Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Why are there ads on web sites?

On August 1st there was an article on ReadWrite.com that urged users to install AdBlock on their web browsers.  I think that is horrible.

It is an unspoken agreement between content provider and content consumer that the provider can attempt to make money from the consumer as long as it is not too obvious or painful for the consumer.  This balance between income for the provider and comfort of the consumer is essential to maintain.  Too much discomfort for the user and they will not visit, and too much comfort for the consumer and the provider will not make any money.

Extreme examples of this exist.  My kids are adept at visiting web pages which are nothing  but "clickholes" that provide malware and ads with the occasional funny video or picture.  These sites are evil and should be avoided.  But just because one site spews malware and popup ads does not mean another site with reasonable ads should be maligned.

There is nothing wrong with having ads on a web page.

The television and radio are full of ads, ad-free radio still includes station identification, self promotion, and other interruptions which might as well be ads.  Content is not free, people create content for a reason and should be rewarded for the time to create and provide that content.  Nothing is truly free, it costs someone something.

Ads are therefore inescapable and necessary.

Well, that is not true.  This page, this text, could be behind a paywall where only premium subscribers could read the content (otherwise all the data would be missing the vowels and you would have to pay for each a,e,i,o,u, and sometimes y.)  But I feel paywalls and subscriptions are best kept toward newspapers and porn.  They are poor solutions to the problem and prevent the exchange of ideas and information.  All the consumer hast to do is see an ad on a page (the horror!)

As long as ads are going to be on pages, they might as well reflect the interests of the consumer.  This is why you are tracked by Google.  Not to be spied upon but to be offered things advertisers hope you would like.  This might be creepy but I think it is far less creepy than the viagra, catheter, wheelchair, and adult diaper commercials on the evening news.  There is a market for such things but when I watch the news with my kids I have to explain not only geopolitical issues but also what erectile dysfunction is.  Targeted ads mean that you don't have to know about the latest in self-lubricating catheters, unless that is something interests you.

When you click on ads that interest you it only helps both you and the content provider. You will then see ads that more closely match ads that interest you and the content provider will make some money and be encouraged to make more content you like/need/want.  This is thanks to tracking and targeting of ads.

The tracking implemented by Google is a passive fingerprint of you which is shared across multiple web sites.  Your IP address, username on your computer, the type of browser and the configuration of that browser create this fingerprint.  Microsoft's jealousy sparked the "scroogled" campaign but rest assured that Bing tracks you too (that is why they have a rewards program, to encourage you to be tracked).  The tracking will happen no matter what, the technology is so simple that it is silly to not incorporate it into any web site.

So, ads and targeting are necessary for content providers to make money on the content they provide.  How much money are we talking here?  Shouldn't content providers not be so greedy and display less ads or have other options?  Well, the sad truth is that the viewing of an ad by a content consumer is literally a penny.  A click can be a dime, but most people don't click.  A popular post of mine generated over a hundred page views in a month, for that I was given $.04.  The total views of all of my pages over the last year might have resulted in a few dollars.

It is literally nothing for a content consumer to see an ad. But it means a lot more for a content provider.  Don't block ads, click on ads that truly interest you on sites that truly help you.  It is the same as putting a penny, nickel, or dime in a jar.

1 comment:

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