Matter, Energy, and Life of Michaela A. Castello.

Ad Blocking Is Here to Stay

This has been discussed at some length before, but with yet another one of my favorite websites featuring a columnist adding their voice to the fracas, I thought it was worth revisiting. Like Ars Technica before him, Louis Lazaris of Smashing Magazine chastises folks who aren’t keen on including ads in their web browsing experience, trotting out a few tired, backward arguments that are symptomatic of a larger issue: established businesses’ resistance to the internet’s penchant for disruptive change.

Tired Arguments

Lazaris basically subscribes to the idea that because advertising has been a primary source of income for many websites, it should stay that way. This completely ignores the fact that the world changes, and things that were once highly profitable may lose relevance. It’s like farriers complaining about automobiles or whalers complaining about electricity – you can object to the changes all you want but the business choice is straightforward: adapt or be left behind.

Guilt Tripping

In addition to bemoaning  the ability of blockers to reduce the profitability of the “simple advertising” business model, he has the audacity to blame that business failure on users and customers. He rolls out the guilt trip that people who thwart the “simple advertising” business model with software are refusing to support the sites they enjoy. I’ve previously talked about how encouraging ad-blind users to load ads simply to increase revenue for their favorite sites is dishonest to the paying advertisers. Beyond that, the argument tries to make people feel bad for doing what they want with their own web browser. If your business model is completely foiled by somebody not wanting to see banner ads, you fail.

A Sense of Entitlement

Lazaris summarized his sentiments in a twitter reply to one of my comments:

No, Michael, it’s wrong to destroy the ONLY business model that an industry has.

Louis Lazaris on Twitter

This brings me to what I see as a disturbing trend: the predilection of established industries to blame external forces for their own unwillingness to adapt. Beginning with the music industry roughly a decade ago, I’ve watched this meme infect the film, software, publishing, and journalism sectors in turn, and it seems bloggers are lining up for their go around.

Change Is Not Wrong

I’m tired of being told that not supporting a business model is “wrong.” It’s as though these people think that because they expect to make money a certain way, it is imperative that they must. That because a business has made money that way in the past, they should be able to make money in the same way indefinitely.

This is laughably, ridiculously flawed. You do not get to set up shop and then demand to get paid, buying into this conventional wisdom that you don’t have to change, business failures are the fault of others, and not getting what you expect is being “robbed.” The sense of entitlement is revolting: You deserve nothing; the only person to blame for a failing business model is yourself. There is still a vibrant future in web advertising even as the simplistic method of plastering a site with images loses relevance. The businesses and websites that will maintain longevity are the ones that realize this and forgo the whining, instead viewing disruptive change as both a challenge and an opportunity.

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8 responses to “Ad Blocking Is Here to Stay”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Michael Castello, Michael Castello. Michael Castello said: New post: Ad Blocking is Here to Stay […]

  2. […] Fitch added some good insights in response to my previous post about web advertising, noting that the internet is returning balance to communication, changing […]

  3. Adam Avatar

    Absolutely Brilliant! Very well said! I’m glad to see someone who understands. It is a very disturbing trend and i think it is just getting worse with time. especially since so many of these people who resist change have the resources to instead litigate/legislate (through PAC funding and lobbyists) against it

    1. SteelWolf Avatar

      Thanks Adam, I really appreciate that. I think you’re absolutely right – the most concerning part about businesses and industry leaders refusing to adapt is that they have the power and influence to hold back progress for everybody. Especially in industries like tech and science where new developments are literally building on what has come before, even if one player isn’t interested in the enforcement of legacy business models he still has to deal with the depredations of those who are.

  4. Paul Avatar

    Unfortunately even though all these points have been hammered home time and time again in response to that article (by myself included), Louis Lazaris is the equivalent of a creationist being told the earth is not 6000 years old. He’s simply not listening. I guess I wouldn’t want to hear that either if I was a freelancer trying to make money with blogs.

    1. SteelWolf Avatar

      That’s more than a little unfortunate. We do what we can but many people just have to figure it out for themselves (or worse, fight every step of the way until their business fails). The critical failure is in not seeing that you can still make money from blogs, if you identify the kinds of things that are possible to sell. Sitting back and demanding that people modify their actions to fit your idea of a business model doesn’t cut it.

      Thanks for the comment, Paul. I like your website by the way, though I didn’t see an RSS feed for the blog section.

  5. Paul Avatar

    Thanks for the compliment. I don’t have the RSS linked from anywhere and really don’t update any of my sites anymore since I’m just ready to vegetate when I get home from work, but I had set it up a while ago, it’s just /rss from the domain. I might start doing some stuff soon but we’ll see how motivated I can be (I am very lazy).

    1. SteelWolf Avatar

      Yeah, I know about feeling vegetative when returning from work. I’ve been making myself write more this year but for me, that’s a reasonably productive leisure activity. Without some kind of task I end up losing whole hours down the intertubes.

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