The Many Ways I Avoid Ads

There has been a lot of righteous indignation since iOS 9 was released, and ad blockers have been allowed to integrate with the Safari web browser. Many of the people who complain – such as this person who equates blocking ads with robbing an Apple Store – are forgetting that they, too, probably block a lot of ads.

Note that the Fortune page I link to above is, on the desktop, 13.2 MB, and took me 1.5 minutes to load with my 4 Mb connection. It contains a number of animated ads, caused Safari to beachball, and made it impossible to even scroll for more than one minute. And I don’t have Flash installed, so there’s one ad that I don’t see, which is replaced by a sleazy “Your System Status” box telling me that I need to update my Flash Player.

Rob apple store

With ad blockers on, the page is 6.6 MB, and takes me 16.95 seconds to load. Ghostery reports that the page has 19 trackers.

(For a similar ironic problem, head over to Khoi Vinh’s website, where he recorded video of him trying to load a New York Times article about ad blocking. He was unable to do so easily, because of an ad on the site.)

If you visit my website, you know that I do offer ads. I am currently advertising for a new Take Control book (up on top), and for my own books (in the sidebar), as well as for my iTunes forum and my podcast. These ads are as discreet as possible: they don’t flash, move, or otherwise animate, and their layout is sober and minimalist. And I have a couple of Amazon ads at the bottoms of pages, where they aren’t too disturbing, to earn some affiliate income (I wish Amazon had smaller ads that would fit better on my site…). I also run other ads at times, but I am very careful which ads I accept, and I refuse to use any animated ads, or ads that slow down page loads. I have turned down countless offers to run “sponsored articles” and text link ads. *

So I’m not against ads overall; if they fit with a site, and aren’t just scattershot, or bottom-feeding Google ads, then I don’t mind seeing them. I’d rather not block ads like this to help websites pay for the content they provide. But the Fortune web page is a perfect example of everything that’s wrong about ads.

In any case, I made a list of the many ways I block ads in my life. If you think that blocking ads on websites is wrong, tell me how many of the following actions you take to avoid ads.

  • I turn off the volume when TV commercials are on
  • I go to the bathroom when TV commercials are on
  • I skip through commercials when watching recorded TV
  • I throw away junk mail without looking at it
  • I throw away inserts with magazines I subscribe to without looking at them
  • I throw away ad sections of newspapers when I buy them
  • I turn the pages of magazines and newspapers too quickly to assimilate ads
  • I don’t look at ads on the sides of busses
  • I ignore billboards with ads when driving
  • I avoid televised sports, because there are too many ads
  • I hang up on robo-calls
  • I avoid buying clothes with logos when possible
  • I ignore the ads on the back of supermarket receipts
  • I delete spam emails
  • I use a pop-up blocker with my web browsers
  • I use a tracker blocker (Ghostery) with my web browsers
  • I use an ad blocker with my web browsers
  • I use Safari’s Reader view to be able to read pages that are too cluttered

I remember when a one-hour TV show in the US was 52 minutes long; it left eight minutes for ads and station identification. Now, a one-hour show has 42 minutes of content, which means that 25% of the hour is commercials. Viewers adapted to this by recording shows and skipping ads, and the same is happening on the web.

I would happily embrace a micro-payment solution that would allow me to pay a few cents when I read an article on the web. But the current model of inundating readers with ads, and making web pages hard to read, is simply wrong. Don’t blame readers for not wanting to put up with these problems.

  • I’ve been thinking about the best way to monetize this website, and I’ve hesitated because so many ad options would harm the experience my readers have on this site. I get about 250-400K page views per month, and I could probably make a lot of money with Google Ads. But I don’t want to. For now, I earn money from occasional self-served ads (that is, ads that I place as images with links, but with no other code), sponsorships, and affiliate income. If you want to sponsor this website, get in touch.