Some of you guys have asked us to comment on the controversy first started at Ars Technica about Why ad blocking is devastating to the sites you love. Frankly, I have avoided this topic because so many of the comments we see about it are dismaying and saddening. However, I will address it briefly due to your requests—and because I'd like to clear up any misconceptions.
Ken's central argument in the piece linked above strikes me as essentially unassailable. He's explained how things work for publications like us—that is, ads are sold on a per-view basis—and sidestepped almost entirely the questions of morality and ethics that distract from the core reality beneath it all. What's left is this inescapable truth: If you block our ads, we lose revenue, which restricts how we can serve you as a publication.
People can argue all they want about the finer ethical points of these things, but that truth doesn't change. The contrarian can say that he dislikes intrusive web ads, and we can reply that we turn down substantial revenue each month due to our commitment to reject annoying ads of every stripe: pop-ups, pop-unders, interstitals, double-underlined keyword jobs, ads with sound, graphics that flicker in bright colors, videos that play automatically, files that are too large, ads with trashy content, you name it. He can argue that we should get a new business model; we can point out that declaring someone should flap his arms and fly to the moon is much easier said than done. He can claim his "right" to block our ads, and we can claim our right to deny him our bandwidth and content. At the end of the day, though, the world is what it is, not what we wish it to be—and if you block our ads, TR suffers.
I'm not sure I understand some of the angry responses web sites get when pointing out this dynamic. Some of them, I think, grow from the fact that these sentiments are rarely expressed clearly and without emotion on the part of site operators; readers often hear anger and accusation in these appeals and respond defensively. In other cases, it seems to me the fundamental problem is an inability or unwillingness on the part of some folks to put themselves in the shoes of the site operator and to consider fully his dilemma. That's what I find most discouraging.
Web site operators are simply saying: we are doing things constantly to serve your interests; please do this little thing to help us out. If you do, we'll serve your interests even better. That sentiment is certainly true for us, and your cooperation in this simple matter would be appreciated.
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