Thursday, November 30, 2023

Ads and Ad Blockers

I don't use any ad blockers on my devices. I'm not a fan of advertising, but I have a grudging belief that advertising pays for content. I think about old media like newspapers, television and radio. Consumers of this media endured ads because they were getting something of value: news, entertainment, new music. Ads and content were locked together.

It's hard to justify this position with our new media options today. I can get news from an X (formerly Twitter) timeline, entertainment from TikTok and new music from Spotify. At best, ads get in the way, and at worst they're intrusive. For new media, it turns out you can separate ads from content. I then remind myself that ads provide the funds for the media platform and their creators.

Old media consumers could be considered a passive audience. We just turn to our newspaper, or TV, or radio, and have content instantly available. New media consumers are a more active audience. New media involves establishing a subscription, and perhaps a new device.

The old media audience understood there was no practical way to block out ads. The most you can do is lower the volume on the TV or radio when the ads come on. That's what I do. The new media audience have easy ways to stop most ads, but it involves action: installing a plugin, setting up a Pi Hole, etc.

In the end, it's a software battle: consumer ad blocker software versus media platform servers. Is your ad blocker adept enough to prevent an ad from pre-rolling on Netflix? Or a major news website? It's pretty clear which group has more money.

The new media adage is "if you're getting something for free, you're likely the product." Whenever I'm scrolling through Facebook or TikTok, I'm aware that ads pay for the content and for my (brief) attention. I can only hope they're good ads!