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A War We Should Try To Avoid

“Ads are being cast as the enemy as consumers find more and more ways to block them.”

This Ad Age article paints a pretty scary future, and I’m not just worried about all of the industries and jobs that depend on the ad business or the impact on entertainment and content production that is currently ad-sponsored. The real concern is the continued trend towards class-ism, where those who can afford to pay premiums receive a significantly different experience than those who can’t. We already have riots of metro bus riders upset over Google buses, do we want to separate Jimmy Fallon’s audience into warring factions the same way we have San Francisco commuters? We already exclude some of the world’s best content behind expensive paywalls at the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, even Ad Age (although they at least offer a few free articles per month), effectively excluding the financially-disadvantaged from having the same cultural, business and news resources as those of us with a subscription.

Now I’m not saying that an ambitious but underprivileged future Warren Buffet can’t scrape his pennies together for the WSJ subscription that’s going to make him the next bond-trading mogul, because anyone who has the savvy to understand that heady prose can probably find $12 a month through some clever means, but what will the internet become when every great piece of content requires a fee? First, each site will start their own pay model, and we’ll pick the ones that are most important to us, and abandon the rest. Users will consolidate into closed subscription groups, rather than graze the entirety of the digital buffet as we do now. The pressure on smaller sites will be too great as they find fewer and fewer subscribers, and they will need to join forces with networks of sites in order to survive. Soon, broad subscriptions will encompass collections of content and consumers will need to choose between collections, won’t want to pay the outlay of more than one large collection, and will cease to explore anything outside their subscription group. And then what do we have?

Cable, that’s what. We have cable. Is that what you want, world? You want the internet’s cost structure to mirror that of Comcast? Think about that for a minute before you block all the ads, because unless you want to be trapped in a content monopoly and pay a monstrous monthly fee for the few “channels” you are interested in because that’s the only way to access them, then you’d better start appreciating the advertisers that take on all the risk to give you a free internet on the off-chance they can sell a few widgets, because our “free exchange of information” internet is about to be far from free.

Source: Yes, There Is a War on Advertising. Now What? | Digital – Advertising Age

Oh Firefox, How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways…

So, are you down with

Of course there’s all those features I can’t live without, that I don’t know how I even bothered with the internet before these tools were at my fingertips. Tabbed Browsing. Smart Popup Blocking. RSS. Form submission and password remembering thingy. The real power, however, lies in a really great scrabble word, “extensibility.” If you’re still running Firefox stock… well, baby, you’re missing out!

The extension I just installed this week displays my Tmobile wireless plan usage in the status bar – and you thought the status bar was just for the status of computer-type things! The same developer also wrote one for Verizon. Slick! If you use Cingular, no extension for you, but you’ve got rollover minutes so you don’t care anyway. If you’re still using Sprint, you probably don’t even know what the internet is.

Google hackers like myself and internet nerds of all kinds will appreciate SearchStatus, another status-bar hanger-on that is basically the Hot-or-Not for search engine page rankings. Handy enough already, but it doesn’t just stop with telling you how much Google loves the site you’re currently viewing – it also lets you figure out why, giving you quick access to meta tags, indexed pages, and even reverse links. Don’t optimize your keyword targeting without it!

Discover what paranoid web surfers have known for years, with NoScript. This small wonder lets you selectively enable javascripts on each site, per domain, and remembers your selections for next time. You won’t believe how many different servers it takes to build your favorite site (and how much client-side scripting is involved) until you see all the entries in NoScript. I became enamoured with this extension one day when browsing a web forum whose webmaster had installed a no-right-clicking script. I’m not really sure what this is meant to help, especially when you’re trying to build a community of users and encourage return visits (end of soapbox) but it kept me from right-clicking and opening a window in a new tab – a Firefox principium – and i would have none of it. Enter NoScript. I disable scripting from their domain, and voila! I’m free to right-click just like the founding fathers envisioned.

No Firefox extension list is complete without my final entry, Adblock Plus. I’m not trying to advocate anything illicit here – i work in online advertising and in know how much of the internet is supported by those banners. But i also firmly believe that ads which are annoying, tasteless, or disruptive to a site’s content are completely unnecessary, and the data i work with every day tells me that advertising which doesn’t make viewers hate you performs better for your company in the long run. So go ahead and block that hideous animated pig in the clown makeup trying to sell you a mortgage refinance offer. More significantly though, use Adblock Plus to fix things that annoy you other than ads! Does someone on the web forum you haunt have a repulsive image in their sig line? Adblock it. Or that dolt who uploads images without scaling them, filling your display and breaking the page structure for you – Adblock them. You can wildcard your filters, but be careful when wielding this mighty power; if you block *.capitalone.com because their ads are gross, it’s going to be difficult to log into their site and pay your credit card bill. I think i adore this extension so much because it puts the power back in my hands, instead of feeling so powerless to deal with whatever garbage a web pages throws up at you and expects you to look at.

Okay, that’s my list. Download, configure, and enjoy. The internet is yours to manipulate as you please! Bwah ha ha ha!