Ads, Ad Blockers, Technologizer, and You

By  |  Monday, March 8, 2010 at 3:13 pm

Over at Ars Technica, founder Ken Fisher has an interesting post on ad blockers and a devilish experiment that Ars performed on Friday: For twelve hours, it blocked back, preventing users of ad-blocking software from seeing any content. Fisher says the counterstrike was a mixed success at best. But he also says that forty percent of Ars visitors block ads, and that doing so can be “devastating to the sites you love.”

As I’ve said before, Technologizer doesn’t need everybody to see the ads here–just a critical mass of folks. I don’t have a reliable way to measure how many visitors use an ad blocker, but here’s a guesstimate: In February, roughly fifteen percent of all Technologizer page views had the ads blocked. I might be more alarmed if the numbers looked more like Ars’, but we have that critical mass of people who don’t block ads. And I’m sure that some of the visitors who block are leaving worthwhile comments, telling their friends about Technologizer, or otherwise doing things that make this a better site and a better business proposition.

Or to put it another way: Ad blocking isn’t devastating Technologizer.

In the Ars post, Fisher says that he takes pride in the fact that his site’s ads aren’t in-your-face crud. Which led me to realize that although Technologizer has a number of guiding principles about the advertising we carry, I’ve never outlined them here.

First of all, my overarching philosophy when it comes to ad-related matters is pretty simple: In the face of financial realities, I attempt to err on the side of making myself happy. By which I mean, we do things that I don’t mind when I’m reading other sites, and try to avoid the things that tick me off.

A few examples:

  • Technologizer turns down ad formats that make me gnash my teeth elsewhere (such as text links within stories, which we’ve repeatedly been approached about adding).
  • When we do run ads that go further than most to grab your attention (such as one you may see on this very page) we put limits on their activity so they don’t drive you completely bonkers. And such ads are a once-in-a-while thing rather than a constant onslaught.
  • We run multiple ads on most pages, but don’t cram ten or fifteen of them into every available crevice, as some bigger sites do. And I hope it goes without saying that when we run ads, it’s clear they’re ads.
  • We work with a classy ad partner–Federated Media–who does a great job of finding advertisers who are relevant to the Technologizer community. You won’t find ads involving moms who have discovered cures for yellow teeth here, and we’ve been known to ban some advertisers, period.
  • We do break longer stories into multiple pages, which exposes you to more ads than if an article was on one very long page. But we chop them up much less than most sites–a multi-page Technologizer story has two to three times as many words per page than is typical elsewhere. (Side note: Yes, I know that we lack a single-page/printer-friendly view, but we don’t have a religious stance on them–we just haven’t gotten around to implementing one.)
  • We run slideshows, which can involve a lot of clicks. But we don’t run many of them, and try to make every one special.
  • Our RSS feed offers ad-free full-text versions of all content (first page only for multiple-page posts).
  • We have a number of methods of making money that don’t involve display advertising at all, such as our shopping/product researh feature. (When you click on the links to online merchants, we receive a small finders’s fee.)

I don’t think there’s any way to support editorial content through advertising in a way that will make everybody happy all of the time. (If there was, ad blockers wouldn’t exist.) But we’re trying–and we’re grateful for both the support that makes Technologizer a viable business and the constructive criticism that helps us help you.


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16 Comments For This Post

  1. Pratik Says:

    To be honest, I don’t mind advertising on sites, so long as it is relevant and not too obtrusive. i.e. it doesn’t distract from the site content. I guess this is part of the reason why I don’t run ad-blocking software, along with the fact that some sites can actually look a little bare/empty without advertising. Some of my favourite sites have actually provided advertising that I’ve found both helpful and relevant to me (e.g. gdgt, engadget, Daring Fireball, Merlin Mann’s 43 Folders, etc). 

    The only advertising that does really vex me are those ‘takeover’, Flash-based ads – those are really quite horrible and make me far less likely to revisit sites that use them; I just wish that both advertisers and some site owners realise that obtuse advertising does not necessarily have a greater impact than more restrained, elegant solutions.

  2. Millard Says:

    Thanks for the transparency on this (as well as an approach that I personally like). Some advert approaches make sites so hard to just read that I stop going there. I follow some other tech folks, but I won’t take a link to some of their sites unless the story is hella-interesting AND I haven’t already read about it on Technologizer. For example, I like Sascha Segan’s take on mobile tech, but the PC Mag pages and those Vibrant pop-ups are so annoying that he has to beat everyone else to the story for me to read it.

  3. Tech Says:

    Good policy on ads. While some users use ad blockers, the majority do not.

  4. Jim Says:

    Thank you. I just whitelisted on AdBlock Plus and Flashblock – for both keeping your ads under control and for having such an open and user-friendly attitude. @JimCanaday

  5. Anonymous Says:

    Really, banner ads aren’t that bad. There are two types of ads I personally can’t stand:

    – Inline ads that pop up a bubble when you inadvertently roll over a linked word (Intellitxt and its ilk). If they were on a timer and only activated after X seconds, and didn’t go out of their way to replicate legitimate ads, then they wouldn’t be so bad.

    – Flash ads that use every effect the plugin has to offer. They’re obnoxious (especially the ones with sound), and they bog down my poor 11-year-old “netbook”. (Toshiba Portege 7200cte w/ P3 650. Hey it’s thin, light, and it was free.) Those stupid “peel the page back” banners fall under this category as well.

  6. Kent Says:

    Harry says “I’m the least smelly skunk.”

    If Technologizer hosted ads from its own servers, vetted ads, and applied Technologizer privacy policy to its ads and ad-serving behavior, that would be fine. But this is what the current situation is:

    “Hello, thank you for visiting our site. Our site is paid for by these goons. Please allow these goons to go through your pockets while you are visiting our site and please allow them to follow you to other web sites. We do not monitor nor control the content the goons will show you. The goons may give your computer a fatal disease. We are not responsible for the goon’s behavior and in fact we do not know if the goons are in any way responsible folks, but we let them on our site because they give us sufficient sums of money that we can avoid thinking about the adverse impacts they may have on you or your feelings about our site.”

    I have a long memory and will never be allowed to run scripts in my computers. Perhaps your Federated Media don’t smell as bad as, but I think they still smell.

  7. Mike J B Says:

    Just whitelisted you on Adblock Plus.

    I don’t hate ads, I just think that more sites abuse/overuse them than not, so I tend to just whitelist certain sites (like Google) and block the rest. When I use Chrome instead of Firefox, the bad sites become painfully obvious and in less than an hour I’m back to Firefox with Adblock Plus.

    I am probably not going to whitelist Ars Technica, though.

  8. Bouke Timbermont Says:

    I’m one of those ad-blocking folk 😉 But this is how I see it: people going as far as to search something that blocks ads, install it and actually have it self-update itself, are NOT the ones advertisers are after: these people wouldn’t even pay attention to or click their ads anyway.

    The advertisement sector should really start to grow up and adapt to the internet. I say this because imo they really, REALLY haven’t. For example: most advertisers still COMPLETELY neglect so-called ‘amateur’ content on YouTube, such as communitychannel, Kassem G, charlieissocoollike or the vlogbrothers, while they ARE backing classic, but on youtube much less popular uploaders such as Seth MacFarlane and Mondo Media.

    Advertisers are doing on the internet the exact same what they were doing on TV and in papers, and I don’t think it’s working. A much MORE effective way of advertising popped up a while ago though: the Ford Fiesta movement. Just google that: this is the direction advertising should go, not just keep showing irrelevant flashy boxes next to the content the user actually wants 🙂

  9. pond Says:

    The weird thing is this: we all block ads, online and off. With print magazines, typically the recto (right-side page) is given to ads, and the ads have a different look than editorial pages. We all train ourselves to ignore those pages. Ads on newspaper pages are mixed in; we train ourselves to focus on the editorial text and ignore the ads. When commercials com on TV, we know we have a few minutes to go into the next room, or carry on conversations. When ads come on radio, our attention drops by quite a bit; a sort of background sentinel will alert us when actual content comes back on, whether it’s the sound of the talk-radio host’s voice, or music.

    The only medium that ad-blocking can be noticed, however, is the internet. So advertisers, along with the sought-after data on who is clicking on the ads, also get data on who is ignoring/blocking those ads.

    Advertising has brought us a lot of free content in capitalist countries over the decades. But it’s mostly a waste of money, IMO, to those who pay for the ads. That is advertising’s dirty little secret. And on the internet, those dirty undies are showing.

  10. Dave Barnes Says:


    Serve up your own ads.
    Don’t use a 3rd-party ad delivery system. For example:


  11. Rob Says:

    I use NoScript in Firefox, so I don’t get ads from most sites that use third party delivery. The few sites that deliver their own ads and provide useful functionality to warrant enabling scripts get their ads before my eyeballs. I could run AdBlock, too, but it just isn’t worth the bother and load beyond what I get from NoScript.

    As pond noted, we all learn to ignore ads. Frankly, most ads have no effect on me. For example, TV ads are usually about products I don’t care about or are devoid of any real content, so they are useless to me and don’t induce me to buy. I regularly note, to my children, what is not said in ads and their focus on emotions rather than reason, so I and my children recognize the folly of most advertising.

    Having said all of that, I’ve even been known to click on ads just to try to give some money to a site that’s been useful to me. Beyond that, ads aren’t a good way to get revenue from me other than by an advertiser’s wishful thinking.

  12. Marc Says:

    I have only ever clicked on an advert and purchased something once in my 15 year history of using the internet, and that was in MSN Messenger – tickets to see the Manic Street Preachers at the o2 in London, great night that was 🙂

    pond is correct that we ignore most adverts, only the most innovative and attention grabbing ever get through. I listen to a lot of TWiT podcasts, and thanks to their ads I now subscribe to (although since I’m in the UK, TWiT won’t have got the credit) – those adverts are highly relevant and in the case of Audible, often accompanied by a personal book recommendation by someone who’s opinion you value. Having said that, I totally switch off if I already know one of their ads isn’t relevant to me.

    As for Adblock, I used to use it before switching to Chrome. It always struck me how different the web looked on an iPhone. On the one hand there’s no flash, but on the other hand there are tons of adverts everywhere due to the lack of AdBlock.

  13. ReynaldoRiv Says:

    Thanks. I’ve white listed Technologizer since you do keep the ads tame. I also White listed Kotaku, but I’m going to Blacklist ’em again. They have those crazy expanding flash based ads on the top and it drives me batty.

  14. Relyt Says:

    I was not running an ad-blocker when Ars was running their experiment yet couldn’t see any articles o.0

  15. gary Says:

    the ads along the right margin don’t bother me. what botheers me, and why i refuse to install flash, is that the ad makers use every trick they can think of to annoy the web visitor, flashing pictures, sound that play on page load and anything else that they want. how can anybody read content when the ad is distracting the reader?

    static ads are fine, you can keep the flash ads.

  16. Alvin B. Says:

    I would go blocker-less if I could trust sites not to hand the “keys to the kingdom” over to the advertisers. Unfortunately, sites do not do that. Even flashing alone is annoying enough. I have been known to block elements that were part of the site itself, and not even an add, due to annoyance factor. For example, having to scroll down on every page to get to the actual content. Most people have wide screens now – take advantage of that, and put the ad content on the right edge, not the top!

    As far as flash, I run whitelist only with Flashblock. If a site isn’t in my whitelist, it doesn’t get to run Flash. I don’t do that for adblocking reasons, I do it for security. Not long ago, a new version of Flash came out that wouldn’t work in full-screen mode, so I was running an out-of-date version that *did* work. Got hit by a drive-by flash virus that stole the cleartext password file from Pidgin from my user directory. Ended up with my gmail account being ransomed by Russian hackers! No kidding. Now I’ve learned I have to block Java as well, latest virus scan last week picked up trojans in my Java cache, turns out I was a couple of versions old on my JDK/JRE, due to some problems with Android’s SDK & the newest JDK. The old version apparently had exploitable bugs, that, you got it, were being hit by drive-by attacks.

    The point is, ads typically want to use those features. And they’re frequently hosted on 3rd-party sites and subjected to little or now review by the actual content producers on the sites a person visits. So you visit a trustworthy site, but end up with a trojan due to java/flash exploits.

    Or, you go to a “safe” site to download something for your 10 year old niece, and get graphic sexuality on the ad banner with her standing right there. It happens – and you NEVER know where.

    So thanks to site admins who can’t be bothered to hand-pick their advertisers and hand the keys over to someone else, users like me carte-blanche block everything.