I was, up until this morning, a regular follower of Forbes. It was one of a few business-related RSS feeds that I checked on every day (usually a few times per day). But I dropped the feed, after thinking about it for a day, when they decided I wasn’t worthy of viewing their site. Why not? Because I have the audacity to use an ad blocker. So, instead of me seeing their site for free, I can’t see it at all. The logic baffles me.
Okay, It Wasn’t Really Free
I’m not so naive to think that the articles in Forbes were truly free. They had to be paid for somehow. Part of their cost is subsidized by their print business. Some of it is covered by ads on the web pages. I get that Forbes is a for-profit business, and they need to make money.
But the flip side is that it is my web browser, and frankly ads have been getting tiresome. I installed an ad blocker, and whitelist those sites that I feel are worthy of displaying ads on my browser. I have plenty of sites that I like, that I want to keep around if possible, and so I allow ads to be displayed.
But not every site I visit gets that privilege. There are sites that I know make money from the sale of things like merchandise and print media (which I do buy). The web site isn’t their sole source of income. I’m not concerned when I block their ads, because they have other ways to make their money, and I actively support them that way.
The Logic Doesn’t Make Sense
So let’s review the logic of Forbes:
- Before yesterday, I could view content and I wasn’t displaying their ads.
- Starting yesterday, I could only view their site if I disabled ad blocking. But since I decided “no”, then I don’t view their content and I still don’t display their ads.
In (1), they received no ad revenue from me, but I was least a page view/link click for their statistics.
With (2), they still get no ad revenue from me, but they now no longer have my page view/link click, and they don’t get me referring others to them through my blog. Granted, it isn’t a lot, but even if I was only 12 referrals per year, and 100,000 people like me bail on them, that’s 1,200,000 referrals that are gone (and some number of them would have displayed and even clicked on ads). Plus I did read 6-10 of their pieces each day. Those views? Gone.
They did say that removing ad blocking would get me their “ad lite” experience. Sorry, it isn’t as “lite” as you claim Forbes, and the page layout delays (with ad loading) that occur from time to time are rather annoying. View one of their slideshows some time and you’ll see what I mean.
But won’t Forbes go away without ad revenue? Perhaps. But whether they go away because I wasn’t viewing ads, or they go away because they turned me away at the door, the outcome for them is the same. Absolutely nothing has changed when it comes to the bottom line. They’ve basically decided they would rather have zero customers than deal with displaying their content on their customer’s terms.
Content Has To Be Worth It
I thought about whitelisting Forbes. But then I thought about the quality of the “news” I was seeing, and almost all of it was more “editorial” than actual “news”. It was opinion of questionable value. I wouldn’t pay money for it. I decided I didn’t even want to “pay” by having ads present. It just isn’t that compelling to me. Sure, they were a source for blog fodder. But not enough of one to stay a customer.
Forbes isn’t the first site I’ve dropped over the introduction of a gateway. I previously used to read Pando Daily and dropped them when they required paid subscriptions. Their content was interesting, but nowhere near worth $10/month to look at (I might have paid $1/month). Salon put up similar barriers. Forbes was asking for less (display some ads), but being peremptorily denied access? Sorry, I’m gone.
A Better Answer?
Some sites I’ve seen simply replace the space where the ad would be with a “Hey, we see you’re using an ad blocker, and here’s the cost of doing that” notice. It’s a nag, but I can ignore it. At some point, if I like your content, I’ll whitelist your site. Give me an option to pay instead (a reasonably-priced annual or monthly subscription, or a Patreon) and have zero ads, and I might take you up on it. But say “no entry” and I’ll happily comply and not enter.
Now, could I have ignored the ads? Possibly. The problem is that there are more and more ads that have video (thankfully with the sound muted, but not always) or animated GIFs. And some sites insist on loading the ads before they load the content. Others don’t finalize the layout until everything is loaded, causing stuff to jump around as it is moved to make remove for new bits to be displayed. Both are frustrating and annoying.
Then there’s the targeting: visit some web site, and now you get ads for it and similar sites all over the place. Seriously? A casual drop-by to look at an ugly sweater (that I saw through Pinterest) and suddenly I’m bombarded by ads for sweaters for the next month (until I casually look at some other site I may never visit again)?
I get that those sites that depend primarily on ads are frustrated with ad blockers. To them, I would suggest you revisit your business model. Ad revenues per site are dropping, and more and more people are blocking ads, and for a reason. If you depend primarily, or solely, on ad revenue, your days are numbered. Search eventually became built-in to the browser. I expect to see future versions of browsers with ad blocking installed and enabled by default. You need to find some other way to make money.
Ads have become annoying, and the “targeting” is getting frustrating. I’m tired of seeing it everywhere. It is my browser, and I get to determine what gets displayed. Your content has to be worth it for me to display the ads.