Linked by David Adams on Fri 19th Mar 2010 21:07 UTC
OSNews, Generic OSes Online advertising has been a hot topic for the past week or so, with Ars Technica trying out an interesting, somewhat desperate experiment wherein they blocked access to their content for people using Adblock. Of course, if this were to become some kind of movement among publishers, it would probably just spark a technological cat-and-mouse game that would surely be reminiscent of DRM cracking or iPhone jailbreaking. But in their post-mortem, Ars states that it was a worthwhile awareness campaign, and I hope that's true. But I thought it would be a good idea to try to bring the collective OSNews brainpower together and crowdsource the idea of how to raise money for a web site in an age where advertising is increasingly un-viable.
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Comment by Kroc
by Kroc on Fri 19th Mar 2010 21:37 UTC
Member since:

I blogged on this subject.

* * *

Imagine running a restaurant where 40% of the people who came and ate didn’t pay. In a way, that’s what ad blocking is doing to us.—Ars Technica

Wrong. You are running a restaurant where the food is free, and on every table there’s a pot of leaflets advertising other restaurants. You are claiming that when people don’t walk out of your restaurant carrying those leaflets that they are stealing from you.

You are so, so wrong.

There is no signed contract I have made with anybody that means that I have to view any ads, otherwise I haven’t paid someone. Your contract is between you and your advertising agencies, there is no contract between me and them, nor you. If you give me your stuff for free, don’t complain if I then take it.

And don’t blame me if you made crappy decisions on how to run your business.


Because I’m publishing this publicly, it’s only fair that Ars Technica has the right to reply:

It’s a real shame that you didn’t comprehend my article and have instead created a strawman. I suggest you ruminate on the meaning of “in a way,” and follow that up by locating where in my argument I say anything about “stealing.”

And by the way, we’ve not made crappy decisions on how to run our business. We’ve seen more success than 99.99% of other online content entrepreneurs out there.—Ken

What I can’t understand is that if they are so successful, why is the article so riddled with blame? Your advertising is based on page-views, and those page-views are being cut off industry-wide. Don’t blame users, that’s one step short of the music industry blaming piracy, when they themselves created the need for piracy. Change your advertising model. Innovate. Never blame your customers.

For perspective, OSnews ran a story about its advertising problem in 2007. The comments make for interesting reading. My opinions have definitely changed and strengthened since then (because of the worsening of bad advertising tactics), and I believe that OSnews is, like Ars Technica, making the mistake of thinking that the current advertising model is worth defending—it’s not. I am working with OSnews to revamp their advertising.

* * *

Simply put, a model that depends upon, and assumes that page-views are the only meaningful existence of readers is broken beyond repair.

If you block our ads, you are still welcome here because your comments, and you sharing our content on social networks, and you simply being a part of OSnews and visiting is worth much, much more than a page-view. A healthy community is _not_ one that is counted by page-views.

Ars treated their readers as nothing more than ad-fodder. That their participation on the site was totally and utterly worthless because they could not directly extract cash by their presence.

I do not think of you OSnews readers, as ad-fodder. I see you as one of the most important assets this site has for its future. Treating you the same as Ars did would almost certainly destroy the wonderful community here.

I propose that, amongst other things, OSnews should have a topic for sponsored articles. Anybody who wants to put forward their product in a technical article can appear on the OSnews site like any other piece of news, except that it will be highlighted clearly that it’s sponsored, and the comments section can be used for the readers to give direct feedback to the sponsor about their product and the quality of their article. We would encourage highly technical, well written articles that could not be found elsewhere in the mainstream, to suit our community.

I think the community would not be too hard done by a decent, technical article about some server software (for example), if it was well written, informative and not mainstream-devoid of details considering that the community would also be able to talk about alternatives and experiences with the product in the comments as well as communicate with the vendor for questions. This would give advertisers the benefit of having an easy and powerful feedback channel.

I think the idea needs to be explained better, but it’s just one possibility to move away from banner-ads.

Another option is to ask users to donate $10 to be mentioned in the opening of the podcast. (ExtraLifeRadio did this to good success)

All ideas welcome.

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