Since writing a post last week suggesting that AdBlock Plus is an “evil predator”, I’ve received a lot of comments and read a lot of posts suggesting it’s the wrong approach. After all, we live in a world where people use their PVRs (aka Tivos) to happily skip through commercials so how bad can it be to use a Firefox plug-in to wipe out all that commercial “noise” on Web sites.
Well, I still think ad blockers are bad, bad, bad. Why? Because they castrate the commercial Web while hurting publishers, service providers, advertisers and readers/users. Sure, a Web site without all those annoying ads seems like a great concept but then you have to remember all these Web sites have people working for them – and those people need to get paid somehow. And I don’t buy into the suggestion that these Web sites have to come up with innovative or creative business models other than advertising. Simply put, advertising is one of the business models.
Look at it another way, what would happen to the newspaper, magazine, radio and television businesses if you could use some kind of technology to have them become ad-free. Sure, they’d be probably be more user-friendly but they wouldn’t be economically viable. You can’t eat your cake and have it too.
One thing that particularly ironic about this AdBlock Plus controversy is that the plug-in is among Firefox’s “recommended add-ons”. Doesn’t Firefox make millions of dollars through a search agreement with Google, which makes money from advertising? What if Google AdSense business started to decline because its ads were being blocked? I would think that Firefox would likely make less revenue to support its development. Funny how advertising works, doesn’t it.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Nick Carr’s post today about AdBlock Plus. To his credit, Carr actually downloaded the plug-in. Lo and behold, he like it:
“Now, I’ve never seen Times Square immediately after a snowfall, but I have to say that experiencing the web without ads – or at least with a whole lot fewer ads – is awfully pleasant. Imagine that somebody has been yelling into your ear for so long that it’s come to seem normal. Now imagine that the person suddenly shuts up. That’s the effect of ad-blocking. It’s like going back to the feel of the web in the early 90s, before it was strip-malled.”
Carr, who has advertising on his blog, then goes into an interesting analysis looking at the ethical and utilitarian sides of ad blocking. At the end of the day, he decided to remove AdBlock Plus – not because he thinks it’s a bad concept but because “but only because I would find it hard to write about the online world if I was seeing a different Net than most people see”.
Update: Daily Kos made its take on AdBlock abundantly clear in a comment. “If you use ad blocking software while viewing Daily Kos, you’re getting all the benefits of our site but we’re not getting any of the advertisement revenue associated with your visits. This site relies on ad revenue for daily operations: a decrease in the number of ads seen means a decrease in the funding available to run the site, to pay those that work on it, and to create improved site features”. Daily Kos suggests that if you do use ad-blocking software, it would great if you bought a site subscription.