You Can Now Turn Off Ads On Techdirt

from the go-ahead dept

We get it. Many of you really hate online advertising. And, indeed, there’s often a good reason for that. The ads can be irrelevant, intrusive and annoying. And, in some cases, they can even be dangerous, as scammers or those with malicious intent slip bad code into ad networks in order to wreak havoc on visitors’ computers. So here’s a deal: if you don’t want to see display/banner ads on Techdirt any more you don’t need to. Just go to your preferences page (whether you have an account or are just browsing without a login) and click the button saying you want to disable ads. And, that’s it. No more network display ads.

This isn’t one of those “pay us to remove ads” deals. It’s up to you. That said, obviously if you disable ads we’re likely to make less money. So if you choose to do that, we’d appreciate it if you supported us in other ways, such as via our Insider Shop, where you can buy a membership that gets you certain perks, or through our Deals Store, where you can support Techdirt while buying some cool products and services. But, again, this is not a requirement. If you don’t like ads on the site, turn them off.

If you’ve been paying attention to the news lately, there’s been all sorts of hand-wringing about “ad blockers”, with the hair pulling reaching new levels of craziness a few weeks ago when Apple finally started allowing ad blockers into the iOS app store. Some have been whining about how this is going to kill off the free internet or somehow lead publishers to fall to the side as internet giants like Google, Facebook and Apple colonize the independent web. There have been all sorts of debates about whether or not ad blocking is ethical, which seems like a pointless debate to me, since users don’t care. They’re going to do it anyway.

I’m planning to do another post in the near future on how the online advertising/publishing ecosystem should react to all of this, but so far they’ve been reacting… badly. The IAB (Internet Advertising Bureau) has gone so far as to discuss suing over ad blocking, and some sites — including the Washington Post — have decided to block access to users who have ad blockers enabled.

We’ve even been approached by multiple companies who claim to offer a form of ad blocker blocker, that will either insert new ads even when users have ad blockers, or otherwise pester users with ad blockers turned on.

This seems like the exact wrong approach. It’s somewhat reminiscent of the way the RIAA and MPAA reacted to the internet challenging their business models. Rather than listen, recognize what the public wanted and adapt, they whined, screamed about ethics and went to court. And how’s that worked out for everyone? We’ve always said that those who adapt to these challenges are likely to do better, and part of that means actually listening to your fans and helping them do what they want. So that’s what we’re doing: if you choose to disable ads, you just need to go to your preferences and click a button and that should do it.

It’s important to note that this is an experiment, though we have no plans to suddenly pull it back (that would be ridiculous). For now, it only applies to network display ads — or what most people think of as “banner ads.” In the future, we may (or may not!) experiment with further ability to customize what you see and what you don’t see on the site. Again, there is no expectation here in terms of how you respond, but running this site does cost money — so we would certainly appreciate it if you also were willing to support the site in other ways, whether you turn off the ads or leave them on. But, on the whole, we’re going to allow you to decide how you best want to support this site and trust you to figure out the best way, rather than forcing the choice upon you. Thanks for being a part of this community and we look forward to continuing to deliver interesting stories and conversations going forward.

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Comments on “You Can Now Turn Off Ads On Techdirt”

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Doug D says:

one of the things I do...

So, one (*one*) of the things I do when I block ads on a site is: I make a point of forwarding the best content from that site to people who I know do *not* use ad-blocking (via social media and other such channels, not by “spamming” them).

And yeah, when I’m faced with a site that pesters me when I choose to use an adblocker, I comply with their wishes — if they don’t want me to see their content unless I see ads, I take the easy way to cooperate with their wishes and simply stop trying to see their content at all. It’s not like the internet is some content-poor place, with people starved for things to look at.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: video ads is the issue

For me, the straw that broke the camel’s back was “Regiggering”

I mean, when I try to load a page and read it, the text keeps jumping up, down, left, right, up, down…so that I lose my spot four or five times. Then the pop-over comes.

But that jiggering of the text location is what made me run to ad blockers years ago. It’s why I still hate mobile phone browsing compared to desktop Chrome.

JoeT says:

Sorry; turned them off a long time ago

Not because I don’t want to support TechDirt (or myriad other sites), but because leaving ads on is far too big of a security risk.

I do have Adblock Plus configured to allow “non-intrusive” ads; which essentially means text-only ones. However, until the ad networks up their game in filtering out bad players, graphical and flash ads are a no-go.

The TechDirt deals and insider posts (which are essentially long-form ads) are fine by me. I actually read them (if nothing else out of respect that I’m blocking the other ads), and have been sorely tempted to purchase a few. I don’t buy much stuff, so “sorely tempted” is about as good as any ad will get.

I hope that there is some way for implicit-payment supported websites to continue.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Sorry; turned them off a long time ago

AdBlock Plus is obsolete. You should be using uBlock, which is its successor. It’s more flexible, it’s more efficient, and it allows you to block all kinds of other things that are annoying/wasteful/useless/dangerous.

uBlock, NoScript, Privacy Badger, and Canvas Blocker aren’t a panacea — this functionality should really be embedded in the browser itself, but Mozilla is busy sucking up to advertisers. However, they’re better than nothing.

JoeT says:

Re: Re: Sorry; turned them off a long time ago

Could you provide a few links as to why uBlock is better?

I’m not doubting you (and I’ll google for some comparisons myself), but I’d love to know what you know. I’ve been by default installing Adblock Plus for other people for years, just as I’ve been installing Firefox and Chrome and telling them to avoid “the blue E”. Before I switch to recommending uBlock, I’d like some 3rd party evidence.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Sorry; turned them off a long time ago

AdBlock Plus has completely sold out to advertisers. See, for example:

Over 300 businesses now whitelisted on AdBlock Plus, 10% pay to play


Amazon, Google and Microsoft get whitelisted by Adblock Plus for a price


Google, Microsoft, and Amazon are paying to get around Adblock Plus

This is why AdBlock Edge long since supplanted AdBlock Plus as the ad-blocker of choice. However, the developers of AdBlock Edge have refactored the blocker as uBlock — which is a general-purpose blocker that can be used for all kinds of content. (For example, there are site that cover the screen in useless crap. uBlock lets you suppress that fairly easily.)

Now the downside is that uBlock’s user interface clearly needs some work. And of course it’s still an add-on, not an intrinsic part of the browser. But I’ve been using it for a while and thus far, it seems to do an efficient job of making advertising and other filth disappear from my view of the web.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Sorry; turned them off a long time ago

Mozilla is busy sucking up to advertisers.

When they started with the backpage showing blocks of where you’ve been I figured it was a matter of time before ads took their place and I dropped FireFox for a fork of it called Pale Moon which is more security minded. Most of the extensions work in Pale Moon. There are somethings you have to do to get the rest of your security in place, such as disabling Geolocation and other taletells but not many.

When I go to a site that’s an aggravation, I take the time to remove the CSS that makes it so and make a rule not to show me that again should I come back. I want the visual real estate to show me content. Content I think is important, not what they think is. It’s a damn shame all this is necessary to get a good surfing experience but that’s what it’s come down to.

Even here, there are what seems to be tons of dataminers. They didn’t ask, they just try to be sneaky about taking it. So I deal with that as well. I literally hate ads and all that comes with it.

While it’s a nice gesture, I doubt this effort to allow you to turn off ads is going to be stable with my setup. If it’s cookies, they get deleted as soon as I leave and don’t need them any more. If it’s IP, good luck with that as I change it frequently.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Would someone kindly ask the Internet Advertising Bureau, how they feel about telemarketing calls?
Do they find them intrusive, annoying, deceptive?

This is how people feel about online ads.

I don’t have the best bandwidth, so annoying flash videos that preload with no way to stop them grind my browsing to a halt it intrudes on my browsing.
I tend to open several windows at once, having to spend effort to find the annoying one with the autoplay bullshit blaring out of my speakers is annoying.
I got tired of ads masquerading as more content, deceptively offering a real story but delivering some advertising bullshit for something I don’t care about.

Just because you could, does not mean you should. You fill my machine with cookies and tracking beacons trying to find a better way to sell me crap I don’t want. We tried being nice, but the dial keeps getting turned up to 11 every freaking time. We can do this, we can do that, we can do all of these things… but you can’t ask a 10 yr old if that is annoying?

Ad networks are focused on getting pennies, and open people up to malware and worse because they don’t vette people buying space. Yet they can’t understand that the worst players in the market are the ones who make us block you.

You want your ads not blocked? Stop with all of the “COOL” things you can do, try just being basic. Don’t try to track my cursor to see if I went near your ad to get a few more cents. Don’t have your ad burst forth from its spot and take over the whole damn page.

Instead of engaging in a battle you can’t win, raising the stakes each time, why not develop a better product that doesn’t make people want to hurt you. Focus on being less intrusive, and perhaps people will stop trying to crush you. The analytics can’t be worth the hassle as people will find new fun hostile ways to respond to your efforts.

You have a small window, and you will never legislate your way to winning. Make them illegal and we’ll still have ad-blockers, and if you find a new way to shovel content at us, we’ll block that too.

Anonymous Coward says:

Download and don't display

Years ago, Adblock (for Firefox) had an option to download all the ads and not display them, which was the best of both worlds for users: sites would get money as if people had seen the ads, and nobody would actually see them. If sites like the Washington Post block people with ad-blockers, I expect features like this will make a comeback.

Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Unfortunately there’s no real alternative way for us to store individual user settings. If you sign up for an account, then they will be attached to your account and no cookies are required – but for logged out users, “settings” and some form of “tracking” are inseparable, because we need a way to associate you with your chosen preferences!

Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

IP addresses are a possibility but we have a lot of users on TOR or with otherwise non-static IPs – plus, it feels a bit like using such indirect methods would be engaging in precisely the sort of user tracking that ad networks employ and which people object to. I know cookies are bothersome to some people, but they are at least a consensual form of tracking – I’m not so sure we want to get into the game of trying to uniquely identify all our anonymous users whether or not they want us to. That would still amount to “mandated tracking” I think.

No matter how you splice it, it’s fundamentally impossible to offer persistent settings at the user level without being able to identify users in some way.

Doug D says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Aaah, didn’t realize you were concerned about it working for people regardless of the entrypoint they used to the site.

Yeah, in that situation, the only way (I can think of) to make such request parameters work would be to couple them with browser mods. A “techdirt” browser mod could intercept the right kinds of requests and rewrite the URLs to include the extra parameter.

(I’ve been planning to write a vaguely similar mod some day, stripping out all UTM-like request parameters, and also asking the user whether to strip out Amazon affiliate links when encountered.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

I don’t think anyone really respects the DNT header. Same would be true for a NOAD header, but as least it would provide an easy way for sites like TD to implement a “no-charge ad free” option without resorting to cookies or kludges.


The funniest thing I’ve seen regarding “no track” options is where every major advertiser and data broker gets the user to install an ad-system-specific cookie that tells that particular system that you don’t want to be tracked. The obvious bug/feature in this approach comes when a user clears his browser’s cookies (for privacy), and in doing so deletes the cookies that exist to help maintain a bit of privacy. Then you have to go back to dozens of different places to re-set the “no track” cookies.

The weirder part of this system is that I wouldn’t be surprised if the places setting the “no track” cookies actually track the users setting them in order to better track people who don’t want to be tracked… Just writing that gave me a headache.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

If you sign up for an account, then they will be attached to your account and no cookies are required

You don’t need cookies enabled to log in? How does that work?

but for logged out users, “settings” and some form of “tracking” are inseparable, because we need a way to associate you with your chosen preferences!

You could let users bookmark something like You’d have to rewrite every Techdirt URL on the main page to include ?ads=0 though. (And when people send story links to others, they might include that part. But it might be interesting to see whether blogs etc. linking to you disable ads.)

Doug D says:

Re: Re: Re:

On the “individual user settings” and “per-user account tracking” being tied issue: one thing that it’s technically possible to do, at least with some web applications, is make the configuration choices themselves be storable via a “GET” parameter.

If you do that, then some “?config=0xDEADBEEF” kind of thing gets appended to requests, and that shows up in the server logs and is on some level trackable, but, every individual who picks the same set of configuration options ends up with the same string there. It’s not individual.

Dunno how practical that kind of thing would be here, though. Folks should not take it as deliberate obstruction or stupidity or whatever if that would be more trouble than it’s worth to wire into this site.

Anonymous Coward says:

I wouldn't mind ads

if only they were better implemented on websites. After everyone started using ad-blockers and such, there has been a real increase in annoying ads that load tons of stuff and open up new windows. And the fact that some are hosting malware is a double whammy.

Well made subtle ads = Profit, I might even be interested.
Annoying flash ads and dozens of tabs with malware = I’m blocking you in host fuckers.

Anonymous Coward says:

How does the revenue sharing work here?

I’m curious, having rarely seen an ad on the internet (I started using ad blocking techniques around 1998):

What does Techdirt get paid for with regards to ads? Is there a payment per page load? Per IP in a certain time window? Per clickthrough? Per conversion?

The reason I ask is that if the revenue is solely generated by clickthrough or conversion, the majority of viewers of this site weren’t generating revenue anyway, and were actually consuming extra bandwidth (raising service costs) without providing revenue via this stream.

I like to support websites, but as I’m never going to click on a banner ad (they rarely offer something I want and is available in my country, PLUS there’s always too much security risk), I prefer to support sites using other methods (such as link referrals, donating, merch, providing content, editing, moderating, etc).

So Mike: how does it work for you?

crade (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

This is nice, but I appreciate the efforts in trying to make the ads both unobtrusive as well. I feel like you guys have made great strides, and are almost but not quite to the point where the ads are not a bother or even (gasp) useful. I hope you continue to push the envelope on that front. I think you might even be the only member in an exclusive club that posted an ad that led me to actually buy something.

David says:

I generally don't mind ads

As long as they are not intrusive. So many sites “sponsored” on Facebook have so many ads, the content takes forever to load, have large lightboxed overlays that cover the content and you have to hunt for the close button, force you scroll around the page because an ad shows up and disappears shifting the content…

Ads on Techdirt, I think you guys are at least doing it right by not making the content difficult to consume because of the ads.

I’m getting free content, so as long as I’m not being bludgeoned by them, it’s a small price to pay.

drkkgt (profile) says:

unobtrusive ads

I whitelisted Techdirt when you adjusted the layout a while back. This is something other sites could take note of. Decent size (not huge popups that overshadow what I came for,) related or on-topic (most of the ads I see are all tech related including WGU with their awesome IT programs. Go Night Owls!) and, as mentioned by previous posters, aren’t loud or jarring. There are few other sites that are that considerate so thank you for respecting your readers.

tom (profile) says:

Hope this starts a constructive dialog. As a test, I told Noscript to allow scripts and Adblock to allow ads. Result, Zero displayed ads, 10 scripts from other domains blocked by Noscript, 14 trackers blocked by Ghostery, 3 trackers blocked by Privacy Badger.

My question is: Do ANY of the ads you want us to view actually originate from This IS the big security and liability issue with today’s Internet Ad market.

The editor of a print paper knows before the paper is printed what the content of the paper is, include all of the adds. Even the inserts are reviewed before the paper is delivered. The paper also has legal responsibility and liability for the content of the paper.

Unfortunately, this is not how most websites handle ads. Ads are mostly served by 2nd, 3rd, 4th level removed parties and the prime website often has TOS that try to remove any liability if one of these often unknown parties serves up an inappropriate ad or worse, malware.

When the main website, in this case, has to accept full responsibility, including financial, for the actions of its advertisers and any harm they may cause to website visitors, then the ad situation will likely resolve itself.

Doug says:

A game of statistics

The moral argument against ad-blocking fails. It’s no more immoral for me to block ads than it is for a website to choose to use ad-networks the present the kinds of ads that chase me away. It’s an optimization problem.

First, advertising currently works. Ad-supported websites survive. These statements are demonstrably true simply because ads and ad-supported websites exist. I feel no moral obligation to enable ads because this is true even though I block ads. So, my opting out of this obnoxious system hasn’t broken anything, and thus the argument that I have some moral obligation to opt in fails. If advertisers and websites want me to put up with ads, they need to create ads I will put up with. They have not. Until they do, they don’t get my eyes.

The equation for advertising is not an all or none equation. It’s a statistical one. There will always be an “ad-viewing” and an “ad-blocking” group of users. Advertisers try to maximize revenue from the ad-viewing group. They have many ways to do this. If things they try chase ad-viewers into the ad-blockers group, but still raise revenue, then that’s a rational thing to do. But it’s not fair to blame the ad-blockers for “breaking” the ad-supported revenue models. The ad-supported sites play an counterbalancing role. If they think their ad-blocker group is too large, they can try to increase their revenue by seeking out ad networks that chase away fewer users.

If you want to lay the blame at the feet of anyone, it is not the individual user who feels their internet experience is degraded when they are forced to view ads they don’t like. They have no control over the situation. Blame the advertisers and ad-supported sites. They are the ones making the choices that create the ad-blocking and ad-viewing groups. They need to start optimizing their approaches to increase the ad-viewing group. Whining and begging users to voluntarily join the ad-viewing group against their own self-interest is the weakest tactic the advertusers can use.

Kudos for Techdirt for respecting the ad-blocking group enough to make it easy for them to block ads. That’s respect for your community.

crade (profile) says:

Re: A game of statistics

I’ve always thought most (all?) forms of advertising must be vastly overvalued.. It’s one thing to let people know something exists, but once they know, are they really so easy to manipulate? Do these companies actually measure the return they get on their advertising spending? Is it even possible to measure? I ave a sneaking suspicion that it’s a big bubble that’s going to burst someday.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Re: A game of statistics

I have worked for some rather large advertising companies.

I’ve always thought most (all?) forms of advertising must be vastly overvalued..

You may be right.

It’s one thing to let people know something exists, but once they know, are they really so easy to manipulate?

Yes, they are.

Do these companies actually measure the return they get on their advertising spending?

Advertising companies most certainly do. Large companies often do.

Is it even possible to measure?


I have worked for companies that would mine the advertising and sales data for different regions and while truly showing a causal relationship is very difficult, the correlations are absolutely there.

Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 A game of statistics

It’s a very complicated thing, but Michael is right – there is far too much evidence that ads work to ignore. But you’re also right that in almost no case is there any extremely clear, causal measurement to be made. It’s a mess, to be sure, but it definitely matters. This is also very supportable on the psychological side – you question whether it’s really so easy to effect people via advertising, and it absolutely is. None of us are as clever as we think we are, and all of us are influenced by advertising on an extremely regular basis.

Violynne (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 A game of statistics

I remember reading a few years ago about the amount of money McD’s spent to let the country know it’s rib-shaped meat-by-product was back.

Interestingly enough, someone decided to actually ask the people if they found out via the ad, and if not, how they found out.

Over 70% saw it had returned because it was on the menu.
Of the remaining 30%, 62% heard it through word of mouth (which included social media – not ads on social media).

McD’s said the “investment” was worth it because sales increased 40% after the ads were released.

I firmly believe this is what bean counters believe, that somehow, the (potential) consumer is disconnected from the product so far, an ad is the only way to reach people.

I learned long ago word of mouth is, and always has been, the best form of advertising.

Everyone else is just wasting their money.

Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 A game of statistics

It’s more complex than that though. “How you found out” is not the only measure of an ads success, and word of mouth is not always borne out of a vacuum.

The McRib is a great example: it has this weird, cult-like status where people get super excited about its availability and start buzzing to their friends. Do you think that’s because it’s transcendently more delicious than the rest of McD’s menu? Nope – it’s because of the advertising, which includes the choice to make it a limited-window deal that keeps going away and returning. Remember, that distribution method itself is part of the advertising – and it works like a charm.

Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 A game of statistics

I’d also add that “On the menu” is not separate from advertising either — McDonald’s puts huge amount of thought into how to design its signage and huge amounts of money into shooting the photos advertising limited-time sandwiches in-store; now most locations have the digital screen menus, which rotate in various item promos. Plus, the menu itself is designed from the ground up with an advertiser’s eye — there’s no simple, straightforward list of every item available and its price; rather there’s a carefully calculated set of featured combos, with ancillary menus themed for things like healthy choices or cheap items, all carefully calculated to push customers towards the products they most want to sell.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 A game of statistics

This has always been my estimation as well. If you have to pay someone to toot your horn for you something is wrong with that product. Either it is too weak, or it doesn’t preform as well as it should, or there is too little of the product for the price. Your neighbor will tell you for free what works for him.

You get no benefits from ads, it’s all downsides. You don’t get any better product, you don’t get any more product, what you get instead is a more expensive product because the cost of paying for the ads is added in the price.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 A game of statistics

Add to that the fact that ALL advertising is based on lies.

Consider: if telling the truth would suffice, then there would be no need for focus groups and copywriters, commercial creators and actors, or any of the rest of it. Simply telling the truth, without any obfuscation or exaggeration, would do.

But advertisers are greedy pigs: they want money, and screw the truth. They lie, lie, lie — it’s their job. It’s what they get paid to do. And then they somehow rationalize it as a legitimate practice.

Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 A game of statistics

But that’s all a separate question to whether or not it works, and the truth (sad or otherwise) is that it does, even on you, even if you’re sure it doesn’t (in fact, being convinced that it doesn’t work on you just further empowers the advertisers).

You can’t just boil advertising down to “tooting the horn” for some given product – it’s way more deeply ingrained into society than that, for better or for worse. There are some industries, such as fashion and decor, that have very few objective standards of quality, and thus swing entirely on public perception which is heavily influenced by media which is heavily influenced by advertising; there are times when advertising has tapped into much huger trends, such as the fact that the entire American tradition of a large breakfast with bacon and eggs is largely the result of a single marketing campaign in the 1920s.

Then there are all the ads for things that aint so bad. Is a museum that puts out posters with photos of an exhibit in order to catch the eye and entice you to come see the real thing “lying”? Is it only doing it because its product is inferior?

Doug says:

Re: Re: Re:7 A game of statistics

There isn’t “truth” in advertising because there isn’t “truth” in purchasing. It’s a two-sided coin (multi-headed hydra!).

I hate ads as much or more than anyone. I don’t have cable because of ads; I don’t watch broadcast TV because of ads; I block web ads entirely online; I don’t use apple products because they don’t let me block ads my way [via the hosts file]; I have subscriptions to Netflix and SiriusXM (and avoid the Sirius/XM channels with ads); etc. Seriously, I hate ads.

That being said, I think we as consumers need to admit to our part in how things got this way. We are fickle. We choose products not based on “truth” but based on emotion, style, popularity, etc. You might believe there is “truth”, but really there isn’t.

Seriously, Coke is not objectively better than Pepsi. You have your preference, I have mine. Coke cannot create an ad saying, “we fulfill all the criteria of being a cola better than Pepsi”. Proper competition results in products that are functionally identical. Once you have that, all you have left to differentiate yourself, to sell yourself, is intangibles where you have to “create” the value out of nothing. So even in an ideal world, all advertising can do is create the sense in you that you want product X over product Y, for no objective reason.

If we want ads that are less annoying then we need consumers that are less swayed by them. Do you buy generics? Why not? Do you buy the staid, solid Consumer Reports-rated car or the stylish one? Do you buy the $15 wine or the $50 wine? Do you objectively rate products on quality (on your own scale) and then buy the best or one with the best quality/value ratio?

People don’t buy that way so advertisers don’t advertise that way. It’s not all the advertisers fault.

This still doesn’t mean I have to look at ads, though! And I blame all y’all for this state of affairs. Not my fault, I buy objectively. ( ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 A game of statistics

I was really skeptical that it was worthwhile until I was working for a large enough company to be doing complex mining of the data over large areas.

The increase in sales after even poorly done, unfocused ad campaigns is often pretty impressive.

I was most impressed/disappointed in the revenue that can be generated from infomercials. It was astounding the first time I looked at the results. Somehow, a lot of people can be convinced to buy a crappy electric frying pan with a former boxer’s face on it with 30 minutes of pushing.

Doug says:

Re: Re: A game of statistics

The value in advertising is not what a seller gets out of doing it, but what they lose by not doing it. If you have two equivalent products X and Y, and X advertises but Y does not, Y will lose. So if one advertises, both must.

That’s only one layer in the logic of advertising, though. As others have pointed out, it is complex and illogical, and works in ways we may not even understand or be aware of.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: A game of statistics

This moral argument has become one of the refuges of the scoundrels. The RIAA uses it, the MPAA uses it, and a ton of other corporations use it. But this isn’t about morals, it’s about money.

When they talk it as money it becomes plain it is greed that is driving ads. But if they can wrap it in morals, then it looks like a different critter though nothing has changed.

pegr (profile) says:

No, everything is OK!

Sure, have a selection for disabling ads, because it not like to use every tracker known to man on this site. Or perhaps you can explain why your site is pulling scripts/content from the following sites?

What, you think we wouldn’t notice?

And you don’t vet your “Deals” partners worth a donkey crap, either.

(But I like the content. Please continue that.)

David (profile) says:

Re: No, everything is OK!

Eh, some of them are OK. Gravatar gives you the cute little avatar graphics. Twitter, Reddit, LinkedIn and Facebook are obviously for the social media crowd. And since they put their podcasts on Soundcloud, I can see why there would be links to that and its CDN.

No clue what flattr is, but am guessing it’s another social media thing.

The ad side would be Amazon, scorecardresearch, quantserve, which is actually a fairly limited set out of that entire list.

Still, that is a ludicrous number of third party sites that each page has to connect to. The need for so many separate domains for some of them (eg: 4 domains for Soundcloud) is indicative of the problems with all the stuff they’re trying to do (and thus avoid too many connections to the same domain; this might improve with http 2).

It always seems like there ought to be a better way. The social media in particular โ€” what exactly are they doing that needs to be running a script on every page load? Is a little button with a link to Facebook or whatever not good enough?

Aside: I would be just as happy if there were a way to completely disable the social media links, but I recognize that I’m an outlier in not having any social media accounts at all, other than the mandatory Google+. However all of them pile up to cause a significant hit in page load times.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: No, everything is OK!

G+ isn’t mandatory: I’ve been on the ‘net far longer than you and I don’t have an account there.

The PrivacyBadger extension blocks most social media widgets by default. I haven’t figured out how to get it to make them disappear entirely, i.e., it still displays them but with an icon overlay that shows they’re inactive.

David (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: No, everything is OK!

G+ isn’t mandatory: I’ve been on the ‘net far longer than you and I don’t have an account there.

Allow me to clarify: Mandatory for one of Google’s services that I needed at some point, when they were trying to tie Google+ into everything they had.

As a continuation of the look at this page:

Just did a count of the lines of javascript code on this page (article page, not the front page). There are at least 40 javascript code files or other chunks of HTML to be inserted into the page. 6 of those I couldn’t count because the code inspector didn’t want to un-compact them, but there was enough horizontal scroll to imply at least hundreds of lines of code. The remaining 34 add up to a total of 102,000 lines of code.

So, a single article on this site uses well over 100,000 lines of code due to all the other stuff it links to. The entirety of the HTML for the page, including all of the comments (which are irrelevant to the 100k code line value) takes up just 2400 lines (word-wrapped at 110 columns).

20k lines of that is for the Soundcloud audio player widget; no idea why they need that much code for something that can be stuffed in an tag. But that still leaves over 80k lines of code being pushed for a simple article plus comments. Oh, and the comments? 145 lines of code. In fact, all TechDirt javascript put together is barely more than 800 lines of code โ€” 1% of all non-widget javascript on this page.

So, yeah.. why do we need all this crap? The entirety of what I came here to see is just 3% of the page, in terms of code (never mind the ads themselves).

(Note: Haven’t tested with the “no ads” cookie set yet.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: No, everything is OK!

Amen to G+ isn’t mandatory. Here’s another that wants nothing to do with Google and it’s products. I have no account with them and if I have to use Google, it won’t be through direct connection but through a proxy that filters. Even the proxy won’t get the right data.

I personally make them disappear and then have the browser remember that. I see none of those icons and the scripts connected to them are blocked as well.

Xander C (profile) says:

Re: Re: No, everything is OK!

Just adding to this:

Flattr is a micro-donation site. There’s a link below every article author to send them a donation via Flattr, which makes a number on the article go up.

Everything else is either a connection from a social media site that uses their connection to update their own tracking of your profile or a stats network for both tech logging (How many users viewing this page got a broken site? or how many timed out while getting what links?) and stats. (What’s the counter at for views? what was the previous page or referrer?)

All honestly basic stuff for the web these days.

Anonymous Coward says:

It was a mistake to allow advertising on the Internet

(There was a time when we didn’t, you know. And the ‘net was a much better place.)

Advertisers and marketers have turned out to be some of the most abusive, vicious parasites on the Internet — second only to intelligence and agencies and police forces with their pervasive invasions of privacy and security. They are the ENEMY and if I had a button which would instantly destroy all their operations, I’d push it without hesitation.

Of course I don’t, which is why I’m busy working on more technology to disrupt and block their activities.

Make the Internet a better place: blacklist, firewall, block, and bankrupt any advertiser/marketer that you can.

Kurata says:

Honestly speaking, i do not find the ads on techdirt intrusive at all, like i basically don’t notice them since they don’t get in the way of content.

In other words, I don’t think i’d be inclined to disabling ads on this website which is one of the rare website on which i disabled adblock.

That said, I do support that move toward letting us choose whether we do wish to see ads or not and for that, i thank you

Anonymous Coward says:

I have no problem with places that want to block you because you run an adblocker. That’s not a site I will stay at to look at the material if that is the cost of viewing. It’s my computer, my decision how I will use it, and my eyeballs that’s counted when it comes to what matters; the content.

There’s lots of good reasons to block ads. Security, the pest industry being a pest, the datamining, and the idea I’m a walking wallet. I know how to look up what I need or want. But today’s world, you can’t turn around and take a breath without someone trying to be in your face with a commercial. It’s overkill to the point of being sickening.

None of the ad companies want to talk about how they sabotaged ‘Do Not Track’ or how they ignore this and use your bandwidth for their greedy purposes. Ok, so now it’s my turn to deal with it; and I do. I’ll remove from view floating nav bars that eat up viewing space, icons and connections for facebook, google, twitter, and the rest that want to track you. Block dataminers that want to slow down your surfing and use your bandwidth to gather data.

I have no sympathies for the ad industry. Were it my druthers, it would be dead tomorrow; being on level with scammers and spammers. Since I can’t do that, I will do the next best thing and take control of my computer.

This pest industry is a victim of it’s own greed.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

…sites have reacted to the end of flash ads on Chrome by flooding pages with animation via JS and causing my tablet browser to crash…

I’ve had Chrome ‘hijacks’ where the ad will open a new tab and then lock up Chrome. I cannot get Chrome to restart into a new session; it returns to the locked up pages. I have to uninstall and reinstall Chrome just to use it again. If the Chrome folks can’t prevent this in the future I’ll be dropping it altogether.

And I’ve opened the same website(s) on IE and Firefox and never got this ‘hijack’ activity, so it’s Chrome dependent. And all this on a PC.

Dale says:

"Just go to your preferences page...."

WHAT ‘preferences page’?? Where?

And if you want to make me a REALLY happy camper, give me a cookie that remembers that I’ve ALREADY clicked on ‘expand all posts’ a million frikken’ times.

Unless that’s already in this alleged ‘preferences page’ you speak of…

But other than that: Thanks ๐Ÿ™‚

solidyote (profile) says:

Blocking ads unethical?

I find it really funny how these advertisement people can be so full of themselves. (aka full of shit)

Its so infuriating that they fail to see they’re clearly being the true assholes in this whole thing.. Its easy to blame that one guy, or that anonymous mass of people, because of that commonly agreed notion that people can be evil or stupid. But that’s kind of a strawman.. It distracts people from the actual issue, and kind of act as a deterrent to actually bother considering both sides of the argument..

I’ve had history with the “advertisement” world. I’ve had to deal with some serious BS like:
– Advertisement phone calls at 3am during the week everyday.(I don’t receive calls on my cell phone anymore now! And yes, I’m on the “do not call list”. But I don’t have the means or time to sue those assholes..)
– Subtly hidden crapware/”toolbars” into installers packaged with legit software, everything hidden behind a webpage made ambiguous on purpose to get you to install it.. Forcing me to wipe my entire OS several times.
– Crappy advertised search results..
– “inappropriate” ads keeping me off several legit websites for a long time( gross, suggestive, dating sites ads when I’m actually trying to not think about that kind of things, government-made “shock” sensitization PSAs(gruesome car crash/workplace accidents), etc.. )
– Flash player literally bluescreening windows through its dodgy hardware acceleration and etc, losing hours of work in the process! (guess what uses flash player the most commonly when browsing? Also, yes I save every five seconds now. I have developed a tick in my left hand that makes me press ctrl + s compulsively..)
– Flash Player crashing the browser, or leaking a lot of memory in a short time span, thanks to the astronomical amount of flash player content instances in a single webpage..
– Webpages that take ages to load, solely because of ads..
– Flash player crashing on youtube and having to reload and watch the fucking ad for the 5th time on the very same video..
– Giant unfolding ad moving right under your mouse pointer as you’re clicking on something else…

And I’ve got more, but its getting pretty long already.. I’ve considered running my daily “insecure” browser inside a VM.. Less risks that way..

If there’s one side that’s lacking ethics its clearly mostly them. I can’t see users trying to scam the advertiser into compromising their personal details or computers.
I can’t see the users collecting usage stats and reselling them, or sharing browsing habits info.
I can’t see the users spamming obsolete and dangerous flash player ads..
I can’t see users not respecting the advertisement company by spamming them non-stop with the same bullshit they’ve seen 1,000 times already today, even though they really gain nothing by doing so, besides some kind of personal benefits perhaps?

Respect goes both way. If they want people to see their stupid ads, they could start by making it convenient to actually see them. Not slapping them in your face when you’re searching for something that may or may not even be behind the forced ad wall they put there. 90% of the time those are completely irrelevant to me, and as soon as I spot one, I immediately try to ignore it anyways..
I use the internet in large part for work, and I want to get access to the information as fast as possible, and ads are really, really a huge problem to me in that respect.

Not to mention, these bastards have made browsing for me really hard for years until I found out I could block their ad server in my host file or using an adblocker.
See, I got ADD, and I probably will have to deal with it for the rest of my life seeing as I’m in my late 20s, and I can’t take any of the available drugs as they give me serious side effects..
Seeing stupid flashing ads or having some forced 2 minutes video ad just disrupt me completely and makes me lose a lot of time in the end trying to focus.. They truly don’t care though. Nobody else will either because I’m not losing “actual” money, or something tangible. (And some said that “Time is money”..)

Since the ads provider got no sense of ethics, they’ll just keep showing the same ad (more like ad nauseam) over and over again to you even though it won’t change anything. I never bought anything because of a web ad, and I most likely won’t ever, no matter how many times they spam me.
The worst part is that they count unique views, to avoid getting scammed you see.. But they don’t put a sane daily/weekly/monthly quota on how often they spam the same person. On TV that was acceptable, and understandable, considering you can’t track views accurately on TV, and not everyone watch the TV at the same time. But on the internet, they got no excuses.

I really hope for them they’ll realize that trying to “get back” at users, and escalate things will only lead to a metaphorical war. As history has shown times and times over..

The internet really needs a new money making model that doesn’t depends on a bunch of bandits, scammers, etc.. After all, you do need money to run a website. I’d just like to have a better way to compensate people than having to deal with those shady people and practices every times.. There has to be some other way. If only people relying on ads for revenues would ask some form of ethics and content quality from their ad providers…

Also, sorry for the strong language, but its an issue that seriously frustrates me.. In particular, this holier than thou attitude some people develop against people blocking ads.. In the process, those people are giving some of those bandits a medium/vector to disinform and push their version of the story and their ordeal.. I mean, fine, you’re not blocking ads that’s perfectly ok.. But don’t you dare fucking call me a thief, please.
I actually donate to people I want to support, more than me viewing ads for a year on their website would give them… Hell, I even pay for those “pay us a small sum once, and never ever see ads on our site” if its reasonable, even though I was blocking ads in the first place!

Kaega (profile) says:

Out of all the sites on the internet that need to do this, Techdirt is somewhere on the bottom of the list.

Unfortunately some site ruin it for everybody. I use Adblock because of pop-ups and intrusive ads that interrupt the content I’m enjoying. I use Adblock at home because I use all kinds of sites that do this, including Techdirt. I also read Techdirt at work, which is just as pleasant of an experience with/without ads blocked.

So Techdirt, I’m not going to turn your ads off. In fact, I think when I get home I’ll just add you as an exception to my Adblock.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“For some of us encryption means we can’t access the site at all on our own computers.”

What computers are you using that doesn’t let you use https? I even have a CP/M machine from early 80s that does https.

“For everyone else, encryption means that their machines are running hot”

No, not everyone. For the vast majority of people, the additional load that https introduced amounts to a rounding error.

David says:


Advertising is useful, and advertising works, no matter any personal denials. Advertising is commercials, it’s product placement in shows, it’s sponsoring sports teams and race car drivers, it’s the menu in the fast food joint you’re getting lunch at, it’s the packaging of the product you pick up at the grocery store, it’s the little “Intel Inside” logo on the side of the computer that will be there for years after you bought it.

How many will go to the grocery, and buy the name brand over the store brand solely because the name brand looks more professional? Despite the fact that the store brand is a lot cheaper? Though there’s also the issue that the store brand can often just not be as good. I remember a store brand of pop tart (or toaster pastries, or whatever) that was the most vilely disgusting thing I’d ever tasted (not counting actual rotten food or the like, for you pedants).

So, Pop Tarts is what I remember as tasting good, and the brand that I will get if/when I buy them. But I didn’t buy them because the store brand failed; I bought them because I knew about them, and was convinced I wanted to buy them. The store brand experiment was after the fact, and solely because it was a lot cheaper. Any advertising related to it happened long before.

Of course, I couldn’t tell you what company makes Pop Tarts. I’d recognize it if I went and looked at a box, but it has no relevance in my mind. However when I’m at the store, I’ll likely be reminded of the company as I pass the Pop Tarts, and that will cause me to look favorably at any of their other products.

All of that comes from a massive chain of advertising, extending back to my childhood. However if I saw an ad for Pop Tarts show up in my browsing, I’d immediately have a negative reaction to it, just because it’s a fucking browser ad.

This is another form of advertising, one that the advertisers themselves seem to not be aware of. Just as I can’t remember what company makes Pop Tarts, I don’t know what company is ‘advertising’ the ads that I’m seeing. But that “company” is effectively representing all ads ever created on the web. Every foul taste, blinking irritation, page takeover, punch the monkey, flash auto-play -anything- has become the “product” of all advertising companies on the web.

The advertisers think of the ad as advertising for a product, but they forget that the ad itself is a product. Just like the menu at the fast food drive through is advertising for what they’re selling, the display with the plastic peeling off, the menu bleached in the sun, and the sketchy speaker system, is all an advertisement for the ‘product’ of interacting with the restaurant. Just like the “unprofessional” store brand packaging, it’s an advertisement for the advertisement.

And the ad system has been remarkably effective in advertising itself into oblivion. It has become a product that people absolutely despise. It’s a reminder of every obstruction of content, every horribly slow page load, every malware vector, every over-data-cap aggravation. The fact that the companies themselves are “invisible” to the end user perhaps make them think that such things don’t matter.

The advertisers need to remember that they aren’t just advertising their “product”, they are advertising *themselves* with every ad. Perhaps then they can recognize the meaning of people turning more and more to ad blockers, of people not merely tolerating ads because they were there, but now actively fighting against them. They have devalued the product so much that it’s now actually in the negative, where it’s cost-effective to spend the time to actually block it rather than put up with it anymore.

Advertisement did exactly what it always does โ€” influence people’s opinions about a product.

John85851 (profile) says:

My own story

I may have mentioned this before in another article, but here’s my experience with ads:

Years ago, I used Yahoo Mail on IE. Okay, I was young and I didn’t know any better. ๐Ÿ˜‰
Anyway, as with any website, Yahoo Mail had banner ads, most of which were flashing, annoying and irrelevant.
– No, I do not want to refinance my house at 2% interest since I’m living in an apartment.
– No, I won’t click on a banner that says I won a prize for being the 1 millionth person to see the banner ad.
– No, I don’t want free “smilies” or animated cursors.
– No, I don’t want to click to impeach the president or tell Congress to take a hike.

Then one day, my computer was hit by malware:
First, Windows asked if I wanted a software program to change the registry. Then my firewall software asked if I wanted some program to access the internet.
Then Windows asked about changing the registry as fast as I could click No.
I had to unplug the computer to get the crap to stop… and when I turned my computer back on, my desktop wallpaper had been replaced by a black screen with an IP address on it.
My Start Menu was also full of crap, such as search engines, tool bar installers, affiliate-clicks programs, and more.
Luckily, I was able to restart in Safe Mode and do a System Restore.

And of course, Yahoo denied it was their fault, even though it happened when I was reading mail.

I then switched to GMail and the ad-experience was completely different. Now, ads were on the side of the e-mail I was reading… and they were relevant!
When I talked to my friend about a Star Wars movie, the ad were for Star Wars toys… which I clicked on… and actually bought some things.

So, what’s the moral for advertisers? Force crappy banner ads on people and they’ll never click. But give them ads relevant to them and they’ll click and maybe buy.

Coyne Tibbets (profile) says:

Thank you

Thank you and everything, but as far as intrusiveness goes, you rank somewhere under the carpet.

I swear, the other day when I visited a site, the screen scrolled up and a grasping hand came out wrapped around my neck and another hand came out and slapped me twice across the face; as a sepulchral voice said, “Now pay attention…!”

(Or at least that’s what would have happened if one of these infernal advertising companies could figure out a way to make it work.)

Vicki Nemeth (user link) says:

These people are whining that they can't annoy me?

I’m totally fine giving a publisher a few cents by loading an ad that doesn’t distract my eye from what I’m trying to read, blast my speakers at twice the volume of the main content, or display pornographic images when the site they’re on is clearly not a site people visit for porn. NoScript blocks some ads even when a site is whitelisted on Adblock, and I can’t be bothered to figure out which script to allow, either. I don’t know why those advertisers would expect me to want to do business with them after being annoying anyway. If sites would only allow quiet, non-animated ads, a lot of people would not need Adblock.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I was wondering what you tossers would come up with to complain about the optional removal of ads. Weak as ever.

So, why do you come here, since you’re not only opposed to everything said here, but every aspect of its presentation? You say nothing of value, nothing that’s even remotely constructive as an opposing point of view, sometimes act outright insane, and now you’re reduced to whining about how the site structures its ads to be less intrusive – more than any of your media hereos ever do, by the way.

JustMe (profile) says:

The ads are fine

for the most part, and I won’t be blocking or filtering them since I like Techdirt. I even click on the ads and purchase things from time to time.

Generally speaking, I despise autoplay videos (especially that one that played every-damn-where for two weeks, never did find out what they were selling because I hate them with the heat of a thousand suns).

I dislike pages that Constantly Freaking Resize as ads are served. Hellooooo! I’m trying to read the words and you are moving them around the page like a crazed llama.

As long as Mike, Michael, Tim, Timothy, Karl, Leigh and (the sadly underrepresented) Glyn keep these abominations off of the page I’m cool. Keep up the good work.

GEMont (profile) says:

Hoping to see a trend...

Well thank ya, thank ya verah much.

Personally, I don’t think ads work, and do nothing but annoy people. I stopped watching TV – except ad free channels – decades ago, purely because of advertising.

While I stopped “seeing” ads on-line a long time ago – unless they need to be removed to view content (and even then I could not tell you what the ad was selling, 60 seconds after killing it) – this is not extremely useful to me here on techdirt, as the ads’ format is unobtrusive and for me – the ads are virtually invisible.

Nonetheless, I thank you all for being the forward thinking people you are, and hope that this action will indeed get more folks to put their money where their mind is, and keep techdirt running free and strong.

And towards that end, as soon as I get an income, I will be sending you guys some of it, sometime around january, february, of next year. ๐Ÿ™‚

It would be even nicer if your revenue stream increased manifold, and lead to a trend by others to eliminate advertising from their sites as well.

I used to run a website –, where I offered hundreds of no-strings attached 3D images made in Poser and Bryce. It was later renamed CopyFreeGEMs, after my ISP neglected to bill me for renewal and a jewelry store – the GEMS Gallery, bought my URL from them the day after it expired.

Its why I got interested in techdirt actually. Copy Rights.

I finally lost that site too, because of a lack of money, and because I could simply never get myself to use advertising to finance it. I really hate advertising.

Anyways, thanks for being awesome.

Bummed out says:

How has your experience been with the deals provider?

I happily purchased some stuff through the deals page, glad to have a way to support TD that worked for me. I posted deals I found interesting to social media, and emailed them to friends. Then I got shipped a box with a missing item. And couldn’t get their customer support to respond in any way other than to send me the tracking number for the box that was already in my hand. I ended up going through my credit card company to get the money back, thankfully. But as much as I like TD, I will not buy from the deals page again. Mistakes happen, but the customer service black hole was a deal breaker.

BernardoVerda says:

I don't block ads

I don’t block ads (except DoubleClick ๐Ÿ˜› ).

After all, in our present system, advertising “pays the freight” so since I subscribe to only a few, favourite sites, I accept the adverts (the non-intrusive ones) as a legitimate “imposition” on my web-surfing experience.

However, I do use FlashBlock, and I use Ghostery. With Ghostery, I block all trackers, “analytics”, “beacons, and most widgets. But if it’s a site which I visit at all regularly, I make sure that ads are permitted.

But oddly enough, between FlashBlock and Ghostery, this ends up blocking the vast majority of ads — I guess advertisers just aren’t willing to show me the ads if they can’t count how many times I’ve supposedly seen them.

So sad; too bad.

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