Advert blockers – the scourge of publishers and saviour of browsers. Or, at least, that’s the way they’re portrayed in myriad blog posts and articles across the Internet. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, advert blockers do exactly what the name suggests; they block adverts from appearing when you’re browsing the Internet.
Before we get going, it’s worth mentioning that I don’t run adverts on Geek-Speak. I used to but haven’t for quite some time. I also ran adverts on my YouTube channel until very recently but, again, no longer do.
Despite the fact that I don’t run adverts on my own content anymore, I understand why people do. I know running a website can be a costly business and publishers want to recoup some of that cost. Advertising is one way to do that. And that’s why I’ve always thought advert blockers are an unfair tool to be using when browsing the net. If a publisher has gone to the trouble of providing content for you to consume, it’s perfectly acceptable for them to include some way for them to make a living from their work. As I mentioned above, this argument isn’t entirely personal to me but it was at one point… and could be again.
If everyone on the net starts blocking adverts, publishers start to see their revenues drop. If publishers start to see their revenues drop, they’ll either go out of business or find another way to make their money, say by introducing paywalls or (and I hate this) asking you to fill in a survey before getting to view the content. In short, the money to run the Internet has to come from somewhere and if it’s not via advertising which, let’s face it, is free to you and me, it’ll be by some other means that won’t necessarily be as free!
OK Chris, but didn’t you mention you use an advert blocker?
Yes. I’ve just started. And I feel dirty.
Oh alright, I don’t feel dirty. Let me explain why I started using an advert blocker and what I think it means for the future of the Internet.
I started using an advert blocker because of bad adverts. Most of the sites I visit have adverts on them in one form or another and that’s perfectly fine. What started to get on my nerves was the number of sites I was visiting that had completely irrelevant adverts on them. I’ve lost track of the number of times I visited a site to take a look at someone doing car repairs (yes, I really do enjoy watching those videos) only to find the sidebar peppered with “Local mum tells you how to make £2000 a month from the comfort of your sofa” or the dreaded picture of a bride in a skimpy dress with the headline, “The photographer got more than he bargained for at this wedding!”. I mean, seriously. Those have nothing to do with the subject I was actually interested in and visited the site for.
Some of the adverts were bordering on pornographic. I’m an adult, but it gets a bit tricky when your wife notices some dodgy pictures on your computer screen and you have to convince her you really were trying to learn about MIG Welding.
After one bad advert too many, I came to a decision. That was it. I was going to have to install an advert blocker. The sad thing is I recognise it will block other less intrusive ads and, potentially, reduce the income of publishers I trust and care about.
So what can publishers do?
Stop showing bad adverts! I know that sounds really simplistic but if some adverts weren’t so annoying people wouldn’t need to resort to using ad blockers. Adblock Plus has a feature that allows you to let some “acceptable ads” through the filter, and the criteria look pretty sensible. Take a look at the Adblock Plus Acceptable Adverts page for details on that.
An alternative would be to stop showing adverts altogether and introduce another means of generating income like a paywall or subscription. That’s not going to be popular, but there has to be some means of income if a publisher wants to pay its hosting fees and salaries.
Is a paywall likely to work for smaller publishers (like me) though? I mean, if you were able to only see the introduction of this post would you have paid to read the rest? I think I’m a pretty good writer, but even I think paywalls aren’t the best means of generating income for small bloggers. Services like Patreon might be the way forward here though. Patreon lets you become a content creator’s “patron”, paying an amount of you choosing to support the content creator in their work. So, for example, you could decide to pay $1 per month to support Geek-Speak. It’s not a subscription as such because the site would be open to non-patrons as well as patrons, but it’s a way of showing your appreciation.
Before you think I’m about to go on the scrounge, I don’t have a Patreon set up (although I do have a link to send me a little Bitcoin if you enjoyed this at the end of the article). It is something I’ve thought about doing, however; especially as my desire to post more and more YouTube videos grows. It is very much a nascent thought, though, and not something I have plans to do in the immediate future.
So what do you think?
What do you think about ad blockers? Are they a problem for publishers? Will they cause a shift in how publishers make their money? And will that shift be for the better or worse?
Are adverts an annoyance to you, or are they a necessary part of life on the Internet?
And what do you think about ideas like Patreon? Does it seem like the future of supporting creative content? And, purely for interest at the moment, would you support a Patreon for content creation on Geek-Speak and our YouTube channel (admittedly, if I were to post content more often)?
As ever, let us know your thoughts in the comments.