Another Argument Against Ad Blocking

By Deane Barker on September 26, 2014

Butterick’s Practical Typography: The author of Practical Typography released it on the web, for free (he specifically refused other, downloadable formats, even).  If you wanted to pay for it, you were welcome to.  A year later, he examines what happened, and he completely summarizes the perfect argument about why the advertising model is so broken, but when we block ads, we’re not doing anyone any favors.

Let’s face it, un­less you’re re­ally slow on the up­take, you’ve out­fit­ted your web browser with an ad blocker. Ha ha, you win! But wait—that means most web ads are only reach­ing those who are re­ally slow on the up­take. So their dol­lars are dis­pro­por­tion­ately im­por­tant in sup­port­ing the con­tent you’re get­ting ad-free. “Not my prob­lem,” you say. Oh re­ally? Since those peo­ple are the only ones fi­nan­cially sup­port­ing the con­tent, pub­lish­ers in­creas­ingly are shap­ing their sto­ries to ap­peal to them. Even­tu­ally, the con­tent you liked—well, didn’t like it enough to pay for it—will be gone.

Why? Be­cause you starved it to death. The im­mutable law re­mains: you can’t get some­thing for noth­ing. The web has been able to de­fer the con­se­quences of this prin­ci­ple by shift­ing the costs of con­tent off read­ers and onto ad­ver­tis­ers. But if read­ers per­ma­nently with­draw as eco­nomic par­tic­i­pants in the writ­ing in­dus­try—i.e., refuse to vote with their wal­lets—then they’ll have no rea­son to protest as the uni­verse of good writ­ing shrinks. (And make no mis­take—it’s al­ready happening.)

I’ve talked about this before:

I realize that blocking ads means you’re clever. But the ads are sometimes not there because someone is greedy. They’re there to support the content that you’re consuming.

(Stop arguing. You know it’s true.)

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