~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

August 3, 2021

Ad Blocking is Not Unethical

I read an article recently online that said adblocking software, and the people who use it, are essentially selfish, unethical, and entitled web surfers. I'd like to dispel this ridiculous notion, not only as one of those "entitled" web surfers who block ads on a regular basis, but also as someone who has built and currently maintains my own adblocking web browser extension, Nightshade Barriers.

First of all, the article in question is an egregious read, and I can only assume that the person who wrote it relies on online advertising to make money off of their lame site. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, but to look down on others for how they spend their time on their own browsers - a little sad.

I get it - many site owners rely on advertising to make their money. However, there is a major issue with this approach. If you rely on ads as your only source of income from your website, you are doing it wrong. This is especially true in a time where seemingly more folks than ever are employing some form of ad-blocking software in their browsing routine - as of 2021, this number is up to a whopping 27% of web surfers worldwide.

So, rav3n, what's your problem with ads on the internet?

Think about it - how many times do you go to load a page only to be accosted by so many ads littering the page that you don't know where the ads end and the actual content begins? How many times have you been trying to read something online, only to see one of those huge, annoying pop-ups advertisements that take up the entire width of your screen?

Many ads are straight-up obnoxious, and others can make a webpage load terribly slow. This is especially true for people with slower internet connections (think satellite internet). This very site loads in a matter of seconds, and the pages on it are mere kilobytes in size. Some sites that employ large amounts of ads (or even worse, video advertisements) can take forever to load on slower connections, and can bloat the website to entire megabytes in size. This is ridiculous.

Folks simply want to view the content of a page without having to be marketed to, and some folks won't click on a single ad even if they see one, because they simply hate the concept of advertising in general. I am one of the folks who has at least one foot somewhat in this camp - I will actively boycott brands who use the ridiculous sort of ads that I am talking about in this post.

Is blocking ads "unethical?"

This is an argument put forth by advertisers and people who rely on advertising, claiming that ad-blocking is "unethical" and akin to thievery - as if your ad blocking is stealing money from the site owners' pockets. This claim is just silly, and to be honest, if the one way a site makes any income is through advertising, the site doesn't need to exist in the first place.

The internet is changing, and webmasters who don't adapt are going to be left in the dust with zero traffic if they don't keep up with the times. If you're a webmaster who relies solely on ads to make any money from your site, it might be time to re-evaluate how you run your site and how you plan to monetize your content.

What can site owners do?

The first thing you are going to need to do is come to some sort of acceptance that ad-blocking is now a huge part of how people surf the web, and begin to brainstorm new ways you can make money from your site. Can you sell a product or a service? Could you do affiliate marketing? If your site is providing value to people, many visitors will be happy to donate to you - I don't run any ads on any of the sites I run, and I am lucky that I am able to get the occasional crypto or PayPal donation from the visitors to my sites who find value in them.

Get busy coming up with ideas - you can do it! You don't need to rely on ads to make money with your site. If your site is worth anything and provides value to someone, you will find other, better ways to monetize.

Besides, web surfers love sites who don't bombard them with large amounts of ads. Your not running any ads on your site might be the catalyst that gets people to keep coming back to your site again and again. It will look better, it will load faster for your visitors, and you won't feel like your site is owned by the advertisers who take it over with annoying banners and side ads, instead of letting your own content shine like it should be.

It is your site, after all - don't let it become a haven for commercials!

Debunking the claims

Now, let's look back at that link I mentioned at the beginning of this post. There is a section in the article that discusses the costs of running a website, and how ad-blocking web surfers are not doing their part to help the site owner make money.

Here are some of the points the article mentions, along with my take on it:

Cost numero uno: The Domain Name

The article boasts that domain names "require an annual payment of some sort." This is true, but they neglect to say just how much this annual fee costs. I'll tell you - pennies. You can buy a domain name for a few dollars (my .xyz domains cost me around $3-5 a year).

The cost of a domain name is actually one of the most inexpensive parts of getting a site up and running. Paying under $10 a year for your domain is no major cost, so we can brush this one right off the pile.

Cost numero dos: Web Hosting

This is one that has the potential to be costly, depending on where you choose to host. I pay under $10 a month to host my various sites through Vultr, my VPS provider of choice. You can find hosting for very cheap, or you can even host your sites on your own hardware if you have decent bandwidth.

The trick is scaling it up with traffic. With proper infrastructure planning for your site, hosting should be a non-issue, and it certainly doesn't have to be expensive. Another one we can brush right off the pile of concerns.

Cost numero tres: Advertising, Marketing, and SEO

If you think advertising is the only way to monetize your site, you might as well not even bother with building a site. Littering the internet with another ad-laden site is not going to help anyone, and might serve as a way for you to actually lose traffic.

Why does your site exist? Is it to provide value to folks who might be interested in your niche, or is it simply to monetize on those visitors as soon as possible by shoving ads down their throat? In today's world where ad-blocking software is used by a huge swath of web surfers, there is a good chance many folks won't see those ads anyway.

SEO (short for Search Engine Optimization) is largely a scam. Sure, the concept of SEO is real, when it comes to getting your site ranked higher on Google and other search engines. However, all of these "experts" claiming that they will get you to the top of the search results for hundreds or even thousands of dollars can be safely ignored.

SEO is not some dark art, it is a relatively simple concept that you can work on by yourself with some time and dedication. Discoverability for your site is important, but it won't be attained by paying an "SEO expert" hundreds of dollars or more - it will be attained by providing quality content, consistently, using keywords for your niche and using best practices to get your site noticed by search engines.

Maybe I will go a little more in-depth about SEO in a future post.

Claim numero cuatro: Web Design and Development

It is true that it takes time and money to build a site and get it online, but these days, you don't need to know HTML/CSS/JavaScript to build a site if you don't want to (although it is my preferred way of going about it). You can use a free and open-source platform such as WordPress to build your site on - and this is exactly what many site owners do.

In fact, as of 2021, approximately 39.6% of the internet runs on WordPress - a truly astounding statistic when you think about the sheer number of websites out there.

You don't need to be a web developer to learn how to build a website these days. Tools like WordPress allow anyone to use simple drag-and-drop methods to build their sites without having to know a single line of code. With enough work, you can have a WordPress site built and loaded with content in a matter of hours.

Also, WordPress is absolutely free to use, install, and modify as you please, so financials aren't the issue here - just set aside the time to build.

The "Gotcha!"

The article then goes onto to lambast the people who use this line:

"They shouldn't have created a website if they need to rely on advertisements."

True! If a site is created strictly to run ads on its visitors, there is no reason at all for the site to exist. It is not providing any sort of value to anyone but the person who runs it (to line their coffers) and for the advertisers who shill their junk on the site (to get you to buy their junk).

The internet is already littered with enough of these garbage pages. Please don't add to the pollution by creating a site that exists only to market to people. Surely, you're an intelligent person - you can come up with more original and creative ways to monetize your online endeavours.

Build Something You're Proud of

I'm very proud of my sites and the platforms I have built and continue to work on. I have never ran a single ad on any site I have ever owned, nor do I plan to ever do so in the future. I love minimalist web design, and pages that load quickly. Sites that exist only to serve up ads don't meet either of these goals, and as such, I block ads. And I will continue to block ads.

I encourage you to block ads, too, with either my own Nightshade Barriers adblocking extension or another one of your choice, like UBlock Origin. You can also look into the Brave Browser, which comes with its own built in adblocking software called Brave Shields. If you are planning on building a site of your own, think about making a site that provides value to your visitors, and be part of the new generation of webmasters who are finding alternate ways to make money off their online creations without having to rely on corporate marketing to make a few pennies.

If we all do this, we can make the internet a much better, less bloated place that is run by us, and not the hordes of advertisers that are bidding for space on billions of websites every second of the day.