Sick of advertisements? Here’s how to get rid of them…

Commentary — The New York Times released an interesting inside view of how newspapers are cannibalizing themselves by offering free content.

Curiously, one point that isn’t mentioned at all in the NYT article is the advent of free paper newspapers. Perhaps newspapers should consider putting some depth and perspective in their articles, so as to make them more interesting than Reuters and AP feeds.

In the meanwhile, Bill Keller’s [the executive editor of The New York Times] remark on relying on advertising as the sole revenue stream caught my attention:

“My main concern is that, however we distribute our work, we have to generate the money to pay for it. The advertising model looks appealing now, but do we want our future to depend on that single source of revenue? What happens if advertising goes flat? What happens when somebody develops software to filter out advertising
– TiVo for the Web?”

Incidentally, a such a software already exists…

  1. Download the latest version of Firefox
  2. In Tools > Extensions, click “Get More Extensions” and install:
    • Adblock, which is more robust and more precise than the built-in image blocker
    • Flashblock, which will get rid of all flash advertisements

One missing feature is a text ad blocker. It is not very difficult to build, though: All you need to do is to filter the web page’s anchors with a regular expression filter (like the one in Adblock), and set the css display to ‘none’ whenever a match comes up.

Comments on Sick of advertisements? Here’s how to get rid of them…

  1. Just one problem with this: If everyone does it, then the people who are bearing the cost (time spent writing, hosting, etc.) will not make any money and will cease to provide content (except for those for whom ego or altruism is the principal reward).

    I used to make my living as a ghostwriter/speechwriter, and during that time no one ever suggested that I provide my services for free. And yet, that is what the no-ad people are suggesting: that I provide my services for free.

    As an economist (I now teach economics), the principle lesson for my students is that everything has an associated cost. If people are not making money from advertising, then the only alternative is a pay-per-view model. Television is the best example here. The only way you don’t get advertising is if you pay a premium to see the content in the first place.

  2. Well, as much as I agree there is a cost associated to writing the story, I would point out that there is _always_ a better way than advertisement to make money on a web site. Several alternative models exist in addition to pay-per-view, which imho could safely be turned into a pay-to-follow model with the advent of micropayments.

    Also, I think there is a better way to sell advertisements. It would be to sell sponsored links and stories. It’s not the same as a rude advertisement that flies accross the screen until you click the thing away. In a sponsored link or story scheme, you’re actually recommending someone or his product. And as the story writer, I’ll take the bet you won’t be included to recommend someone you don’t trust at least a minimum.

  3. HI Denis, I wondered if there is any way to block “sponsored links” … Those are embedded in the story, and seem like they are links related to the story, but when you click, you go elsewhere. I hate that trick. Can I get rid of it with some greasmonkey thing or can adblock strip the “href” off of the sponsored link?

  4. you could disguise them into normal text, but it’s a little complex and needs to be done on a case by case basis: you’ll want to use a custom css file and set the style to `display: none ! important;` as relevant.

    for instance, with Firefox, in:

    Application Data\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\your-profile\chrome

    my userContent.css file contains:

    @import url(chrome://flashblock/content/flashblock.css);

    .adText { display: none ! important; }

    .adHeadline { display: none ! important; }

    div#pop {display: none ! important; }

    this blocks many embeded ads, but not all of them. you could imagine doing something like:

    a.whatever_class { text-decoration: none ! important; color: black ! important; }

    and the sponsored links will look like normal text

  5. Thanks! Excellent.

    You know what would be really cool?? If I could just right click on an element in a page and choose, dont’ display stuff like this…

    kinda like how adblock works, but more sophisticated i suppose.

    What ?? ah man, that’s really cool.

    A REALTIME PREVIEW!!!! who woulda thunk it.

    Is that a feature of your semiologic theme? That’s great.

    Does it understand markup? “my website”:

    mabye i’m not marking up correctly. still it’s cool. (AJAX???)