Most legitimate web sites don’t use the types of ads that we all know and hate. Animated ads with loud sounds and distracting motions, Pop-ups/unders, and other sorts of intrusive advertising that interrupt people are the reason many have turned to ad blocking extensions. Ads that are so intrusive that they actually disrupt the intended use of a website don’t help anyone. Often the types of sites that use intrusive and or misleading ads of a questionable nature to begin with. Web sites that provide or aid in the ability to obtain copy righted material for free are often an example of the type of site that still resorts to this type of advertising. Anything from fake download buttons, pop-ups, misleading leaks, phising attempts, or even advertising links that if selected install malware.
But what about ad blocking on legitimate sites? What about sites that get most of their revenue with a few well placed banner ads that don’t disrupt the content or use of the site? Some will claim that since they never click on ads that the site doesn’t lose any money on them when they use an ad blocker. This isn’t necessarily true. Most sites are payed per view, not payed per click-through. If you block the ads from displaying you are effectively taking money out of the site owner’s pocket without even realizing it. The site still has to pay for the content, hardware, bandwidth, power, and an Internet connection. Delivering content to a reader is not cheap or free. If you block ads on a site the site doesn’t have that income to cover the cost of your use.
The piracy argument being that ad blocking allows the reader to obtain content for “free” without paying the price which is loading the ads. The difference between this and traditional piracy is that traditional piracy is using a software product or obtaining content that is meant to be paid for with money directly for free. Some people believe that viewing content on-line with an ad blocker is fine because it is “free” anyway. They don’t view the ads as a price for the content.
Regardless of how you see it there is an undeniable truth about the effect of ad blocking on legitimate sites. The sites are denied income needed to provide the content that people with ad blockers are reading or viewing. In some cases that means that site owners feel forced to create ways to squeeze more revenue out of ads and this can have a negative impact on people viewing the sites without an ad blocker.
On the other hand ad blockers may contribute to the site in other ways even if they are a net loss when it comes to viewing content and not viewing ads. They may post content like comments, links, and other content that can generate traffic to the site. They may share content on social networking sites and generate more traffic and content as a result. These are necessary for advertising to fund a site, so if any of the new traffic is from people that don’t block ads it is a plus.
The key to this dilemma may lie in educating both site owners and site users. Site owners should learn about the types of advertising schemes that have fueled the ad blocking epidemic. The shouldn’t resort to intrusive, misleading, and or over the top methods of advertising to fund their sites. There are WordPress plug-ins that can be used to communicate with ad blockers. You can educate them about white-listing or ask them to turn their blockers off. People probably aren’t going to turn their ad-blockers off, but if they can be persuaded to white-list non-offensive sites it would help.
Unfortunately there is not an easy fix for the situation. Ad blocking falls in an ethical and legal gray area without any clear answers. Ad blocking cant be defined as traditional piracy. It is still relatively new in the arena of socially acceptable practices and it hasn’t been tested under current law enough to be defined as a legal or as an unlawful practice. The only thing that is clear is that this issue will continue to become more important and divisive with time. There are many differing opinions on the matter and many of us are still on the fence about the whole mess.
For people that want to visit sites that use intrusive ads I understand the utility of an ad-blocker. I would suggest that these people take a few steps to make things better for everyone involved. First of all, learn how to white-list the sites that aren’t intrusive that you wish to visit instead of taking a shotgun block everything approach. Secondly, disable both Java and Flash in your browser. You likely do not need them and you will be a whole lot more secure when visiting sites that use intrusive advertising. Thirdly, practice “Intelligent Computing”. Don’t click on, download or run anything suspicious. My fourth and final bit of advice is to use a real time anti-virus suite if you are surfing from Windows. It is your last defense when “intelligent Computing” isn’t enough.