The discussion of ad-blocking on the internet often polarises into user freedom vs. user freeloading. But, as with many issues, this might be concealing other, less-extreme options. For example, considering advertising in other situations as more than evidence that ad-block users are hypocrites.
I have been exposed to advertising in print and broadcast media for all of my life. And, while I don’t know how effective it is on me, I have no ethical objection to the concept of publications and channels obtaining funding through advertising (within reasonable limits). So, on the face of it I shouldn’t object to websites and online broadcasts containing advertisements.
And I don’t. Yet I do use an ad-blocker.
Imagine these scenarios:
You are watching television. Two minutes into a commercial break the image freezes. There is a 20% chance if you leave it alone for five minutes it will unfreeze; if it doesn’t then you need to change channel and then change back again. There is a 30% chance if you do shift channels back and forth that you will restart broadcasting at the start of the commercial break; otherwise you need to watch the program again from the beginning.
You are reading a magazine. You can’t turn the page until you have read all the adverts; but one of the adverts doesn’t detect that you have read it, so you have to read it several times before you can turn the page.
You are reading a newspaper. Before you can move onto the next article you need to read two adverts. They are the same two adverts you needed to read after each previous article, and have been all week.
I don’t object to traditional adverts in broadcast and print media because they are subordinate or equal to the experience; they take up their space (both temporal and conceptual) and no more. If adverts on websites and catch-up players didn’t interfere, then I wouldn’t object either.
But, as long as advertisers make their clients seem irritating and objectionable by putting their brand on something that makes my experience actively worse, I will continue to use an ad-blocker. And I will do it at least partly for the irony of providing a benefit to brands by not watching their adverts.
Do you use an ad-blocker? Do you believe having advertisements on the internet is fundamentally different from other media, or only a series of different technical issues?