls before videos that can be skipped, but are watched for at least 15 seconds are worth $0.05. That’s income you are directly taking away from the creators of content that you watch day in and day out. Even if you skip every single advertisement, there will be that time when one of them will be interesting enough to watch or even visit.

The second reason is when you block advertisements you now have a 0% chance (I did the math) of clicking on advertisements purposely. When you are presented advertisements on a page, most of the time they may not be relevant to you. This is probably why you opted to use AdBlock. But for that one or two ads you may see in a week that interest you, visiting that advertisement will help the publishers. I’m not a person who usually clicks advertisements, which is normal. But maybe once a week (or more often if I have my mind set on a product), I will click on advertisements that have the product I’ve been looking for recently. With AdBlock enabled, you will not have a chance to see advertisements that you may want to visit.

Just today I was presented with an advertisement for a CPU Heatsink that I have yet to see on any websites I’ve searched. Advertisements can be useful and can even improve your web browsing experience.

But Advertisements are Annoying

Another reason I often hear for why people use ad-blocking software is because advertisements are annoying. But is it really the advertisements or the websites you are visiting? A lot of companies which manage the serving of advertisements (Google AdSense) have really strict rules on how many ads you can place on a page, where they can be placed, how many ads of a specific size can be used, ads can’t make sound unless prompted by the user and cannot be in popups. The sites following these rules will most likely have the advertisements in such a way to not be too intrusive. Other publishers which are used for sites which cannot get approved by Google Adsense’s somewhat strict policies have to use other solutions which end up having pop ups and annoying ads. Those sites which can’t get approved probably should be avoided anyways.

If you are not using AdBlock, you can look at this page and see if the advertisements are annoying or not. Or if you are using AdBlock, disable it for a little bit and visit your common sites and see if the advertisements are really that bad. Three advertisements on a page is not a lot. The common format is one advertisement in the header (leaderboard), one or two on the sidebar and one around the footer. These are not getting in the way of anything.

The sites which do have tons of advertisements you should avoid. Don’t help sites by visiting them which opt to use techniques which make it difficult to read their content comfortably. A great post I read about AdBlock is from AndrewT.net - AdBlock is a Bad Thing. In the post, Andrew mentions the following.

“My policy has always been that if a website has more ads than I’m willing to put up with, I don’t visit it. I’ve found that invariably advert-encrusted websites have bad content anyway.”

Andrew further in the post mentions bandwidth usage and why advertisements play such an important role for the internet. You should really check out their post for more information.

Privacy Concerns

If you have a privacy concern about the advertisements tracking the sites you visit, you may be better off just using a VPN. It’s true that advertisements track what you are looking at, but websites will also track what you are doing. Websites want to know what you are interested in so they can create more of that item / content / type of posts to keep you interested.

If you think blocking advertisements is enough to keep your data private, you are greatly mistaken. Websites have just as much information as the advertisements will have. Although, advertisements can grab from a larger pool of data since they are included on so many websites. That makes it no different from Facebook LIke buttons and other social networking buttons and scripts included on websites though. If you want to stay private, you need to make sure your referral header isn’t passed, your using a different IP address for every page you visit, you are not logged into any accounts on any sites ever, you clear your cookies, session data, local data, POST data, flash data between every page you visit. That is the only way that you can’t be linked between sites you visit. Also you will need to make sure you wipe your hard drive clean (not just reformat it)

As you can see, hopefully, blocking advertisements has nothing to do with being private online. And trusting the ad-blocking software to not start tracking your information (or worse) is even more difficult. The ad-blocking software has access to all of your website data, even more so than advertisements. Now, I’m not saying that any software currently tracks information or does anything malicious, but you should be careful on what plugins you can trust with those permissions you allow it. From the extensions permissions, they can easily access your browsing history, cookies, passwords and more.

The Wrap Up

Hopefully this will guide you to moving away from ad-blocking software in the future. It may seem hard to understand how much of an impact ad-blocking has on a website until you own one, but just know that it does affect the content creators. The issue with advertisements will not be fixed as long as people keep using ad-blocking software. It’s a very vicious cycle. Since less impressions are created, websites need to add more advertisements to each page. Since there are more advertisements, more people start using ad-blocking software. Avoid sites that are annoying and filled with advertisements, and they will soon change their ways to better fit the visitors requirements, or a better site will be created and destroy the old one. The internet is much like Darwinism, but at a much faster rate.

Also, if you are a content creator and are using ad-block, I am really, really disgusted by you.

For those who need to visit a site which has annoying ads, white-list all other sites and only block that single one.

For website owners, don’t prevent ad-block users from using your site, holy s**t. They will just find another site to visit. At least if they visit your site and like what you have on it, they may return next time without ad-block or share it with their friends.