Escapist Website Mass Bans (Then Unbans And Guilts) Users Who Mention Adblock

from the building-community-and-value-through-uppercuts dept

Chodelord writes in to note that the Escapist website recently decided it would be a good idea to ban users from  their forums simply for mentioning Adblock. The thread in question started after a user complained that an add for Time Warner Cable was slowing down his computer. Apparently, users who responded to the poster by suggesting the user "get Firefox and AdBlock" found themselves banned from the forums. Users didn't even need to admit they even used AdBlock to get banned -- they simply had to recommend it as a solution to a seemingly-annoying ad. Looking at the forums recently amended posting guidelines does confirm that the folks at the Escapist believe that giving browsing preference advice is a "non forgivable" offense:

Do not confess, teach, admit to, or promote ad-blocking software that will allow users to block the ads of this site.
Indeed. Users quickly (and justly) started complaining about the fact that friends they'd had for years were suddenly being bashed over the head with the ban hammer simply for mentioning an incredibly popular and legal application. After a lot of complaints, the Escapist ultimately wound up unbanning the users according to a forum post, and instead just settled on trying to make the community feel really guilty:
I truely hope that everyone that reads this will consider turning off their ad-blocker for this site. If we have offended you or you don't deem this site to be worthy (and would like to have it shut down instead), do what you will, but don't pretend to be surprised if the site dies.

While it's nice that the Escapist listened to their community, saw reason, and backed away from their ridiculous decision, that doesn't make the decision any less ridiculous (and while they reversed course, the posting guidelines remain unchanged). It also doesn't justify telling your readers that they're responsible for the failure of your business model should users decide to block annoying ads. As Ars Technica recently found out, mandating what your users can and can't do with their own browsers doesn't exactly foster adoration within your community to begin with, but subsequently telling those users they should take a hike if they don't like your position (or in this case even mention ad blockers) isn't particularly endearing, either.

As we've mentioned previously in great detail, if you've got ads on your website that are annoying your users, that is your fault -- not your users' fault. The failure of your business model is also your problem, not theirs. It's up to you to develop a new model that doesn't involve your users being annoyed. Meanwhile, telling your users (essentially) that they're worthless if they don't directly generate ad revenue is misguided. Site visitors bring value to your website in other ways -- whether they block your advertisements or not -- through conversation, participation and links to your content. Of course none of that will happen if you treat them like escaped felons for simply discussing their browser plugins.

Filed Under: adblocking, community, escapist

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  1. identicon
    Samurai Goomba, 15 Jan 2011 @ 4:13am


    Huh. I figured I'd do some searching, maybe see if anyone else online is feeling as disillusioned with The Escapist as I am. These days I really only visit for Zero Punctuation, but I was pretty active in the forums for a couple years. As Cheeze Pavilion said, things definitely seemed nicer back then. Debates were more spirited, and debaters had more personality because there was more wiggle room in personal expression.

    I think a big part of the problem was that as the site became more popular, the mods started to think more like promoters of the site, and perhaps a bit less like moderators for and enablers of discussion. The idea that one could get banned for advocating the use of legal software (regardless of how it affects their bottom line) is patently ridiculous.

    I've stopped by the forums in the last few months, and little has changed. There's no point in engaging moderators in debate, because certain among them have shown in the past they will ban someone because they don't agree with him/her. Maybe it's just me, but the mods also seem a lot less polite than they used to be.

    When the whole "publisher's club" thing was being debated during its debut, at least one person said he didn't like the idea of paying to disable ads the company had no right to make him watch (you also supposedly get high definition video out of the pub club, but HD Zero Punctuation looks as crap as regular definition-it's a freaking slideshow). The poster was pretty much told to screw off by Mr. Pitts (incidentally, it's not smart to give your first and last name on a website if you're going to treat forum members like dirt, no matter how big of an internet celebrity you think you are). At the time, I suggested he should set an example (as a mod), and at least be civil. To paraphrase his response: "I know we're not going to get any money from him, so screw him."

    The concept of repeat business or winning over costumers seems foreign to some of these guys.

    In fact, that seems to be the general attitude of the Escapist moderators. If you're not paying money, why should they "owe" you anything? The "magazine" will give you what they're going to give you, and if that's not what you want you can get lost.

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