The other day, I was reading something on-line and followed a link to one of the business sites. The first thing to happen was a useless popup. I have a pop-up blocker, but many of them still slip past for some reason. After years of dealing with pop-ups, my mouse hand is trained to close the window on instinct. It is a reflex now. I closed it only to have another open and I closed it. A minute reading the site, the screen goes dim and I get a message telling me that I am running an ad-blocker, along with a lecture about how that is mean.
I just closed the site and moved on. In fact, this has become my habit. If the site has any of this junk, I just close the site and move onto other things. I respect the fact that sites need to make money so they post ads, but having to navigate through a sea of clutter just to read 500 words or look at a picture is not a good use of my time. I’ve observed others do the same thing I do when it comes to pop up windows. Before they load, people close them so they do nothing more than annoy the reader. They are otherwise useless.
The main reason I run the ad-block stuff is that many of these embedded ads have malware. If a website wants to monetize my viewership by infesting my computer with malignant software, I have no qualms about blocking their attempts to monetize my viewership. Therefore, the lectures that are becoming common on websites about the immorality of running ad-block strike most people as ludicrous. It’s why the Brave browser is gaining a market. It blocks the ads and it blocks the nag screens about ad-block.
Of course, it is not just ads or pop-ups. The proliferation of scripting has made many sites unreadable on a phone or tablet, unless you use something like ghostery. The Washington Times is a perfect example. It is more ad than content and the scripts never seem to load properly, so the site looks like a Picasso painting most of the time. I stopped going to the site entirely as it took too much effort to make it work. If I have to redesign my web browser to look at your site, I’m probably not going to bother visiting your site.
The truly monstrous thing done by web designers is embedded audio and video. By default, I now turn off my sound so I don’t have to hunt around looking for where the noise is coming from on the web page. I use a flash blocker to get rid of most of it, but some of it still slips past. That means YouTube does not work, so I have two browsers. One is for video and the other for daily browsing. When I’m ruler of these lands, the people responsible for embedded, autoplay video will be torn to pieces and fed to the dogs.
Those who have read Jospeh Tainter’s The Collapse of Complex Societies will probably recognize a familiar pattern. The first ads on websites were a big hit, relative to their cost. That banner at the top for Joe’s Diner cost nothing, but made something. That’s an infinite return on investment. The next wave of ads came with a cost, both direct and indirect. The former was the cost of weaving them into the sites. The latter was the cost of people using ad-blocker and other tools to limit the number of ads in the way of the content.
As we have move from the physical world of content to the virtual world, the demand for more revenue, drives the ever more complex methods to monetize the website. The costs ratchet up, but the barriers also get higher as users find more and better tools to defeat the ads and scripts. The Brave browser costs me nothing and does a great job filtering almost all of this stuff from my view. We’re not far from the time when you pay a monthly fee for a browser that filters all ads from all sites. That’s the model Brave is pursuing..
Web sites are probably near the point of negative returns, with regards to monetizing their content. That’s why so many are going back to the old subscription model. It may not fix their revenue problems, but they have no other option. The ad model is simply not working. That, of course, means the ad model is probably nearing collapse. Once big sites begin to rethink how they monetize their content, everyone else follows. A web of paywalls and subscriber-only content is probably the future for the large scale content makers.
Whether or not that is sustainable is a topic for another day.