Monday, January 17, 2011

No Free Lunch... Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Banners

Are you using adblocking software right now?  Are you?  Then fuck you.  Seriously, please, do me a favor and turn off the adblocking software on my site.  My Google ads are unobtrusive.  There are no pop ups, no annoying splashes, no full motion video.  And the ads are targeted, so they match the content of my posts... which, generally, means I get a lot about "restaurant deals" and "alcohol addiction treatment."

Google's Artist's Rendition of me.  I do not own a hat like that, Google.  Nice try.

Here is the problem.  Nothing in life is free.  Listen, when radio programs were invented and, later, replaced by early TV programs, they existed as a means of advertisement.  A company owned the show, a company known as a sponsor.  Not like the sponsor I have.  THAT guy is a fucking douchebag.  He never wants to do anything fun and is always talking about chips and stuff.  Anyway, these sponsors paid the cost of the program in exchange for the actors saying who they were being sponsored and, sometimes, even throwing in little advertising skits into the show.  If you've seen Mad Men, you're probably familiar with the concept.  If a show lost a sponsor, they had to get another one or else risk certain death.  They were pawns.  Pawns in the game of Life.

This blog post brought to you by Life, by Milton Bradley.  It's like Candy Land but with unplanned pregnancies and IRS liens.
Over time, because of this sort of all-or-nothing sudden death problem, networks moved away from sponsors.  When one company owns the whole show they get to call all the shots and can perform a summary execution at any time.  Instead, networks looking for greater control over their material began selling advertising spots to multiple companies.  At first, commercials were still fairly limited and fairly long.  Each hour show might have four ad spots and each spot owned by one company, running a one or two minute ad.  Diversification continued.  More spots were built in and time was sold in smaller increments until we got to the modern ad.  Each break coming about every 7-15 minutes and spouting 4-8 thirty second spots.

Or, in the case of MTV, 12 spots breaking up every 4 minutes of horrible, horrible torture.
These ads make your shows free, in the case of broadcast TV, or cheaper in the case of cable.  Other people pay for these shows so they can try to expose you to their products.  If not for ads, you'd pay an arm and a leg for content.  Like, you know, you do with movies.  Eleven dollars.  To see fucking blue people on pterodactyls.  It's like I'm back in high school, buying special treats at raves again.

None of this should be new information to you, this is all standard knowledge.  Now, the internet more or less works the same way.  Sure, some people produce content out of true altruism (i.e. suckers.)  But, largely, if you want entertainment, you're going to either have to pay for it or else endure annoying intrusion into your life while someone else pays for it.  You know, like dating.

I'm going to give an impromptu economic lesson again.  Sorry.  It's your own damn fault for not doing the summer reading I required.  I'll make this as short and painless as possible.  Freeriding.  It means you have a public good, something everyone supports, and some people take advantage of it without paying for it or use more of it than they should.  There, that didn't hurt too much did it?

Now, let's talk about the Nash Equilibrium.  Step 1) Sleep with Jennifer Connelly.  Step 2) FUCK step 2.  Let's repeat step 1.
This article explains how the problem is represented in television and the internet fairly well, but if you don't want to waste time reading it, the gist is this: Tivo and adblocking software allow people to enjoy the content of programs and websites while dodging the advertisement that pays for that content like a hippy dodges the draft.  Or showers.  Or gainful employment.  Or clothing that actually fits.  Or showers.  The threat is less direct for television since the advertisers have no way of knowing their ads are being skipped.  For internet authors, its more serious since a blocked ad is never clicked on, which drastically cuts down on the calculated revenue stream for their site.  In either case, though, the long term results become very similar.  Advertisers calculate the return on their investments.  How much each dollar they put into advertising affects sales and revenues.  When advertising on a medium becomes less valuable, they put less money into it.  Which means less money to the authors.

Which means less money to me, those bastards.  Now, on the flipside, I understand why people use adblockers.  Hell, I use an adblocker.  That's right, I'm a hypocrite.  So sue me.  But I've made a concerted effort to use the ad blocker more judiciously, rather than leaving it on all the time, for every site.  The problem is when websites take advantage of you, when they add more and more obnoxious and intrusive ads.  Eventually, those ads begin to interfere with your enjoyment.

In the end, there is sort of a difficult balancing act going on.  Authors want to put in as many ads as they can, to try to maximize profit, but not be detrimental to their actual content.  When they reach a breaking point, viewers/readers invoke the inner Howard Beale... you know, from the movie Network... oh Christ.  Really?  Go to fucking IMDB, you lazy heathens.  Point being, when the viewer reaches a breaking point, they're bound to overreact some and bring the hammer down liberally and fiercely.  But are you ready for me to blow your mind?  Ready for it?  By using an adblocker, you're actually hurting things.  Okay, so maybe that didn't blow your mind.  Go smoke a couple bowls and come back and we'll try this again.


Alright, ready?  Get this: peanuts are neither peas nor nuts.

Like, whoa, man.  Like..... whoa.
See, we get paid based on not only how often people actually click on ads but how often they view pages with the ads.  By using your ad blocking software but still visiting the sites with the offending advertisement, you are increasing their views, their exposure and their revenues.  If you really want hurt the companies or authors who employ underhanded advertising scripts then STOP GOING TO THEIR SITES.  Boycott them.  Pure and simple.  I know, that's difficult because it requires self-control and self-control sucks.  It sucks bad.  But it's the most effective way to punish them.  No page views, no clicks, no money.

You can also send another message by actually clicking on the ads on sites you do enjoy.  And, you know, maybe buy some of the products.  Use your money, your economic voting dollar, to support companies that employ reasonable ads.  After all, the best way to make your voice heard is to show you, as the reader, appreciate these sorts of ads.  You would rather they use these ads than the nasty, tricky ones that tries to steals your precious.  Yes.  They are soooo tricksies.

So, what is the lesson for today?  Well, here is a simple, three step plan you can use to actually affect the ads used and help eliminate those annoying ads once and for all.


1) Employ an ad blocker, if you must, but turn it off on any website you visit regularly.  Save it for strange, foreign sites that may employ nasty, STD-like code.

2) If a site you regularly visit had intrusive advertising that is negatively affecting your enjoyment then DO NOT ENABLE YOUR BLOCKER.  Instead, stop visiting the site regularly.  I'm sure there are dozens of competing sites out there with equally valuable content that won't hammer you in the face.

3) If the site has simple advertisement that does not impact you, show support for those sponsors that use quality advertising.  Use those ads to actually purchase what they have to offer.  Buy products from companies that use advertising policies you support.

In this way you become a better consumer.

NOTE:  This entry was edited so as to not run afoul of my good friends at Google.  Please do not take anything I've said as anything more than general commentary.  You think, as a lawyer, I would know better.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Jeremy... although, I think I might go out and buy a Ford ;)