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Wikitravel with and without Adblock Plus

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I have a confession: I work in internet marketing.

I have another confession: I use the AdBlock Plus extension for Firefox.

While this might seem like a stark contradiction in terms–imagine if McDonald’s suddenly began funding PETA–I am totally comfortable with the situation. You see, like everyone else, I was a user first. I had my first email account in 1992, my first website in 1994. I have worked as a Mac administrator, assistant network engineer, voice/video/data network help desk supervisor, and web manager.

Now I pay my rent by working with a company that helps companies and brands market themselves online. Primarily we accomplish this via blogging, social media and video, but many clients also purchase contextual search ads and banner ads on other sites.

I am in fact filtering out a source of revenue for some of the very same companies we call clients.

More often than not sites earn revenue from ads on a per-view basis, not on a per-click basis. In the drive to win hearts and minds, they’re starting with just eyeballs–whether or not a click and/or a conversion actually takes place. Ad blocking extensions negate those views, depriving the site of revenue.

Ken Fisher of ARS Technica recently put forth a plea for the site’s users to stop blocking ads, or at least take out a paid subscription to the site. You can read it for yourself, but the gist of his argument was that ad blocking software destroys media publishing sites that depend on ad revenue to sustain themselves.

This week Matt Asay at CNET News issued a response, stating “It’s not the consumer’s job to figure out a successful business model for the vendor.” His counter-argument was that ad blocking software will simply force media publishing sites to adapt and change how that media is consumed.

Of course, I see both sides. I am a paid subscriber to two of my most frequent reads, Salon and ARS Technica. I see the value in the media they provide, and were they print publications I would gladly purchase them. Most of the other news and opinion I get comes to me via RSS in Google Reader (feel free to follow my feed), thus negating any advertisements.

But with regard to other sites I peruse throughout the day, as Asay so aptly put it, it’s not my job to figure out how they should sustain themselves.

There has been quite a hullaballoo about pay-walls for publishing sites like the New York Times and others, with Stewart Brand often being quoted as saying “Information wants to be free.”

But that’s not the whole quote. At the first Hackers conference in 1984, Brand actually stated that “On the one hand information wants to be expensive, because it’s so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. So you have these two fighting against each other.”

I’m all for pay-walls and subscriptions. If a site has a real value to those readers willing to pay for it, then that site will survive. If not, it won’t. I personally can’t concentrate on the content when your site is a cluttered mess of blinking, resizing, popping-up advertisements.

But unless you’re offering an alternative, don’t try to make it incumbent on me the user to pay your bills.

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3 Responses

  1. I find that if your site or your product has any redeemable value (Social, or otherwise), then putting pop up ads and even a google ad on your site can be a hinderance. I try to make sure that the content on the crush site is relevant enough that people will want to come back and not be bothered with random ads. I stopped doing google banners and other click through’s on our site for that reason. Now if you want to buy a banner, that’s a different story lol. great article.

  2. Aaron,

    I’m iffy on blocking content to visitors using adblocking. The only site I know of that’s done it was ARS Technica, and they did it for a short time as an experiment.

    Do you know of others?

    I think if a site is going to do that and not offer a paid subscription, they’re only hurting themselves in the long run.

    And like I said in my post, most of my reading is done in Google Reader, so what’s next? Removing RSS feeds?

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