back to article In defence of online ads: The 'net ain't free and you ain't paying

It's about to get wet. Have some towels ready. Indeed, I anticipate a good soaking this weekend, both inside and out. This is because Friday 8 June has been announced as World Oceans Day. Come on, you know – that famous international day of celebration when we, er, get the day off work? (no) … hold ocean-themed parties? (no …

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WTF?

World Oceans Day

Heist movies get their own day now?!

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"Momentous Time Period of Global Importance of one sort or another."

Some Hyped International Time?

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"Momentous Time Period of Global Importance of one sort or another."

Thanks for the in

I shall now waste this opportunity to reply to a post, almost, at the top of the list which does not have other replies to say...

We should take this opportunity to go back to 405 line Grey and White Internet delivered via Bell 103 educated Clangers over wet string with Strict GDPR standards enforced.

and....

Every time some fucking marketing twat mings on about how much fucking money they are losing because they continue to repeatedly fail to sell me the socks I have already have bought with the expectation that I am going to pay 30% extra for my socks to cover their miserable fucking failure...

The Clangers on the Advertising Networks get to smoke more Spliffs and another range of cereals/snacks gets added to their inventory along with a new twist on Marmite Soup from The Dragon.

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Pint

World Gin Day

This, I did not know about. Nice one!

Pint of gin -->

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Re: World Gin Day

Didn't know about it either, but now that I do, Saturday is sorted out...

Pro tip: you'll only get a hangover when you get sober again.

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Re: World Gin Day

I'll have to partake in a gin & tonic again one of these days. The last time I had one was at the China Fleet Club in Hong Kong in the 60's.

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Re: World Gin Day

Indeed.

An oft-muted sentiment round here "it only hurts when you stop"

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Joke

Re: World Gin Day

I'll have to partake in a gin & tonic again one of these days.

Every few years I try to find my palette for gin, and every few years my mouth demands to know why the heck I'm drinking Pine-Sol again.

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Re: World Gin Day

"my mouth demands to know why the heck I'm drinking Pine-Sol again."

1 bottle of gin + 1 lb of sloes + 1 lb of sugar. Allow to mature for several weeks. It improves the gin no end, even the commercial sloe gin.

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Pint

Re: World Gin Day

If could add a minor addendum; the bottle of gin should be a Litre not 750ml

- the trick is knowing where to pick the sloes, and no, I'm not sharing :)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: World Gin Day

As an alternative to the _FINE_ option of Sloes/Buckthorne for those from parts of the word where they are not common:

Juice of a lemon

Tonic

Gin to taste

Optional: splash of Port wine

You may find that, as many others have, the amount of gin naturally increases over time

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Pint

Re: World Gin Day

Replace sloes with chopped rhubarb, halve the sugar and add a handful of grated ginger - even better.

To avoid the pine-cleaner taste, try suffixing the words "gin and tonic, please" with "anything but Gordons". Works wonders.

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Happy

Re: World Gin Day

Monday 11th is World Rosé Wine day.

I shall partake.

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Re: World Gin Day

Shouldn't World Hangover Day follow World Tequila Day?

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Gimp

Re: World Gin Day

An oft-muted sentiment round here "it only hurts when you stop"

And elsewhere it only hurts when you start.

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Re: World Gin Day

- the trick is knowing where to pick the sloes, and no, I'm not sharing :)

Miserable party pooper, I'll tell 'em then. At the bottom of my garden :-).

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Re: World Gin Day

my mouth demands to know why the heck I'm drinking Pine-Sol again

Just tell it you're actually drinking tar-water, the miracle cure discovered by noted philsopher George Berkeley. Tar-water's medicinal value is based on the ideas that noble savages know all the good stuff (particularly when said knowledge is acquired third- or fourth-hand), and that anything that tastes really bad must be good for you.

Pine-Sol, of course, is a descendant of tar-water. Tar-water was made by throwing a lump of pine tar or sap into some water, then stirring vigorously until you got bored and looked for something else to do. Pine-Sol and other pine cleaners were originally made from pine oil, an essential oil derived from pine tar.

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If only I could pay

I'd be happy to, but the option is rare. And even when you do pay, it doesn't necessarily follow that you don't get hit by advertising and data harvesting anyway.

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Re: If only I could pay

Yep, if you pay your data will still be taken/stolen.

I would gladly pay a premium to have quality content.

But, and this is a big thing, there are some conditions for that.

First, I want privacy. And it is quite complicated.. how are they going to track my article consumption if I am not tracked?

Second, while I would agree with micropayments, history tells me that "micro" gets to be confused with "mini" then just "payments". If you dont agree, just look at DLCs.

Companies that think it is ok to be paid 0.07$ per article read though intrusive ads, believe 2$ is a fair price for the same article without ads. Madness.

So I would say that a "premium" subscription would be the best thing. Of course, the problem is that then several competing "subscription networks" would arise, and the internet would get fragmented.

Don't believe me? look at netflix and all netflix clones. I want to pay to watch content, and do pay for not one, but two three content providers.. and it is at the very least "annoying" that I would have to pay at least 6 subscriptions to watch decent stuff. And the more people pay, instead of becoming cheaper, it becomes more fragmented and therefore more expensive for the user.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: If only I could pay

I'm happy for there to be adverts, just not the ones that pop-up over the content you are trying to read, or those that start auto-playing video with a deafening soundtrack as soon as the page loads. Then there are sites that are festooned with so many ads that your CPU goes to 100% utilisation while you are looking at it. There's a reason people use ad blockers - because the ads have become so intrusive and annoying.

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Re: If only I could pay

Got it in one. I do whitelist several sites that have sensible, none overly-intrusive ads that don't drag my browser to a crawl when rendering.

However these days so many sites moan about my ad blocker, and yet if you whitelist the site, it's then frankly embarrassing how many of them turn into an absolute and utter dogs breakfast:

* Pages that used to load in 1 second now taking 15 seconds to load, meanwhile your browser showing connections to about 2,000 different ad-agencies being steadily cycled through.

* Content that keeps jumping around for 10 seconds after the page has (finally) loaded as yet more ads insert themselves wherever there's more than 10 free pixels of space.

* Auto-playing videos that pop up slap-bang in the middle of content.

* Full-screen pop-ups that block the content whilst you desperately hunt for the 5-pixel-large dark-grey-on-black close button.

* Slow and jittery scrolling due to the thousands of lines of badly-coded Javascript all fighting away to keep the ads ever-present on the screen as I try desperately to read the article I came for.

And then the site wonders why Ad-blockers are such a hot topic these days. Too many sites have destroyed the user-experience through aggressive and excessive advertising. That's why blocking ads has become the norm.

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Re: If only I could pay

I ad-block El Reg because of those awful background adverts that you always manage to click accidentally. I'd happily whitelist El Reg if somebody tells me they don't do those anymore.

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Re: If only I could pay

"I'd happily whitelist El Reg if somebody tells me they don't do those anymore."

They're not doing them today, if that's any help.

I really only check El Reg at work, where I don't have a choice in browser or blockers - stock IE11 - so I get to see all the ads, even the ones that eat all my RAM, lock the entire machine up and/or crash IE. Admittedly the latter two are thankfully uncommon, but it's clear that a lot of 'professional' advertising companies have no interest in optimising their code. Particularly bad given the sorts of companies that advertise here are all ones who should know better!

Personally, at home, I run NoScript, and whitelist some advertisers (especially on video services). If it's not running scripts, then it gets through by default, and as a bonus I get to see how much of a dependency cluster-f*ck most websites are.

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Re: If only I could pay

I'm happy for adverts,

targeted to the content is perfect and appreciated as I'm probably looking for it

BUT

No tracking

No personalised adverts

And no google analytics...

I only block the tracking.. but that seems to block every advert aswell..

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Re: If only I could pay

Yep. I used to allow ads. I even clicked them from time to time to pay my way. Until the ads became so intrusive that they killed the content, ( and content started being created for the sole purpose of serving ads) And then it was adblocker,r,us as far as I'm concerned..

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Re: If only I could pay

Back at the turn of the century, Google beat out Yahoo, AltaVista, and all of the search engines. Why? Because all of those search engines had shitty ad experiences just link now, while Google had "sponsored links" which were just text and clearly labeled.

Besides that there are 2 things about ads today that really get my goat:

1. Shitty sites like washingtonpost.com which have paywalls *and* shitty ads to their actual paying customers.

2. Security - The current ad model is literally *designed* in XSS, with a little RCE thrown in. All of those third party domains run whatever they want with no accountability whatsoever. An attacker injecting a BeEF hook into any one of those and do all sorts of nasty stuff to your computer

If websites want to show me adds, just have sponsored links and host them themselves. Oh, and don't make them shitty. Those "sponsored links" that Google has? Often, they are something I am interested in.

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Facepalm

Re: If only I could pay

I'd be happy to, but the option is rare.

*sigh*. Do we have to go over the singular vs plural senses of the English word "you" again?

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Trollface

Re: If only I could pay

Netflix? That's easy - I can save you the bother. It's all shit, none of it is worth a second of your attention, and the billions of human cycles wasted on that trash is one of the great tragedies of our age.

Yes, I realise I'm in a minority of near-to-one-as-makes-no-difference on this. That doesn't mean I'm wrong.

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Re: If only I could pay

"these days so many sites moan about my ad blocker"

I figure that any site that won't let me keep my defenses up while viewing it is a site I want to avoid. It shows such an extreme disregard for the privacy of its readers that it renders the site operators themselves as untrustworthy.

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Facepalm

Re: If only I could pay

Actually, the model is there, ironically embodied in Googles AdWords and music royalties systems.

Both you and the website pay for bandwidth used. So if ads are banned, that's a win-win.

For the content, the website could get paid for page views*. Sites that produce content cheaply (e.g. Wikipedia) make lots of money. Smaller sites with higher costs (e.g. El Reg) make a bit of money.

Who collects and distributes the money? ISPs take your money, can block content (ads) and track your usage anyway, so it would be trivial for them to do that.

How much will it cost me to go ad-free? US Internet advertising revenues** were $88Bn last year. Divide that by 70 million households*** = $1200 p.a. or about $100/month for ad-free Internet.

* If it's really expensive content, e.g. music or original research, websites can continue the paywall model. I'll pay if it's worth it.

** I presume that's how much websites take for displaying ads. But if their costs drop, their take could be dropped too.

*** For simplicity. As well as your broadband, you probably have 2+ phones that you pay for bandwidth for - all would be covered under the pay-per-view model.

Advertisers will still want to buy ad space, and website owners will still be greedy. Let the Market sort that one out.

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Re: If only I could pay

How when the market is captive? When it's down to a Hobson's Choice (Take It Or Leave It), and leaving it is not necessarily an option...

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Stop

Re: If only I could pay

I don't find enough content on 'teh intarwebs' that is WORTH paying for.

That's especially true when the "payment" is my privacy.

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Trollface

Re: If only I could pay

singular: you

plural: y'all

fixed. heh.

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Re: If only I could pay

Or, as someone more famous than me said about having shit flung in his face:

"No Shit, Sherlock!"

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happy for adverts if....

They didnt send me malware, werent overly intrusive and didnt generally get in the way of a fast browser experirence - cf lot of US news sites post GDPR stripped all the adverts and they run at 10% of the download size and page load many many time faster

But the malware is the real issue. Sort out the security, stop reselling the ad platforms 6 layers deep and dont take 20 seconds to page load.....

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Flame

Re: happy for adverts if....

Requiring Flash (autoplay*, loud sounds etc) could be argued as falling into the 'malware' category, and then there's scripts that do 100% CPU by being badly written and/or by going into a spin when encountering a DNS lookup fail or a 404.

If the gentle hum of the laptop fan cranks up to full-on hairdryer mode then I find the cause and block it. If a site becomes unusable then unless it's unbelievably exceptional it's not worth the annoyance.

I understand the need for ads and was always OK with 'the deal' but (on top of usability issues) when everyone is using the same ad agency and stats processor (or one from the same tiny handful) everywhere then it feels like that deal changed in ways that neither the readers nor the publishers intended.

.

* disabling autoplay in browser settings is remarkably ineffective against determined attackers like youtube

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Re: happy for adverts if....

YouTube, bless their corrupted mammonite hearts, do at least offer an HTML5 option that'll free you from Flash-based concerns.

But yeah, the number of times I've thought my work lappy was whining about it's assigned tasks, only to find I've left an IE tab open and a fancy advert is devouring CPU cycles...

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Re: happy for adverts if....

I have some sensible rules for ads before I consider them acceptable. These rules are sensible because they were the standard when the internet went from luxury to necessity. If they worked once, they can work again.

(1) Absolutely no tracking in any way, shape, or form, no exception. Just because you attempt to make it sound beneficial 'by showing ads to my interest' does not make it acceptable. (2) Absolutely no pop-up window, pop-under window, or obscures part or all of a web page, no exception. (3) Absolutely no ad that attempt to determine my location, no exception. i.e. No ad that says '[city name] man discovers shocking secret'. (4) Absolutely no ad that requires javascript, java, flash, or any other plug-in, no exception. Incidentally, obey this rule would kill malvertising immediately. (5) Absolutely no autoplay videos except and only except when I click on a clear link to a video. This rule applies to more than ads.

My rules are not a burden because websites used to be quite profitable following my rules. But greed took over and advertisers went too far. And instead of realizing they are the problem, they try to guilt us into obeying their perverted point of view. That won't work for me. And whenever I find a website that tries to guilt me, I make it a point to explain that I am not a mooch but I am someone who cares deeply about my privacy and security.

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Re: happy for adverts if....

It's not greed. Advertising pays a lot less now than it used to.

Why is everyone so against tracking?!

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Re: happy for adverts if....

“Why is everyone so against tracking?!”

Everyone ? Most people I know don’t give a sh*t. Me ? I hate it. If you have to ask why, try reading 1984. I assume that you haven’t yet.

The correct question is : why are you *not* against being profiled all the time by unknown parties that know everything about you, including location in some cases, and that may or may not have adequate IT security protecting all that data ?

I

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Re: happy for adverts if....

Tracking? Privacy.

As a general rule, we want to be able to comfortably compartmentalise our lives - we don't want our holiday plans following us when were buying new ties for the office. We don't want those surprise birthday presents showing up in our feed when we're trying to show someone a cute kitten. We don't want our kids knowing we watch 80s action movies because they will mock the hell out of our terrible taste. We don't want our employers knowing that we use a rival.

And then, obviously, there's all the really crazy stuff, like pornography, who we vote for, embarrassing hobbies/kinks, your racist relatives, medical problems you don't want to talk about, and so forth.

Web Tracking is a problem because it has no limits. If you leave the trackers on, Google knows *all* of the above. They know your uncle thinks the world is run by lizards, that all of your favourite porn stars are brunettes who look a lot like your secretary, that your wife loves lilac-scented condoms and that you've never once owned a phone sold by your own company.

None of that is illegal, but all of it is embarrassing to the right people, and the trackers are happily collating all of it... so they can work out if you're more likely to buy an Audi or a Ford. Better hope they store it all securely!

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Boffin

Re: happy for adverts if....

I agree with the points about privacy but when it comes to blocking ads or stats beacons etc it's less about the tracking or ads than it is about whether I am inconvenienced.

Most of what I have blocked are the ones that drew attention to themselves e.g. by appearing in log files for doing weird shit or by holding everything up while being featured in the browser status bar as 'waiting for...'.

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Re: happy for adverts if....

"Why is everyone so against tracking?!"

I don't know about "everyone". I only know about me. It's because I want to minimize the amount of data about me that gets sucked into the Big Data machine, for privacy reasons.

But, really, the reason why doesn't matter. It is sufficient that I don't want to be tracked, regardless of the reasons why. If I'm being tracked without my permission, then I'm being spied on, and I'm against being spied on. Particularly by large companies.

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Trollface

Re: happy for adverts if....

"And then, obviously, there's all the really crazy stuff, like pornography, who we vote for, embarrassing hobbies/kinks, your racist relatives, medical problems you don't want to talk about, and so forth."

You left out the tools we use and the hardware we have in stock.

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Re: happy for adverts if....

> It's not greed. Advertising pays a lot less now than it used to.

Indeed. Gwern recently stated in a hacker news thread the money he got from adding adverts to his website - "Google AdSense: $241 lifetime total (over 269k pageviews)" (source: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5659278).

At such a rate ($1 to just over 1000) you really have to wonder what the point of internet advertising is. It's clearly more profitable for the advertisers (like Google, who get a couple of thousand from tracking and selling our data to millions of third parties) compared to the actual websites, who get a pittance.

You act as if advertising is a wonder pill that's going to keep websites afloat, and that's why we need to have it. But it's crystal clear that with payment rates like these any even vaguely _costly_ outfit could not keep afloat from advertisments alone.

> Why is everyone so against tracking?!

"""Over the last 16 months, as I've debated this issue around the world, every single time somebody has said to me, "I don't really worry about invasions of privacy because I don't have anything to hide." I always say the same thing to them. I get out a pen, I write down my email address. I say, "Here's my email address. What I want you to do when you get home is email me the passwords to all of your email accounts, not just the nice, respectable work one in your name, but all of them, because I want to be able to just troll through what it is you're doing online, read what I want to read and publish whatever I find interesting. After all, if you're not a bad person, if you're doing nothing wrong, you should have nothing to hide." Not a single person has taken me up on that offer.

Glenn Greenwald in Why privacy matters - TED Talk"""

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Re: happy for adverts if....

tracking ads? I bought a bamboo pagoda and booked a holiday to Majorca. Now all i see on whitelisted sites are holiday ads and bamboo pagodas.

like i buy multiple pagodas and holidays every day. Morons.

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Devil

Re: happy for adverts if....

I've been using the 'youtube-dl' script for a while, now, to download the actual content rather than view inline with HTML5 or anything else. then block scripting fo youtube in the browser. use its search capabilities and when you find what you want, just DOWNLOAD it. works for me. avoid a lot of irritation that way (including video stuttering)

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Trollface

Re: happy for adverts if....

"Why is everyone so against tracking?!"

you forgot the 'troll' icon.

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Re: happy for adverts if....

Most of what I have blocked are the ones that drew attention to themselves e.g. by appearing in log files for doing weird shit or by holding everything up while being featured in the browser status bar as 'waiting for...'.

I don't even want to waste my time on selection.

They all go.

End of story.

Some websites sometimes run fund drives. Then I throw something in the pot.

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Re: happy for adverts if....

"None of that is illegal, but all of it is embarrassing to the right people, "

Having that information without your consent most certainly IS illegal.

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