Why Ad Blocking is devastating to the sites you love

Want to talk about one of the articles in SPCR? Here's the forum for you.
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Post by confusion » Mon Mar 15, 2010 8:34 pm

dhanson865: Thanks. :) Similarly, I didn't intend for my reply to sound confrontational but rereading it perhaps it does so pleast don't take it that way.

Re animated ads: Internet Explorer has an option to disable animations as well; at least on this old IE6 it's under Tools --> Internet Options, Advanced tab. I just tried it and it pretty much breaks the animated ads though; I refreshed the page several times and each time it shows a random single frame of the EndPCnoise ad, sometimes with their logo, and sometimes just a two-tone blank background.

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Post by confusion » Mon Mar 15, 2010 9:40 pm

Here's another article about sites we'd generally trust serving up malware via javascript in ads from 3rd parties:

I may be paranoid about it, but this issue is very real. :(

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Post by dhanson865 » Tue Mar 16, 2010 2:11 pm

http://consumerist.com/2010/03/online-r ... ntent.html
According to a survey by the Pew Foundation's Project For Excellence In Journalism, the number of people getting their news from websites is now at around 53% of all American adults. But only 35% of those say they have a single, "favorite" site.

And, making matters even more dire for those considering the pay wall model, 82% of those with favorite news sites say they would not pay for content from that site.

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Post by Das_Saunamies » Tue Mar 16, 2010 2:57 pm

That's the sentiment over in Finland too, at least in my 20-something age group - it's nice to have the news online, but we won't pay for that convenience.

I would probably cut down from following 8 news sites to maybe 3 if they became subscription-only. It might skew my perspective, but I doubt it would decrease the amount of information I could gain.

Some sites just aren't worth paying for, because there is always someone better. Unlike SPCR. :idea:

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Blame it on poorly written processor-intensive adverts

Post by blackbeastofaaaaagh » Wed Mar 17, 2010 7:58 am

I have no problem viewing ads on blogs. They do cost some money to maintain and I can appreciate why the site owner needs to host a few. I don't even mind the ones that dance across your page. Though, I don't think that annoying readers is the best way to sell your product.

I am forced to used ad blockers because of poorly written ads running Flash or some other language that can bring even the fastest custom gaming rig to its knees. Nothing is more annoying than when you open a website and after a few seconds you hear your case fans spin up to hurricane speed while your state-of-the-art CPU (which can run Crisis just fine) tries desperately to meet the demands placed on it by one or two Flash enabled ads hosted on the page.

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Post by Devonavar » Wed Mar 17, 2010 2:09 pm

I'm a bit on the fence here. I largely agree with the Techdirt rebuttal, and I use an adblocker myself. But, I've also written reviews for SPCR, and I know first hand the labour that goes into them. For a little while, I treated it as a full time job.

I think one of the big points that needs reiterating is that bandwidth and hosting is only a small fraction of the costs of SPCR. The biggest cost by far is labour. Mike's estimates on the amount of time spent on each article are conservative. Every time a product needs retesting, or we need to confirm results, or we discover a new quirk of a product, the amount of time spent testing and rewriting the review can double or triple. The best output I ever managed was two articles per week, working full time.

The non-fluff (i.e. non-review) articles that Aris has so sanctimoniously demanded take even longer, as do products that we don't have a set formula for reviewing. I spent about three weeks reviewing the Asus Xonar HDAV, partly because I'd never reviewed a sound card before, partly because I had to do numerous retests and reanalyses, and partly because it was very unclear exactly what the card was capable of (and why it cost $300). Developing our fan test methodology took months (years if you count Mike's efforts before I started focussing on it). These unusual articles are among the most important on the site, but they are often some of the least read (i.e. least directly profitable), and they are definitely the most time consuming to produce.

On the topic of multiple samples, the idea of scientific rigour is appealing, but the practicality is daunting. Even "spot checking" as was suggested would most likely almost double test times, as there is a considerable amount of setup overhead per sample that can't be eliminated by reducing test points. On top of that, my experience with multiple samples has been that it is more likely to reveal a confidence interval in our test procedures than true sample variance. Nearly all results vary a bit from test to test, regardless of whether the same sample is used.

The only example I can think of that can definitively be chalked up to sample variance is our original Ninja sample, which produced shockingly good results over a number of years, and confused the hell out of us every time we retested it as a "standard" reference.

On a side note, the multiple fan samples in the article mentioned by dhanson865 were tested for subjective variance only (which is why no testing details are listed), experience having taught me that whatever measurable variance there was was almost certainly below the threshold of accuracy of our measurement tools.

With regard to charging for reviews (not an uncommon practice), I can't argue with the fact that it would compromise partiality. There are already enough issues with selection bias, simply because Mike has better relations with some manufacturers than others (partly because a bad review on our part strongly discourages future samples).

The preponderance of Antec cases on the site has already been noted. This is not just because Mike has been involved in designing some of their most successful cases, though that is part of it. It's because Antec produces genuinely good cases, especially for our audience. Mike's role helped make this so, but that doesn't make their cases any less relevant for our readers. It's not a coincidence that five of the most popular articles on the site are Antec reviews; most of the rest are recommended articles, and no other manufacturer has more than one review in the top read list.

I really like the idea of putting a bounty on certain review products (i.e. enough donations guarantee a review). Executed properly, I think this could work very well. However, it does conflict with SPCR's role in helping readers discover new silent products. SPCR drove the popularity of a number of standard products by discovering them first (Nexus fans, Scythe heatsinks, Scythe fans). If we relied solely on audience demand for reviews, none of these would have come to light.

There's also the issue of there being far more demand for reviews than time to do them. Selection of products for review is currently governed by Mike's editorial instincts (selection bias in a positive manner). Products are prioritized by how interesting they are likely to be to our readers, and how likely they are to actually get a positive review (based on a visual inspection and the weight of experience). There is probably a year's worth of backlog products in the pipeline, and many products simply never see reviews because they are out of date or irrelevant by the time we get to them. Point being, we already break promises of reviews to manufacturers all the time because we simply don't have time to do every review. Reader-donated money creates obligations towards readers that are likely to be broken unless we can find a way to guarantee that the reviews get done. Guaranteeing that every product that sees a certain level of donation is not the way to do this.

My suggestion would be to limit donation-funded reviews to one every month. The review could be conducted like a contest or an auction. A pledge-based system in which donations are only collected if the product in question gets the most donations in a given month could work. A more lucrative (but less fair) option is to accept donations for any / all products, but only review the one that brings in the most cash. Donation pots could carry over month-to-month, so products that come second one month might come first the next. This also makes the more lucrative option more fair, since it guarantees that most of the money raised will eventually be used (the amount of less popular donations will probably be a relatively small fraction of the total).

A big problem will be to prevent "corporate" donors from buying reviews. Allowing manufacturers to bid on reviews pretty much guarantees selection bias, since their buying power means the corporation with the deepest pockets gets a review. It almost certainly takes consumers out of the equation, since the magnitude of corporate "donations" are likely to drown out any reader contributions. I suppose if the goal of SPCR were to maximize profits this would be a good thing (short term at least), but it does a terrible disservice to the readers.

Ok, enough rambling. Let's hear your feedback.

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Post by xan_user » Wed Mar 17, 2010 3:25 pm

thanks for that insight Devonavar!

I would sure love to hear what the advertisers think of our comments...I would love to hear them defend their chosen tactic of annoying the hell out of the customer as a way of gaining revenue.

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Post by MikeC » Wed Mar 17, 2010 4:04 pm

Thanks for your well-thought out post, Devon. Much appreciated -- I'm sure it took a lot o time, tho probably not as long as a SPCR review. :lol: You're right that I probably understated the time/effort reviews take -- wishful thinking, maybe. Like I wish they only took that long! :roll:

Creative & interesting concept: re- donation-funded reviews. Tracking the donations/votes for the many products people would invariably bring up could get messy & complicated, as we'd have to find a way to automate it. It would be self-defeating ff managing this makes for a lot of manual bookkeeping work. Worth thinking & talking more about, tho.

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Post by sneaker » Wed Mar 17, 2010 11:18 pm

Are we talking about websites that are based primarily on the webmaster's own work, or content provided by external sources? Because a large proportion of sites now fall mainly in the latter category, with a large forum being at that end of the spectrum where almost all the value is in posts created by users and moderation services provided by volunteers (this is not to play down an admin's work - I maintain a large phpBB forum myself - it's just that contribution is miniscule relative to the combined total from thousands of other people).

SPCR like many sites is pretty much a straight down the middle split between the former and the latter. Now we can talk about webmasters and web users each having the right to do whatever the heck they please, but between that it's a question of fairness in the relationship between webmaster and userbase. And as we each think about what's fair, should we consider these different types of sites separately? For example, you could conclude that it's not fair for visitors to block the ads when viewing Mike's articles, but conversely it's unfair for Mike to deliver ads with content that's mostly the work of others.

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Post by MikeC » Thu Mar 18, 2010 12:42 am

sneaker wrote:For example, you could conclude that it's not fair for visitors to block the ads when viewing Mike's articles, but conversely it's unfair for Mike to deliver ads with content that's mostly the work of others.
I don't actually think it's unfair for visitors to block the ads, it's their prerogative. Not so good for revenue that's needed but...

But if by "content that's mostly the work of others" you mean the forum, I find the comment off the mark. W/o the main site, the forum would not exist. It's the articles & reviews that have elucidated silent computing for so many people to replicate for themselves. The forums are important, as are the regular participants. But it is a community that grew out of SPCR, not one that just materialized out of thin air.

Also it is difficult to talk about most forum posts as "work". A lot of it is simply community activity. Newbies being advised by experienced hands. One hobbyist asking of others; sharing/showcasing projects of common interest. The forums are supported and appreciated by and simply a part of the community that was actively nurtured around SPCR. I am very involved, active daily for nearly 8 years; I'm not spending only 20 mins daily to administer and maintain the site. I also edit almost every article that appears on the main site, have strong input in most, and still write a fair number of them.

TBH, if I had my choice, I'd let someone else take care of the business details of making enough revenue so that I could focus solely on content.

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Post by scdr » Thu Mar 18, 2010 11:24 pm

As far as supporting SPCR - does it help if when we visit a site that advertises here we follow a link from this site?
(e.g. if I am going to browse Amazon - even if I don't buy anything). Or does it only help to use such a link when placing an order?

Is it necessary to actually follow a link here, or could one bookmark the appropriate code? (So I could use my own bookmark, e.g. plug it into my firefox search code for Amazon, or put it on my favorites list.)

Is there a repository/listing of such links for sponsors on SPCR - if need to follow link from SPCR, would be nice to have a quick page that one could just click a link (like the list of sponsors on the left hand side of main page - but without all the SPCR material).

Such a page could have notes of whether it works to copy/bookmark the link, or if one has to follow it fresh, and under what circumstances it benefits SPCR.

Something of this ilk might make it convenient for folks to help SPCR, but still have their ad blocking.
(e.g., I don't use flash, I don't want to be tracked across multiple sites when I wander the web, but may be willing to let some sellers know I read SPCR, but don't want to have to remember to come here and hunt around to find an advertisement for the seller I am interested in so I can follow the link.)

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Post by Shibirian » Sat Mar 20, 2010 4:44 am

I think, the real problem here is not advertising. It's how to reward our favorite Webpage creators for their hard work.

Me, personally, would have no problem spending my ten cent each month for the webpage I like (I doubt there is more revenue like that coming in each month through advertising). So, how to "donate" the money is the problem.
Sadly enough, Paypal is not an option for they charge way too much for a transfer.

So, I think a better payment system is needed for the Internet in general. Paypal is not the answer to that, it's simply too expensive. If something that allows me to send a few cent each month to a webpage of my choice would exist, we could all do very well without advertising.

Just my 2cent.

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Re: pay subscription model

Post by ces » Sat Mar 20, 2010 1:55 pm

Sno Crash wrote:Call me cynical, but I think the ad-based internet content model is dead.
I think Google has proven the subscription model is dead.

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Post by cmthomson » Sun Mar 21, 2010 4:08 pm

Devonavar wrote:The only example I can think of that can definitively be chalked up to sample variance is our original Ninja sample, which produced shockingly good results over a number of years, and confused the hell out of us every time we retested it as a "standard" reference.
That wasn't sample variance, it was version variance. The original Ninja was and still is one of the most outstanding heat sinks ever made.

On topic, I run adblock software not to specifically deprive SPCR of revenue, but because it qualitatively improves my web experience. I see perhaps two ads a day (BTW, I also have an old ReplayTV that automatically skips ads, and I also see less than 10 ads a day on TV).

Okay, does that make me a freeeloader? Hardly. Consider my articles (eg, Superquiet Superclocked), and forum contributions.

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Post by cor » Wed Mar 24, 2010 10:44 pm

I dont have any issues with a website whose content I value displaying ads. I respect their decision to make money while providing content for free. Those who claim they have a right to blocking ads offer no alternatives for the content owner to monetize their work or simply suggest a subscription model. I wouldnt pay to have an ad free experience because ads dont bother me that much and I think most feel the same. Having said that there are some types of ads that should be abolished like popups, floating/moving ads, noisemakers, and ads that trick you into clicking on them. I rarely see any of these, mostly because the sites I visit are reputable. I use the FX/Chrome extension WOT (Web of Trust) to filter out sketchy sites.

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Post by ntavlas » Mon Mar 29, 2010 11:14 pm

I too think that donating for reviews is an interesting concept because of it`s interactivity. The requests are probably going to be overwhelming but a queue & credit system could possibly help in this regard: an x amount of reviews will make it each month, those with the highest "bounty". Donating towards a review moves it higher up the queue. A member can only vote for a certain review once, he can however transfer credit from one review to another. Once a review is done all associated credit gets purged.
As for corporate users, I don`t know how you could eliminate this problem altogether, but there are certain ways that could limit the damage: requiring a minimum number of posts and putting a limit on the amount donated or even better, making it a fixed amount. The fact that each user can only vote once should also help. Another idea is to monitor the last posts of said member. That should help a lot more but the associated overhead might be too much (is there a way to automate it? How about a rating system where other members can spot spammers?).

As far as ads are concerned, I don`t find them too distracting. Still, I think that you could improve the user's experience without sacrificing revenue. Animated ads could be placed in a way that allow users to read the content without looking at them (by scrolling up/down). There are already adds placed in such a way, like the ones above the "post a reply" area or most in line ads. In the same token you could avoid putting animated ads in vertical or non scrollable frames, assuming such adds don`t generate considerably more revenue.

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Post by pony-tail » Sun Apr 04, 2010 11:37 pm

I am only an occaisional visitor here !
I block flash and java in my browser but all other adds are left unblocked .
I am in my mid 50s and have less than perfect eyesight ,flashing noisy adds and popups are not my thing !
Flash and java just do not get installed on my machines .
Due to the small no. of visits I make it would not be worth my while to pay for the content here . Further I live in Australia and a majority of the adds I do see are irrelevant to me .
Although all of our current cases are Antec and all but one CPU cooler are Thermalright ( the other is Zalman ) - What I buy has more to do with the content of the site than the adds .

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Post by kma » Sat Apr 10, 2010 9:25 am

Blocking makes the sites so much cleaner (and faster). Can't do without it.

And I seldom trouble myself with configuring the blocking for a specific site. Just block everything is very convenient. Unfortunately.

If someone please implement an ad-blocker that keep track of how much ad-revenue I'm blocking for each site, and remind me to pay up once in a while (when the amount is on a suitable level), then I'll gladly do it for the sites that are worth it. Like SPCR.

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Re: Yeah, this will get me banned, but frankly Scarlett...

Post by Navvie » Sat May 15, 2010 3:09 pm

fri2219 wrote:I didn't start blocking ads until I was bombarded with 60% of the content area crowded with flashing, moving, blinking video that autostarted with sound.
What I want is to be asked if would like to see ads, and then be given the choice of what type of ads I want to see. I would be more than happy for one or two static (or mostly static) ads to appear on each page of this and other sites I visit regularly. I know this won't earn as much revenue as if I had expanding flash ads, but isn't some ad revenue better than none?

I used to let all ads load and display, if it helped my favourite sites keep in business it was the least I could do.

Only when those blasted kontera links started to appear on my favourite sites did I look into blocking adverts. To start with I only blocked those horrid things and I was once again happy to let the normal static, animated gif ads load.

Then flash adverts - some with sound! - became extremely popular and I again was forced to disable ads so that I could once again enjoy browsing the internet. I now run adblock+ all of the time on all websites and deny all cookies by default too.

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Post by sleiN13 » Fri Jun 18, 2010 10:42 am

That flattr thing i was talking about is in beta now might want to try it out. atleast i would like to give my donation to your efforts in that way.

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Post by Copper » Tue Jun 22, 2010 11:25 am

While obviously incompatable with many of the revenue generating advertising opportunities available to sites like SPCR, it's the profiling potential of ad serving companies that I don't like. The many ads that SPCR has on their own servers don't concern me, are relevant, and I have even used them for purchases in years past.

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Post by Mike3325 » Tue Oct 05, 2010 4:59 am

I only use a browser equipped with Ad Blocker on sites with pop-up ads, like Kontera. Unfortunately my favorite site, www.silentpcreview.com, uses Kontera pop-ups.

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Re: Why Ad Blocking is devastating to the sites you love

Post by Ksanderash » Thu Feb 03, 2011 2:25 am

Just make an individual exeption for the sites you love (SPCR, e.g.)
Is it so irritating? Are they so many? Don't they deserve some negligible paying back?


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