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.)