Revenue, The Vicious Cycle Principle, AdBlockers, and Me…


You know, I’ve never really agreed with AdBlocker programs on an ethical level. No, I’ve never cared that people used them, and I’ve never lectured anyone about how they were “stealing,” as some of the more extreme people out there might say, but I do think that if someone puts effort into their work, they have a right to try to monetize their goods in an attempt to turn a profit. It’s a choice I made awhile back, and even though I used the word “ethical,” I’m not assigning morality to it. It’s just my thing. Stop crying… Okay, I’ll wait…

The internet is a harsh employer, isn’t it? If you have any awareness about how things like AdSense, or banner ads work, you know that it’s a cringe inducing set of parameters. A person literally has to get millions of clicks and impressions just to be able to barely make a few bucks. If someone even wants to attempt to make a a meager living by way of internet goods, the odds of success look insurmountable, and I give credit to those that are able to manage. It’s a pretty small community of creators that are able to survive off of their add revenue and usually there is also a fair amount of brand deals and just plain old fashioned sponsored material, usually pulling in large chunks of cash at a time. But, like I said, people like that are completely atypical, but they wouldn’t have been given that opportunity if it wasn’t for ads.

That’s what was always the crux of it for me. If I enjoyed someone’s work, I wanted to support it in some small way, and for a time ads were the easiest, most transparent way to do so. Nowadays there’s other ways to support the work you enjoy. Stuff like Patreon has become the go to method for creators, which is all well and good, on some level, but it isn’t without it’s issues from an ethical perspective.

Many people that use the service still collect ad revenue in various ways. They run video ads, they do ads inside the videos/podcasts/articles, top banners, side banners, pop-up flash players, and on and on and on. There’s nothing inherently wrong with all that, I’m a believer in the dictionary definition of capitalism, but if you are essentially pulling a crowd sourced paycheck, it does start to get a little icky. Having said that, I do kind of give a pass to small-time entities that engage in this stuff, people that are entirely self-made, but unfortunately many elements from the mainstream, mostly from the “enthusiast press,” have started using these services and methods, cluttering the creatively democratic spaces of the internet.

It’s kind of a bummer, honestly. I don’t know what it is about us, as a people, that we not only enjoy homogenized mediocrity, but we’ll pay for it even though it’s traditionally been “free,” the only price was sitting through 15-30 second ad, or looking briefly at a banner. Hell, maybe you’d even accidentally click on one or two of them. Ah, now they’re in the money!

In tow with all of that stuff, most medium to large size outlets have started to adopt similar methods, except they tend to be much more sinister. They want that money, honey, and they will sacrifice the functionality of their domains to procure it. And that’s putting aside how they contract out work to freelancers, that they pay very little, sometimes only giving them the “opportunity for exposure,” while encouraging them to take money from their viewership through things like Patreon and donations, sometimes receiving payment for articles and videos that are featured on major websites. It’s a fucked system that operates on some kind of “vicious cycle principle,” and the further down this road we go, the more of a problem it becomes. The onus isn’t on the outlets anymore, as they are not taking on any real risk, the only type of risk that really matters: financial risk.

What that also removes is the need for curated content, and by that I mean things that are worth your time.Writing for a major outlet doesn’t mean what it used to because, like I said, there’s no real risk. In fact, putting up sub-par content can be a boon, as more often than not we read and engage with things that we don’t like, looking for our daily serving of outrage. Sites don’t have to serve their audiences anymore they only have to meet a bottom line, which was always somewhat true, but it’s no longer predicated on integrity or principle. Yes, it’s always been about generating clicks, but the paradigm shift from quality content to maintain an audience to muckraking is a little disheartening.

I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but I used to have a lot love and hope for “the fifth estate,” but the more time that goes by, the more I notice it’s turning into the very thing that it stood as an alternative to. Maybe it was inevitable, honestly, as it’s forced to compete in the same spaces that establishment content does.Sometimes, the most a slave can hope for is to become the master, justified by the before mentioned “vicious cycle principle,” which is a thing I just made up, but it feels right, you know what I mean? I think it fits pretty good. Whatever, stop staring at me.

Like I said before, wanting to support content creators, of all different stripes, was my main reason for never using an AdBlocker. If I liked your stuff, if I disliked your stuff, it wasn’t especially important to me. I had a choice to engage with what someone was putting out there, and I’ve never had a problem with people seeking compensation, but lately the marketing machine has been getting really out of hand. So much so that it has become difficult to view a sites content at all.

For the past few months, internet browsing on my laptop has been really inconsistent. Everything ran super slowly for some reason, and sometimes I couldn’t even browse certain sites without the browser crashing entirely. I figured I had some kind of virus or something. Then I got a hand me down computer from my sister, and while setting everything up and linking my Chrome accounts and stuff, I realized she had AdBlocker installed, and because of the way Chrome syncing works it ended up on my laptop as well. Much to my surprise, suddenly everything worked just fine. No more stuttering in my browser, no more sites crashing because of bad flash player encoding.

I was actually kind of shocked, and then I was even more shocked by how many ads were being blocked on any given site. Anywhere from 30-100 ads are being blocked on average, and I’m not talking about those ad-trap clickbait sites either. I’m talking about movie blogs, mainstream news sites, and Twitter. It’s kind of ridiculous, but I get it, honestly. Making your sites inoperable, though, I don’t get.

The ironic twist? Well, AdBlocker apps and programs, and their proliferation, has a lot to do with why sites have been engaging in ad overkill. Now, come down, I’m not saying that if you use Adblockers that you’re a bad person, it’s just part of it. I mean, invasive ads are why people used the programs in the first place, I get that, but it doesn’t change the fact that we, and I’m including myself here, are part of the “vicious cycle principle.”

As much as I love the ubiquity of the internet and how it gives us all a voice, the litmus for talent has certainly taken a dive off of a cliff, and then smashed into the jagged rocks below. Yes, I include myself in this. I’m muddying the waters just as much as anyone else. By removing the barriers to publicly create, anyone can pretty much do anything. You don’t have to get a “job” somewhere, you don’t have to go through a vetting process, you don’t need anyone’s permission anymore to do what you want to do. In theory, it’s awesome. What a great time to be alive! But the dark, pragmatic truth in all of this is that it’s forced people that actually have talented writers, or more likely just pay their writers, have resorted to the same kind of ad-traps that litter your Facebook feeds. “21 Actors That Now Look Like Baseball Mitts,” one might read, then you click on it because you just gotta know and BAM, they got you! It’s not the same as being inconvenienced with a short 30 second add, I think most people can handle those, but when it feels like you might be getting spyware, then maybe there’s a problem.

Anyways, it would seem that I am an an ad blocker now. Now that I’ve tasted the sweet life, I don’t know if I’ll ever really be able to go back. Well, unless the way ads effect site functionality changes. I’d gladly go back to being a dirty non-ad blocking fool. Until then, though, I guess I’ll suffer through not being inundated with shit I don’t care about. The struggle is real.





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