Block Ads on Websites not within Podcasts

created Dec 5, 2019

Hacker News post from Dec 4, 2019:

My first initial thought was "Why?" I despise ads on websites and on TV. The only time that I watch over-the-air TV is when I watch the Cleveland Browns, some other NFL games, and The Masters golf tournament. That's my exposure to TV advertising.

We watch YouTube channels on our Roku TV, and small ads exist, and sometimes, it's possible to skip those ads. I'm not annoyed by ads on YouTube.

But "normal" TV?? I don't know how people watch ad-based television. When I watch NFL games, if I can listen to the same game on the radio, I'll choose that option while watching the same game on TV with the volume down. Radio ads are far less annoying than TV ads.

Since I listen to podcasts only occasionally, then my view about podcast ads could be irrelevant, but I have not been annoyed by ads embedded within podcasts. TV ads are infuriating with the half-second flashes of images. The NFL advertises too much. It's a major reason why I watch less NFL outside of the Browns. Netflix has changed how I view TV programming.

Ads used on websites should be blocked for security, privacy, usability, and local computer performance reasons.

That HN thread contained 255 comments. Top comment:

I block ads on the web because web advertising networks proved that they had no respect for user privacy, lacked security controls around their ad delivery, and were targeting using data that they probably shouldn’t have had access to.

Podcasts do not suffer from this. It’s much harder to identify a user, the ads aren’t software, just audio, so security is better and there’s not much way to see who is listening to the ads other than voucher codes/referral links (which are inherently opt-in).

Yes I can always skip ads. Do I feel any security or privacy need to automate doing this? No.

If/when podcast advertising goes the way of web advertising, then there will be an eager market for this product, but until then let’s enjoy unobtrusive, respectful ads from hosts we trust, with targeting done broadly by podcast rather than personally identifiable information.

Referring to that commenter's first paragraph, I say shame on the media orgs that use potentially nefarious third party ad tech on their websites.

Another comment:

I block ads on the web due to the invasive tracking and targeting. I'm not opposed to ethical, reasonable ad space which is why I don't tear ad pages out of magazines when they arrive. If news sites would run their ad infrastructure focused on presentment rather than tracking I would grant them an exception to my ad blocker. While they outsource ad space to adtech and use their platform as a method to execute arbitrary code on my computing devices the block stays up.

That's why I block JavaScript on most websites that I visit.

If websites used their own ad system, hosted from "their" servers, and displayed web ads humanely, then users might be more accepting to the ads. If the ad system requires JavaScript, then I will continue to block the ads, and I have no sympathy for the websites that use such hideous systems. Go back to the banner ad gifs. Or better, use text-based ads.

The media orgs should place their ads on a separate location within their websites called "Ads." It would be a page or a directory that would show only ads. Readers can choose to view this section of the website.

But the ads should not be displayed within news articles, especially for paying customers. Nothing will convince me that media orgs should display their horrendously bloated, ad-filled, hostile reading experience to subscribers. When media orgs mistreat customers like that, then the media orgs should not be surprised when people cancel their digital subscriptions.

It's possible and likely that podcast ads will become user experience problems, and when that occurs, then blocking such ads will be good for security and privacy reasons. Maybe the above "Show HN" app is a little ahead of its time.

As to websites, can ads be displayed ethically? Sure, but the publishers would probably miss some "features" that are offered by the big ad tech firms.

July 2017 post titled New on Daring Fireball: Display Ads. Excerpts:

For readers, these are ads that, again, are visually unobjectionable, and which offer the most privacy you could hope for. Not only is there no tracking involved, there is no JavaScript involved. They’re just images, text, and HTML links. (The images are even served from itself.) You have my word that I will never allow tracking via these or any other ads on Daring Fireball without posting a big prominent “OK, DF Ads Are Now Tracking You” post on the site. I don’t expect ever to allow this.

I doubt that the will ever adopt a similar ad philosophy.

A couple of my older posts: