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.
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.
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.