Ars Technica kicked off a hullabaloo by blocking content for those who use ad blockers. The “experiment” lasted only about 12 hours over the weekend, according to editor Ken Fisher. In a blog post, Fisher argues that “ad blocking is devastating to the sites you love.”
He has a point. Here’s the guts of it:
If you have an ad blocker running, and you load 10 pages on the site, you consume resources from us (bandwidth being only one of them), but provide us with no revenue.
This all goes back to the “content wants to be free” argument that I rail against regularly. While there’s nothing inherently evil about ad blockers, it does strike a chord of arrogance with me. Taken on its own, ad blocking isn’t a problem. But likely many of the same people who don’t want to see ads also won’t pony up for a subscription fee.
Compelling content costs money to create and distribute. Those costs must be recouped somehow — with enough margin to allow a strong profit. Otherwise, good content will dry up.
I’m not foolish enough to argue that I like online advertising. Some of it is downright annoying and pathetic. But blocking ads isn’t the answer.
Ultimately, to avoid subscription fees and annoying ads, we need to be willing to make sacrifices in another hot button area: privacy. The more we are willing to share with publishers and advertisers about our interests, the better targeted ads will become and the more useful they will be for us as consumers. That translates into more clicks and sales and less annoying distractions because they would actually have value for us.
In the meantime, I say kudos to Ars Technica for raising the issue. And I’d encourage them to put their experiment into production for a longer period of time to demonstrate clearly the value of good content and the need for publishers to receive some form of payment.
Photo credit: Roo Reynolds via Flickr