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
    The AC that's beggin, please!, 20 Apr 2010 @ 7:47pm

    What would make ad makers and viewers both happy:

    If I woke up tomorrow and was greeted with an apology and a promise from the internet as a whole, I would never use Adblock Plus again. The message should read something like this:

    "We, a collective of every online advertising group and websites who condone the use of said groups, are sorry. We're sorry for animating our ads with pestering characters when you were under pressure to complete personal research for a project, the results of which could mean receiving a degree or flunking out entirely and ruining your life. We're sorry for including sounds in our ads which when played at a system volume of 2/100 in your apartment building would result in the police knocking on your door with a citation for disturbing the peace. We're sorry for intrusive ads which would completely cover the article of the story you've been dying to read since it came up in conversation several hours ago, and we're especially sorry when you try to click a link just as the ad covers it and you're forwarded to a site full of malware. Which, by and by, leads us to our greatest apology yet. We're sorry for pop-ups, pop-unders, links, re-directs, and auto-executing javascript which led to your computer being infected by malware, slowed by non-nefarious but speed crippling tracking cookies which invade your privacy rights, and for all of this abusing bandwidth and personal property that you pay for.

    We wish to make up for this and give you something useful that we can be proud to stand behind. We promise that all ads will be condensed into text and still images only, in the form of banner ads. We promise that neither loading their presence nor clicking on them will place anything on your computer, re-direct through malicious sites, or anything else undesired upon the viewing of said ad or clicking of the product link. In other words, we promise that if an advertised product or service actually interests you and you click to view it, the only thing that action will do is take you to the product information page. In addition to no longer using invasive cookies or other forms of malware when bringing you informative and useful ads, we see that targeted advertising needs to be rethought. Instead of doing away with it entirely so that you get porn ads on your children's approved websites, we promise that our ads will be custom fit for the website and specific pages of the website you are viewing, and in turn hope this limits the amount of inappropriate ads and ads for things that could never interest you.


    If I received that message from some mythical god of the internet, I would literally punt a random cat out my bedroom window in excitement, never use ad blocks again, and feel genuinely gracious when something I needed or wanted or didn't know existed but had a use for appeared in a non-harmful, non-invasive, appropriate/polite and trustworthy ad that would lead to my purchasing of said product or service. Isn't this exactly what advertisers want? Isn't this what they're paid to get? This is what should turn a profit for advertisers and webmasters alike. I would just be so happy, the only other thing left that I could ask of advertising companies is that billboards be done away with because they're never relevant, in a sense are invasive, often offensive, and detract from the environment- which are all things online ads are but shouldn't be and could be fixed easily.

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