from the stay-on-target dept
And so the war on ad blockers marches on. Lots of sites have recently made ad blocking software a target of their ire, complaining that such software ruins everything and is a form of puppy genocide or whatever. We, of course, know that to be bullshit, so we think it’s just fine if you block ads (in fact, we make it easy to do so). Still, some of these attempts are getting more and more aggressive, such as what two recent sites, GQ and Forbes, have decided to do.
Let’s start with Forbes, in which the website was recently putting up a “none shall pass!” wall for users who attempted to access it while using an ad blocker.
Reports are coming in from Twitter, and I can confirm, that Forbes is now preventing all (most?) visitors who use an ad-block tool from viewing any articles. From what I can tell, the ban on ad blockers is only rolling out today, and it is not affecting all visitors. I have a report from a uBlock user, as well as one from the UK, which say that they got through just fine.
Those who didn’t get through receive a page that reads “Hi Again. Looks like you’re still using an ad blocker. Please turn it off in order to continue into Forbes’ ad-light experience.”
Here we get into the crux of the problem. First, anecdotally, I see these same messages from sites on occasion. My reaction is always the same: close out the tab, move on to find another source for whatever I was looking for. I have literally never shut down my ad blocker in order to continue to the site. Which, in the case of Forbes’ ad-light experience, would only have caused me to frantically turn it back on to begin with, as the reports from readers indicate that ad-light translates into real-life speak as a barrage of advertisements. Add to all that, that the barrier only affects certain users using certain ad blockers, and this all devolves into a DRM-esque game of whac-a-mole. Go ask the gaming industry how well that money-pit has turned out for them.
But GQ goes one further. Instead of only giving users the choice of turning off the software or moving on, GQ additionally offers potential readers the option of paying for every single article they read! Progress!
“Turn off your ad blocker or purchase instant access to this article, so we can continue to pay for photoshoots like this one,” it concludes, pointing to an image of Amy Schumer dancing with stormtroopers.
Readers who choose to pay for their content rather than view GQ.com’s ads for beard oil and expensive clothing are directed to start an account with content, a micropayment company that allows you to pay the $.50 fee to read whatever story you were trying to reach.
GQ’s advertising is notable in that it is the worst and most annoying kind. Multiple auto-playing videos with volumes ratcheted up, banner ads that fill up the space and auto-expand, and ads that follow you around as you scroll the page. Or you can pay four-bits per article, which is an appropriate phrasing of the price, since apparently GQ believes it’s still operating in an old-timey online ecosystem where it can hold content hostage rather than working to make itself more attractive to readers.
And that’s the crux of the issue. The war against ad blockers didn’t start when users began using the software. It started when online outlets refused to understand that content is advertising and advertising is content, and if any part of that equation is bad, the whole thing falls apart. There’s a reason why users use ad blockers after all: many online ads suck harder than a vacuum cleaner looking for love. But they don’t have to. Everyone has their stories about ads they have liked or loved. Some readers will always block ads, but not most of them. If ads were good and fun, they wouldn’t need to be blocked and users wouldn’t want to block them. Fix that and the war on ad blocking can be retired.