Ars Technica ran an interesting experiment over the weekend and Ken Fisher posted some general thoughts on the role of advertising in supporting content creation and the possible harms of ad blocking. Mike Masnick has an excellently reasoned response though he is understandably a bit harsh. I think his most compelling point is that the urge to block ads is much more the fault of the advertisers, not necessarily the content providers.
To me, the whole conversation highlights the importance to engage readers, listeners and viewers not just in the primary discussion around the content itself, but to be candid about what is needed to support producing it. The Ars piece reveals that they do have conversations about ads in their forums. They need to extend that conversation to the advertisers, as well. Masnick sets a good example of holding the advertisers to some kind of standard, one with which fans can live. I am not suggesting that publishers be captive to readers’ interests or so on up the food chain, but there at least be the sort of engagement that will lead to situations that better serve more interests.
Masnick also reminds us that fans serve more of a purpose than generating filthy lucre. Focusing too closely on revenue, in whatever form it is generated, presents the risk of losing sight of that fact. Without engagement in the first place, there is no business model, ad driven or otherwise.
The one other though I had that I have not seen addressed is how much bad ads of the past may have trained the current default of blocking without thought. At the very least, as flawed as it may have been, the experiment by Ars re-visits the question of what is an acceptable or tolerable ad, one that I think is worth re-considering every so often.