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OPLIN 4cast #452: Should we block ads?

Posted in 4cast

Last updated on September 29, 2015

stop signSince the 1930s, people have said, “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch,” and this certainly applies to “free” information on the Internet. If you haven’t paid to read an article (or are not reading an article for which a library has paid for your access), chances are very high that the web page containing the article is festooned with all kinds of advertisements angling for your money. Some of the most intrusive ads are pop-up ads, and many people and web browsers use blocking software to stop such ads. Two weeks ago, PageFair, a provider of counter ad block solutions for publishers, released their annual report documenting the increasing use of ad blockers. Is this a problem?

  • The digital media industry needs to react to ad blockers … or else (Columbia Journalism Review | Michael Rosenwald) “This is an exciting and chaotic time in digital news. Innovators like BuzzFeed and Vox are rising, old stalwarts like The New York Times and The Washington Post are finding massive new audiences online, and global online ad revenue continues to rise, reaching nearly $180 billion last year. But analysts say the rise of ad blocking threatens the entire industry—the free sites that rely exclusively on ads, as well as the paywalled outlets that rely on ads to compensate for the vast majority of internet users who refuse to pay for news.”
  • Ad blockers and the nuisance at the heart of the modern web (New York Times | Farhad Manjoo) “Nearly 200 million people worldwide regularly block ads, the report said, and the number is growing fast, increasing 41 percent globally in the last year. Today ad-blocking is mostly restricted to desktop web browsers. But iOS 9, Apple’s latest mobile operating system, will include support for ad blockers when it becomes available in the fall.”
  • What the ad blocker debate reveals (Monday Note | Jean-Louis Gassée) “You can’t blame the browser, it’s the way the system has evolved in the Web advertising race to the bottom. Back when physical newspapers were still vital, advertising space was limited and thus prices were well-behaved and constant. No such thing on the Web, where the ‘ad inventory’ tends to infinity. As a result, prices fall, sites need more ads to stay afloat, and they must consent to exploitative practices.”
  • The ethics of modern web ad-blocking ( | Marco Arment) “Web ads are dramatically different from prior ad media, though — rather than just being printed on paper or inserted into a broadcast, web ads are software. They run arbitrary code on your computer, which can (and usually does) collect and send data about you and your behavior back to the advertisers and publishers. And there’s so much consolidation amongst ad networks and analytics providers that they can easily track your behavior across multiple sites, building a creepily accurate and deep profile of your personal information and private business.”

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