Saturday, March 6, 2010

Why do I block ads?

I just came across another series of posts about blocking ads in Firefox. I block ads and I'll tell you why: They do nothing for me. The only ads that ever make me take notice are food ads on tv. Yes, I'll suddenly get a craving for a cheeseburger because I've seen one on tv. But I have never seen an ad on tv for a car, electronic gizmo, bank, or anything else that made me say "oooooooooo." The same goes with the interweb. If I want something, I'll go find it. Advertising is more about creating demand. I don't feel guilty because I wasn't going to click the ad in the first place. Instead, my browsing experience just has fewer distractions. And that's the way I likes it.

21 comments:

William D said...

here here, I am much the same as you when it comes down to having fewer distractions while browsing. I am however more influenced by the electronic gizmo ads on TV but on the intertubes, not so much. I don't trust anything on the internet that asks for some form of payment information. I don't even fully trust paypal.

Ray said...

I am not bothered by ads that simply appear on the page. There is no such thing as a free lunch so, yes, I am able to live with having ads on web pages.

However, why I do not feel bad when I do block ads is when they annoyingly force themselves upon me. The first of these was the pop ups of olden days now virtually eliminated by 3rd party and within browser pop up blockers.

Now, there are pop unders and the most annoying of all, the in-text ads. There is nothing more annoying than trying to read the text on a page only to have one of those annoying pop-ups appear because you inadvertently moved your mouse near one of the underlined text areas! Arrrrrgh!!!!

I have come across styles and greasemonkey scripts that "defeat" these annoying pop ups. Also, if you use NoScript, it will also stop them as it will block the scripts that enable them to appear in the first place.

Sandy said...

So I'm guessing you didn't bother reading http://arstechnica.com/business/news/2010/03/why-ad-blocking-is-devastating-to-the-sites-you-love.ars

jodyfanning said...

@sandy

Obviously he didn't, as the article pointed out that the advertiser is paying "per view", not "per click", so the act of ad blocking is costing the sites money.

I didn't realise this, but then I don't block ads anyway.

Ray said...

(In reply to jodyfanning)

How are "ad views" being counted? Does an extension like Ad Block Plus prevent the ad from being counted as viewed? Is a site able to determine if an ad is blocked and thus have to report back to the advertiser that their ad could not be delivered to the end user?

I may have missed them, but I did not see answers to these questions in the linked to article. It would seem to me that we need them answered to determine if the claims are a grievous as the tenor of the article makes them seem.

Now, as I said previously, I do not mind unobtrusive ads. I very much do mind intrusive ads, especially in-text and pop-unders.

Ian Betteridge said...

Ray,

"Does an extension like Ad Block Plus prevent the ad from being counted as viewed?"

Yes.

"Is a site able to determine if an ad is blocked and thus have to report back to the advertiser that their ad could not be delivered to the end user?"

Yes. Both these points are answered specifically in the comments.

"I very much do mind intrusive ads, especially in-text and pop-unders."

And if you find sites which do that, the answer is to no longer go to those sites. Don't punish the sites which *do* ensure you don't get pop-ups, unders, rollovers that take over the screen by installing adblockers.

Ray said...

Ian,

Thanks for reply. I will take your answers to my questions under advisement as the article only claims they are not counted as viewed if blocked without explaining the mechanics, the how behind that.

The reason I still question that is if the servers transmit the page content including ads, what mechanism is in place that would tell the server the ads have not been received by the requesting browser? For example, if the ad blocking software simply keeps the ads from appearing on the browser window, how can the server actually know that it is being blocked? I assume it is possible that the ads be crafted in a way to send a signal back once it has been completely displayed, but without some confirmation that that is what is happening, I remain dubious of this.

Page views, on the other hand, is a different story. It is easy to understand that a site can have and does maintain records of its pages and the number of times it receives requests to send them, i.e., "page views".

Where I am coming from is this. I will question arstechnica's article because their motivations are to get people to not use ad blockers so that the ads are, indeed, seen by the people viewing the page. As far as I am aware, they do not have a means of knowing if ads have been blocked if they do not reveal how it is that they know other than to have done their experiment and seen what the reactions/feedback was of their little experiment gone awry. If anything, I think they have no idea how many ads are being blocked and that was more likely the motivation behind their little experiment.

Disclaimer: Please do not construe my words above as my own personal objection to ads or as condoning the use of ad blockers. My actual experience is that the use of ad blockers often slows both the speed at which my browser loads into my computer and pages load into the browser window.

Ian Betteridge said...

Ray - it's actually fairly simple to work out how ad blockers are affecting things, if you think about it.

Remember that ads are usually not served by the same server as the rest of the content (as an aside, this is one of the reasons that people often complain pages are slowed down by ads - something you can get around, as Ars does, by putting each ad in a seperate iframe. But I digress :) )

So on a very simplistic level, you look at the number of times a page has been viewed, subtract the number of times an ad has been served, and subtract again the number of browsers which aren't capable of viewing the ad (ie the number of people using, say, Lynx).

Ad blockers work by not fetching the file - basically, if it's from a domain which serves ads, the request is filtered out. That's massively over-simplifying, but that's the basics. No request = no download, and that's what allows you to measure the discrepancy. What Ad blockers don't do is download the content (the ad) and throw it away, as that would defeat some of the point of having an adblocker.

Ian Betteridge said...

OK, doing a bit of digging through the comments, you might also find this interesting:

"AdBlock on Firefox uses a -moz-binding CSS directive to attach an XBL script to the element which I presume does various squirrelly things to hide the ads.

There are various ways to "detect" someone using AdBlock. I say "detect" because there's nothing active about most of them; they rely on making the AdBlock plugin work against the user rather than for its benefit.

Almost all of them exploit using a false-positive—that is, applying an ad-like CSS ID to valid content to either hide legitimate content (like I did) from a user or to hide certain CSS rules so that things are only shown to people running AdBlock."

(That's from page 12 of the comments, if you want to check.)

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