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Are Ad Blockers Thieves?

Michael Alan Miller wrote an interesting post in his blog about ad blocking - and why he doesn't consider this "stealing":

Look, when I visit your website, I didn’t sign any contract that says I have to do anything in particular. I am in no way obligated to view your obnoxious ads. I understand completely that your website, like many others, depends on ads for revenue. I don’t care. I have no interest in being marketed to, cajoled into consumerism, insulted by unexpected sounds, and otherwise annoyed by asinine affixations found on your page.

If there were some way to fund deserving website by micropayments, I’d gladly sign up for that. For example, if I were charged $0.02 every time I visited Ars Technica (one of the worst whiners, link goes to a comment of one of the prime whiners), I’d sign up for this in a heartbeat. Why micropayments haven’t taken off yet, I have no idea, as ads are just not a good model for most of the Internet. Don’t get me wrong; I do want to support sites that I like. I learn much from them, and depend on them for many things in my life. However, I will not view ads, ever, if I can help it.

Do you think blocking ads is equivalent to thievery?

http://www.michaelalanmiller.com/?p=128 - via reddit (interesting sets of comments there as well)


I'm not sure it matters if we feel like being assaulted by ads. I avoid them too, but they have a more rapidly evolving technology on their side. Ads embedded in videos that you can't skip past or mute, advertisements embedded in tv shows so it doesn't matter if you tivo past commercials... they will always win.
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There's absolutely no moral basis by which ad blocking could be considered theft.

Ads never convince me to buy products. At best, an ad might inform me about a product that I'm unfamiliar with, but my decision to buy will be based upon more objective sources.
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I think it's funny that next to this post, there is a very annoying, jumpy ad.

Like Another Jake said, it really is like Tivo. There aren't enough people who adblock to make a substantial difference, and even if there are, advertisers will find a way to get around it.
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I will gladly un-adblock a site that is honest and forthright enough to ask me to.

You're a very nice site, neatorama... I'm just waiting for you to pop the question...
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I'm feeling deja vu reading this. There was a rather popular website I would frequently visit that tried to deal with this. About 6-8 years ago with the primitive ad blocking that was available, it would gripe at you if it "detected" you were blocking ads and refuse to let you click anything.

The owner had a rather extreme view of "If you block ads, you are stealing and you should go to jail" which was rather unpleasant to the userbase considering the site had some of the most obnoxious ones of the time.

Needless to say, the site no longer exists and is long out of business. Really, getting angry over blocked ads just wont work because it will always be a cat and mouse game.

I would also not put it past networks suing people getting off their sofa during the commercial block or webmasters suing readership because their eyes did not hover over the ungodly annoying ad long enough.

As such, I have no problems leaving AdBlockPlus running when it saves me from the horrible type of ads I see at places like IMDB.
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PotatoCouch is right that at present time, the percentage of people who adblock aren't significant enough to make a big difference.

But I'm interested in the fundamental moral/ethical (if you can call it that) question of ad blocking.

@Steohawk: branding is a big part of advertising. So even if you don't click on a banner ad, the actual display of the ad itself is enough for the advertiser. These ads pay on a per impression basis (or CPM, in contrast to other types of ad that pay on a per click or CPC basis).

If you never and won't click a CPC ad and you block the ads, then the web owner isn't out any money. But that's not the case for a CPM ad. Granted each pageview is miniscule in monetary terms, but those are micropayments to the blog owner that you're denying him or her. Isn't that theft?

@thegiantsnail: It's truly up to you :) I prefer our readers to be happy (and presumably then tell their family and friends) and won't force anyone to unblock Neatorama. And I thank you for saying that we're a nice site!

Overall, I'm ambivalent about ad blocking - I can see both perspectives. So that's why I'm interested in your views.
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I rarely click ads because I hate the idea of some of them (not all) putting cookies and spyware on my computer. Although, now that I have a MacBook I rarely worry about it...though it is pretty ingrained in me. I do click on Amazon ads because I'm a bookaholic. ;)
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When they stop making ads that insult my intelligence, or try to give me an epileptic seizure, or just piss me off, I might consider unblocking their ads.

But mostly, I don't care if they go out of business or not. This is the web. Content is free. If you don't want to give it away free, don't put it on your web site.

It's like going to the park and giving away food for free, and then complaining that nobody is paying for it.

Your stupid business model isn't my problem.
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Ads can be quite bothersome and I find it arrogant when siteowners have too many on their site. I don't mind if they don't annoy me. Take google for example: Ads like that are ok for me. Other ads get blocked and not only other ads - I block all Images that I don't like on a site (I use Opera). I like a page clean and easy to read.
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@Goober: Not exactly. The content is free because it's ad supported.

Your analogy isn't exactly right. Perhaps this is better: it's like sponsored lunch at the park, where you get food in return for listening to an ad pitch / a slice of your attention.

Obviously, it's up to you to buy the product/follow through with the ad. It's even up to you to ignore the pitch (avert your eyes from the ad, etc) But ad blocking is like taking the food and not letting the pitch through.
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I have mixed feelings about ad blocking. People who get really mad about it puzzle me -- do newspaper ads piss them off? They know that newspapers and magazines are as cheap as they are because those media sell ad space, right? Ditto TV. Cable and print media would cost way more if ads weren't allowed. Many websites couldn't be free without ads. Treating ads like some new, evil thing the web has invented ignores the role advertising has played in all "disposable" (i.e., non-book) print media basically forever.

That said, ads on the internet ARE sometimes much MORE annoying than print ads. They jiggle, blink, and (arrrgh) talk. I find I can tune them out, though, mostly, and I don't block them because I feel like putting up with the ads is part of accepting the gift of huge swaths of free content on the web -- which is a better deal than newspapers and magazines, even.

If I could selectively block ads that I feel abuse my good will, though, I would. That includes ads that slide over and obscure content, often with intentionally hard-to-find "close" boxes; ads that slide open, pushing down content and screwing up my reading experience; ads on slide shows and videos that must be watched in full before you can experience the media (could you please just wrap the player in an ad instead? sheesh); and, to some extent, ads that startle the heck out of me by yelling things at me.
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I don't have much of a problem with ads being on the page though I don't generally use them. I agree with Ali, I am dubious about some of them though I'll click one's I trust, like Amazon.
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I ignore ads. I make a conscious effort to not let them affect my purchasing decisions, and that's only in the case of things I might actually want to buy, most internet advertising is for stuff I've never even thought about before. So, is ignoring advertisements a crime? Maybe not buying things is irresponsible.

Remember when banner ads didn't move, by the way? I remember Penny Arcade used to try their damnedest to wring non-animated banners out of their sponsers at a point in time at which animated ads had already taken over, and it made their website a great deal more pleasant. Eventually they stopped because most of their sponsers didn't have a non-animated banner to give them, or would just rather advertise elsewhere than use one.
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@Alex
What if an ad blocker just blocks the CPM ad from being displayed, but still loads it in cache? Would the site still get payed?

Regardless of the fact that I don't consider ad blocking to be theft, I still don't think it's right to block banner ads without a really good reason. However, pop-ups are a different story, because they deliberately interfere with the normal viewing of a page.
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Oh, that reminds me to set AdBlock to block that hideous bowling shirt ad on Neatorama. Really, it's a good thing for the company. Because the more I see it, the more I am repulsed by it.
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this reminds me of ted turner thinking skipping commercials was theft.

hey, I never agreed to commercials in the first place, you just pushed them onto me and now you're suprised I'm not sitting down to swallow and burp?

I use pith helmet, which has blocked 106,912 ads since I reinstalled my system last month.

and you know what? I love visiting sites like airliners.net, whose administrator makes a huge stink about people like me. to him, we're all freeloaders. not seeing his ads produces this glib grin on my face...
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Ad-blocking isn't morally comparable to theft; it's morally comparable to not following the honor system.

Example: Many museums don't charge admission, but instead request a "suggested donation" of $5 or so. Are you "stealing" if you don't leave the requested donation? No, because it's not required. Are you being a jerk? Yes, most definitely, because you're letting everyone else shoulder the burden of supporting the place while you take the benefit for free. Ayn Rand might approve, but no one with a conscience would.

Another example: The last vestige of the honor system that's still widespread in American life, tipping. Are you required to tip your waiter? No. And the waiter isn't going to starve to death if you don't, because (presumably) he's got other customers, and you're not a huge share of his income.

But if everyone stiffed waiters, the restaurant experience would become a lot worse than it is: Restaurants would jack up their prices so they could pay the waiters a decent salary, and the waiters, knowing they were on salary and weren't going to be rewarded for working hard, would stop working hard.

To all the people who say you block ads because they're annoying: Of course they're annoying; putting up with them is how you're expected to compensate the Web site's proprietors for providing the experience you're having. If they weren't annoying--if they were fun and cool and awesome--you'd be seeking them out on your own, and advertisers wouldn't have to try to bundle them with appealing content to get you to look at them.

In short, you're expected to pay for what you get, one way or another. You either pay by giving up your money, or pay by putting up with ads.
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Ad blockers are people who protect themselves from bombardment. We have the right to protect ourselves, end of story. Is it any better to pester someone who was never interested in the first place? Grow up advertising corporations, we're entering a new era of freedom. People who want to take away freedoms are the so called "terrorists." I'm not against the advertisers putting food on the table for mother and baby... but just be real already. We can all work together, it's starting to happen.
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I'm ambivalent about ads as a method for generating revenue; what I loathe is the high annoyance factor that most of them have. Pop-ups, pop-unders, flashing primary colours, loud noises, malware, spyware, deceptive practices ('you are a winner, click here to claim your prize', 'Windows has detected a vulnerability. Click here to fix.')- this is what I'm blocking.

If ads are quiet, honest, don't track my every move, and get my attention through being clever, witty, intriguing, or interesting, I'll allow them. Heck, I might even click on them.

Annoy me just once, however, and they're gone. It's that simple.
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I've been a web developer since 1996, and have seen this issue debated more times than I care to count.

The answer is: NO.

Blocking ads doesn't hurt advertisers at all. Advertisers pay on a CPM basis.. so many cents per thousand impressions, regardless of how many pages the site generates in the course of delivering those thousand impressions. If anything, ad-blocking makes sites slightly more attractive on a CPM basis, because it keeps an advertiser's impressions from being wasted on the people who are least likely to generate qualified click-throughs.

Blocking ads doesn't hurt site owners either. The CPM you can charge for ads is based on the efficacy of those ads: the number of qualified click-throughs the client gets per thousand impressions delivered. So let's think about what would happen if site owners were able to force ads to go out on every single page: the people who block ads would most likely ignore them, thus reducing the efficacy of a thousand impressions. That, in turn, would reduce the CPM the site owner could charge for impressions, leaving total revenue about where it is now.

It takes a huge difference in bandwidth to raise the marginal cost of generating a page without ads above 'zero', but every person who views the content counts as a potential word-of-mouth reference to bring additional users to the site, or to submit a story to Digg, or otherwise act in a way that will drive additional traffic. Ad revenue is only one aspect of a user's value to a site, and it's almost impossible to frame an economically valid argument in support of the idea that users cost more than they're worth.

And there's an ethical questions for the site owners themselves: When you quote traffic statistics to potential clients, do you quote thousands of impressions served per month (meaning you've fully insulated the client from any effect ad-blocking might have) or do you quote 'unique page views' which include all those pages that went out without ads, Google spider hits, and other non-ad-encumbered pages you shipped?

Banner ads are the fast-and-easy, bottom-feeding crap layer of online marketing anyway, and I really can't be buggered to care about people who want better returns from such a lousy business model.
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I get paid per ad loaded, not per click. If you're not loading ads, you're not registering in the statistics my advertisers consider when placing ads on my website.

As such, I have no problem blocking people who use popular ad-blocking software. If you want to view my content, either be increasingly devious to bypass my detection, or, golly, give something back to the people who produce original content. We're not asking you to click, only to have the graphic load on the page. If you're too cheap to do that, the less I see of you the better. You're leeching my bandwidth to load my content.
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@windowshoppist: indeed, there is an escalation in ads trying to grab a viewer's attention. Internet ad used to be simple banners, but when readers ignore those, they become more and more complex (and annoying). It's like an arms race between ads and people's inattention.

I agree with you on intrusive ads, and refuse to display pop unders, pop overs, ads that self-play with sound, and floaters. That said, I opted to run Flash banners and expandables, because they represent a huge amount of inventory of ads.

As a webmaster, my relationship with ads is sometimes strained: many times we have problems with a particular ad (that play sound automatically) or flash annoyingly, etc. and we have to hunt down who serves up those ads and shut them down. It's not as straight forward as you'd think, because ad space gets re-sold through multiple ad servers.
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@Steohawk: I don't understand exactly what you meant by what you meant. I don't think ads are cached, but websites don't get paid if the CPM ads don't display.

@required_name: "hey, I never agreed to commercials in the first place, you just pushed them onto me and now you’re suprised I’m not sitting down to swallow and burp?"

Well, have you ever agreed to pay tax? Ever tried to talk to a merchant to take off those pesky sales tax because, hey, you've never agreed to pay taxes?

@MadMolecule: It's an interesting comparison - but I think it's different that a donation. Donation implies that there is an intrinsic choice in giving or not giving.

But I agree with your later statement. There is no free lunch, because hosting and bandwidth cost money.
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@Thomas: "am I a thief for changing the channel during commercials?"

Ad blocking is not equivalent to going to the bathroom during a TV commercial break or changing the channels. It's equivalent to installing an automatic device which sole purpose is to skip the ads from ever playing.
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As long as I pay for my internet connection, I will have final say in what comes down the pipe.

If you don't like that, then you can pay me for the bandwidth you are sucking up to run your ads.

And if that's unacceptable to you, then maybe you should invest in a filter to block those who block your spam.
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At a sponsored lunch at the park, I would agree to their terms *before* I get the lunch. I do not agree to the terms of a web site that expects me to look at annoying, flashing, noise-making ads.

My analogy is exact. They offer the content for free, *then* expect me to live up to their terms.

Their idea of a business plan is not *my* obligation.
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@Sean McKenna: it's the reverse, actually. You are paying for your internet connection, but bandwidth is paid by the websites that you visit.

@Mike Stone: that's an interesting thought. I don't believe that CPM ads are affected by whether or not people click on the ads. That's why they're paid per impression. The ad price is set before they go on display. Perhaps you're thinking of CPA (cost per action) ads?

I wholeheartedly agree with you that there is value to a visitor that is beyond their "eyeball"-share (if you can call it that). Neatorama grew by word-of-mouth and it has its readers to thank.

I don't have any plan to block users that block our ads. In fact, we have always provided content of the blog on RSS and email subscription that don't carry ads. But I'm afraid the reality of it is, there's no free lunch: the cost of running the blog means that ads are here to stay.
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Interesting topic. It's not something that I've thought about or read up on much, but I am still going to block ads. They're annoying and don't affect my buying. If anything they make me want to buy the thing even less.

As for sites blocking me and my moral duty or obligation, I'll turn my ad blocker off, reload the page, view what I need to view, turn it back on and be on my merry way. I guess I'm ok with giving into them, but it's not for their sake I do it :p
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windowshoppist - there is a very good way to block simply the ads you don't like. Install Firefox's adblocker, but not the prepopulated blacklists.

Then you "vote" against ads that bother you when you see them by right clicking and sending them to your block list.

I have a terrible aversion to things that run over the screen, autoplay or blink. Most others I leave alone. All this is telling the website is that the demure and respectful ads do better with readers like me.

(And in return, on my website I do not accept such ads on it either. I've never blocked the bowling shirt one because it's not blinking and it doesn't start talking to me.)
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@Goober: My analogy is exact. They offer the content for free, *then* expect me to live up to their terms.

Not exactly - ads and content are displayed concurrently. Content are offered with ads.

In whichever way, the analogy completely breaks down if you repeatedly visit a website and block their ads. By the second visit, you'd know that their content is ad supported.

But let's take your lunch in the park to its conclusion. If you don't want to pay for the lunch, you don't take it, right? After all, that's fair.

But by blocking the ads, isn't what you're doing taking the lunch and then not paying? A better course of action is not visiting the website you don't want to see ads on instead of blocking the ads.
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Of course it's not stealing. By that logic, closing my eyes would be stealing too.

Whoops, there I go again, not looking. Thieving scoundrel.
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defend adds all you want. makes sense, they're to your benefit.

but blocking adds in not thievery. That's a completely silly thing to think.

Hacking into a site that was pay to view would be thievery, i can see that.

but blocking adds? Oi. if you put up a web page, you can only expect people to view what that want and not view what they don't. you cannot obligate them to view certain things. Carry that mentaility just a little further, and you get to the point where it could be "thank you for visiting this site. you have just purchased 1 year of 'product'. this will be charged to your ISP".

oh, and tax is a fee to live in a country. i don't think 'thou shall watch adds' is in the constitution anywhere.
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I am just very glad there's adblockers and the hosts file. As I am generally not annoyed with decent ads, everything that moves, bounces, flashes and makes even the tyniest noise has lost nothing on my screen and certainly nothing at all in my unconscious mind. I alone decide what's going there and what not; really no need to load that valuable space up with crap. So if I had to decide whether it's nasty ads or no content, I would chose no content and go out having a walk.
But as I said; if the ads are non intrusive (and that's up to me to decide) I generally let them be.
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No Script is one of the best add-ons ever invented. If anyone thinks blocking ads is stealing then consider that covering a site with ads and all sorts of background script is stealth assault.
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I don't even notice most adds. They're just background noise to me. So it doesn't bother me one way or another.
I'd rather have them (the adds) paying for the site tyhan me paying per click.
Think about it even if you only had to pay 0.01 per site you visited. Think how fast that would add up.
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I keep ads that are inoffensive, and I block any ads that get in the way of my browsing experience.

So,a context relevant ad in a side bar stays, but if it dances around singing a song about emoticons it get consigned to the void.
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I'm with several other people. The more I see an ad for a product, the less likely I am to buy it. I will never buy one of those stupid bowling shirts on the right there. In fact.. *blocks*
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i agree with many here: there is a distinction to be made between annoying and decently placed ads. ads on neatorama have never been annoying, so its ok. i do not accept ads that jump in my face and even fool me with falsly placed "close this window" buttons that only lead me to more ads, therefore i block them.
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I don't mind most ads, I consider them a fact of life. Hell, I'll even click on one if I think it's something that might interest me.(Sorry Alex, I don't need any bowling shirts !) The floating ones can be annoying, but it only takes a click to get rid of them. This ContentLink phenomenon fooled me a couple of times though,and I find them to be a little on the sneaky side. I appreciate that you don't use them in the blog content,( I don't mind them in comments) but many do, and to me, it distracts from the experience. I understand that bandwidth is expensive, and we all have to do what keeps us going...even if you did start using ContentLink in the blog, I would still keep coming back for the great content, so maybe it doesn't matter. I just thought I'd give you an opinion from a guy who has seen too many summers to even register as a blip on the marketing radar. Thanks for a great site, and by the way, I found you last year after a mention on Metafilter.
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^Of course I will also never buy one of those drag racy shirts, but this ad is actually one I'd call non-intrusive.

@Scotchdrnkr
This background noise is actually what bothers me; first of all the world as it is today is noisy enough (in fact much too noisy to be healthy); not necessary to have more of it. And for the background noise: Where do you think that goes? Yep that's right; straight into your sub-conscious. Even though you didn't click that ad and ignored it the message was delivered. You have seen the logo whether you want it or not. And that will affect your behaviour in some tiny way or another (Just don't you think all those marketing folks along with the specialised psychologists and other scientists trying to find more sophisticated ways to get you to do what the corporate bigwigs want are there for show or fun...). And that is the point I really don't like (in fact despise). I don't like people to try to manipulate me into their scheme. Thus I think it's morally ok to block the most obnoxious ads without remorse.
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There were two different ones; The first one was great site, and then it switched to bandwidth. Now they are both gone. I do still see some in other comments though.
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"Because of the ad skips.... It's theft. Your contract with the network when you get the show is you're going to watch the spots. Otherwise you couldn't get the show on an ad-supported basis. Any time you skip a commercial or watch the button you're actually stealing the programming." -- Jamie Kellner, CEO of Turner Broadcasting System
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This issue has been going back and forth for a while now, and it came up on Reddit via this site: whydiggisblocked dot com

My response then:
I love this bit: "As we all know users are becoming more and more banner/ad blind and no one more so than the tech/geek crowd which is the primary audience of Digg."

So, technically, the digg traffic and web block is irrelevant. It's the TYPE of user that's the problem. i.e. higher intelligence than a slug users. People who can simply ignore ads are bad customers. Digg has nothing to do with it, it's just a nice example to use. Could have been Reddit, or maybe evil Firefox users that have peripheral vision distraction issues and like to use Flashblock and Adblock to help with that.

They should just dumb down the content some if they are concerned about it. Start pushing the stuff grandma will enjoy. Get the less tech savvy crowd to be the audience instead of generating content that people who can block and ignore ads might possibly read.

Isn't one of the most important rules of writing "Know your audience."?
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No. It's equivalent to not reading the ads in your newspaper.

Those of us who have worked on computers since the days of Arpanet and the early days of the Internet HATE ads with a passion.
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@ThomasH: Of course it’s not stealing. By that logic, closing my eyes would be stealing too and @donna: No. It’s equivalent to not reading the ads in your newspaper.

I disagree with your analogy - as I've said before, I don't think any webmaster would have any problem if you avert your eyes, ignore the ads, etc. You can go to the bathroom during TV commercial breaks, turn down the volume, change channels. You can ignore ads in your newspaper. No problem.

The problem with ad blocking is that it's an automated way to circumvent ads from loading. It's like a device that automatically skips ads on TV, or blanks out ads in a newspaper (okay, no such thing exist for newspaper, but you get the point).
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Actually as a marketer who purchases online ad space I like ad blocking software. Why ? Because of the reason some of your readers already stated. I know I'm not going to sell anything to an irritated viewer and I prefer not paying for their ''eyeballs''.

However I can sympathize with bloggers who work hard and have advertising as a major income source.

However, if you think about it, this business model (with or without ad blockers) is not viable as a long term one. You just can't force anyone to buy something with even a mildly irritating ad. Technology is now, and will progressively more, allow marketers to know precisely what ads generate what revenue (which was not possible in the past). Companies just won't pay for ads that don't generate sales.

Hence I predict that, in the future, blogs will feature ads that will be more ''interesting'' to viewers and may, in some cases, become part of the content (techno blogs already know this). Blogs will also diversify the way they generate income.

Aside from selling merchandise I see more and more blogs compiling their top posts and selling them to their readers for a nominal fee. It allows readers to feel like they're contributing to the longevity of their favourite blogs on a voluntary basis.

With all the serious brain power out there in blog world it's only a matter of time before more robust business models come out and readers don’t' need to feel like thieves for behaving rationally.
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I block web advertisements. You can't stop me, and nothing you say will convince me to stop. If your business model requires that every viewer watch advertisements, then you need to design your web site to enforce that requirement. It's your problem, not mine. Calling me a thief is just obscuring the fact that your web site is poorly designed and doesn't do what you want it to do.

Also, end-users do pay for bandwidth, contrary to your statement above. In fact, many users on the Internet do not have unlimited bandwidth, and pay as they go. The people who happen to have "unlimited" bandwidth connections are also paying for bandwidth -- it's not like the 'unlimited' part is free. I pay my ISP for bandwidth, and they provide it to me. It's not free to them, and it's not free to me.
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Ads are bad. I've only seen a few ads that even remotely interest me, but not enough to click on.

If it's a pretend game or one of those gawdawful "dress your zwinky" ads, I just shut it out.

What the hell is a zwinky, anyway?

Never mind. I don't need to know.
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@Keath - I don't know what you mean by equating Neatorama to Boing Boing, but I quite like that blog and hold it in high respect. So, thanks (I guess)

@RAnnieB - I can see your point from a marketer's perspective. It's very cogent and logical, actually.

@Chris Shaffer - Right now, the percentage of people who use ad block is still small as compared to the rest of the general Internet users.

That percentage would probably not change much in the future - the demise of ad-supported content has been predicted many times in the past, and it's still the most viable business method today.

What I learned from this discussion is how people who use ad block view their use of the plugin: it's like they feel it's their right to block ads.

This is fundamentally different from how I view things: if I'm not happy with a service (i.e. ad-supported content), then it's my right not to frequent that establishment (i.e. not visit the website), but it's not my right to use the service anyway and subvert payment to that service (i.e. visit the website, get the content, then ad block the ads).

As I've said above, I certainly have done nothing to stop delivering content to people who block Neatorama's ads.

I have, however, learned a lot about people's views on ads.
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It’s like a device that automatically skips ads on TV...

I actually have a VCR that will do this. There was coding on the original ReplayTV that would do this as well, which was of a great amount of concern to the networks when it was released, and the feature disappeared in subsequent releases.

Of course, that is all moot now. You can pay a $1.99 premium on a show from the iTunes music store and not have commercials. Or you can bit torrent it for nothing only a little bit after it airs. The latter sounds like networks should hate it, but honestly I think it serves as great marketing to sell DVDs. I don't know how that necessarily translates for web sites aside from website authors becoming book authors and using their web sites as the initial place to market themselves and get people reading their writing.
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Way back when (the Betamax foo-for-raw) some suits claimed that not watching the ads was "stealing": queried further, one CBS exec admitted his stance meant that if you watched CBS you were "stealing" from NBC and ABC because you were not watching their advertisements.

Now, I don't mind static ads (picture with a link) and sometimes click on them. And animated GIF ads I can right-click to kill "loop" and then "rewind" if I want to hang onto the site (as a tabbed occurence).

I HATE FLASH ADS - these cannot be stopped/paused, and some use an amazing amount of CPU and video-card time. At least they seem to have changed the "default" option -- perhaps never implemented, but there in the right-click menu -- to turn on your webcam, if you have one.
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I despise intrusive ads. I hate the buzzing mosquito one, and I hate the ones that drop down on half of the website if you accidentally roll over it with a mouse. I avoid websites with annoying ads, and I avoid products that advertise in annoying ways. I run like hell from the hard sell.

I TiVO things for the luxury of not having to mute commercials and wait for them to be over.

That said, I don't think that adblocking is akin to stealing. As a viewer/consumer, I have a choice, and my choice is to not be bombarded with advertisement when I just want to read a web site.
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"I HATE FLASH ADS - these cannot be stopped/paused, and some use an amazing amount of CPU and video-card time."

There are flash stopping plugins for Firefox, look on mozilla's site in the addons/plugins section. You don't have to see flash unless you want to.
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All I know is that my tests with Firefox 3.0 beta went fine except for the lack of the Adblock plugin. Holy crap, what a difference that made to my browsing experience. Thankfully the plugin is now available for the firefox beta.
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If they make their ads small, easy to view and non obstructive then it's alright with me.

If they make their ads a big animated thigny in the middle of what i'm looking, accidently scroll over and video start, publicity over video i'm currently watching or any of those annoying marketing scam ads then I just boycot the product or service for as long as I can remember the annoying ads.

Last night I was checking some game reviews on IGN and there was a cute little video publicity just in the center of the review ( not obstruing anything ) of some upcomming game I actually clicked on it to learn more and watched the previews. T'was fun and now i'm thinking about buying a nintendo DS.

Now for that other ad that kept on appearing each time I wanted to check the features of a game ( I was trying to find how many PS2 games had online capability ) about a movie by Jet Li... it made me regret going to the theater to watch that other Jet Li movie years ago.

There's a good way to do it and a bad way to do it. They should seriously think about making some online complain center for annoying ads because I dont even know if most of those ads are actually made by the people who want you to buy their product or service or competitors... would be a good way to trash the competition, just make annoying ads for your competitors... who's going to know it's not them?
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Online ads complaint center.

Each ads has a number that identify witch publicity company ( Or individual ) made the ad. Right click and select the option to get the number of the ad. Go to the Online ads complaint center and type in that number.

These ads wont opportunate you anymore ever again.

This should be a service made available by all the internet provider company since they're the ones secretly benefiting from users losing half their time closing anoying pop-ups or whatever ads you can think about online.

I pay for this service called the internet but this is not what I payed for.
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in my humble opinion --

1. i have no legal, ethical or moral responsibility to read/watch/listen to any advertisement.

2. technology that enables me to block ads is in principle no different from me ignoring ads by other means. using the fast forward in my TiVo is no different from me going to the bathroom during commercial breaks -- they both serve my purpose of avoiding ads, albeit the technology is inherently more effective, accurate and efficient at the task
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