I hate ads. Radio ads. TV ads. Billboard ads. Internet ads. Advertisements bother me, especially when I catch myself singing McDonald’s’ stupid “da-da-da-da-da” jingle.
Back when my wife and I (way before we were even engaged) first started exploring basic website design (HTML… not even with CSS), we used to use money-cost-free hosting sites. These sites were usually short on space (5 MB or 20 MB) and completely lacking in reliability (host here today, gone tomorrow). The difference between a “free” and a not “free” host? Banner ads. The “free” host would have a banner ad (usually flashing), and the not “free” host would allow you to make your website look the way you wanted it to.
We soon realized it was worth shelling out to a real web host to get real web space that wouldn’t have a flashing banner ad on it. So now we use ICDSoft to host our websites. It isn’t really that expensive when compared to other things we shell out for (DirectTV, cell phone calls, groceries, bus passes, etc.), and it makes sense that we would pay for it.
Do I want to pay for every site I visit? Of course not. But here’s the thing—most sites want you to visit. They’re not going to charge you to visit the site, because creating any kind of deterent to you visiting the site is contrary to the site’s goals (unless it’s someone’s relatively private blog that she wants only friends and family to see).
Ads are like bonus revenue. “Hey, they happen to be visiting our site anyway. We might as well make some money off of it.” And, really, websites (unlike magazines, TV shows, and movies) are pretty cheap to host. If you’re really that hard up on cash and have something valuable to offer the web-viewing public, how about just putting a nice (and inoffensive-looking) little donation button at the bottom of your page? I’ve donated to sites that are worthwhile.
I’ll be honest. There are a couple of times when Psychocats almost went over its bandwidth limit because of the screenshot tutorials for Ubuntu that I host there. I had a few options:
- Ask for donations.
- Put up ads
- Pay the extra money for the exceeded bandwidth
- Make the tutorials screenshot-less
- Host the images elsewhere
In the grand scheme of things, if people are going to donate money to something Ubuntu-related, I’d rather they donate to the forums or directly to the Ubuntu project. Even though I don’t mind paying for some basic hosting, I don’t want to pay the penalty for exceeding the allocated bandwidth. This is coming out of my own pocket, after all. The whole point of the tutorials is to have screenshots (for most of them, anyway), so I couldn’t get rid of the images. So I ended up hosting the images at ImageShack, which is, of course, ad-funded (partially, at least).
So why is ImageShack okay in my book? For the same reason that Google is okay in my book. ImageShack and Google are not obnoxious about their ads. Google’s ads are text-only and off to the side. ImageShack has ads only if you click on the thumbnail to get a bigger image, and even then the ads are below the image.
That’s what it really boils down to, though. If you’re going to use ads, you need the right balance of content (to draw them in) to advertisements (to keep them away or adblocking). The only reason AdBlock was developed in the first place was the web deteriorating to the point of being nigh-unusable. Flashing banner ads were everywhere. They were covering (on top of) the actual text of news stories. Pop-up ads were popping up, popping under. You expect to see ads in a magazine, but rarely do they have pop-up ads that don’t allow you to read actual magazine articles.
So, no, as both a webmaster and viewer, I do not find anything unethical about blocking advertisements. If your site is worth visiting, charge people actual money, put in unobtrusive ads, or ask for donations… or just suck it up and pay for it yourself.