I use an ad blocker in my browser, but lately I’ve been unblocking ads on the small-time sites I follow.
The old-car site Curbside Classic was first to be unblocked, when the site’s owner explained last year how ads kept the site barely afloat. It’s one of my favorite places to visit on the Internet, and I wanted to see it continue.
Now that I’m seeing some ads, I rather like that they’re targeted. My online shopping and some of my searches are reflected in ads all the time. It’s a whole lot better than random advertising for stuff I would never buy. People worry about how Google and the other online ad services use the information they track, but I don’t understand why. I don’t think they care about anyone’s Internet history. Nobody’s peeking. Tracking is just an electronic means to a profitable end.
But there’s still more to dislike than to like about online ads. Sites cram ads in everywhere they can, making it hard to find and follow the content. Too often, ads pop up over content (and on a phone can be hard or impossible to clear), or automatically play video. And the ad infrastructure slows sites way down and crams computers full of trackers. I consider these things to be abuses, and a tacit admission that the online advertising business model is broken. There are even well-reasoned arguments on respected sites about why blocking ads is ethical. So I block ads on most sites I visit, and I don’t feel bad about it.
Yet I do feel bad about depriving individuals and independent groups of the few cents my pageviews could bring. So as long as their sites limit the abuses, I unblock ads on them.
If you don’t block ads, you might notice that a single ad now appears after each post here on Down the Road. I signed up for WordPress’s WordAds program and was accepted. You see, I’m a small-time Internet publisher who now wants to fund his site.
Down the Road costs little to run: $64.20 per year for a couple paid WordPress.com features and for the jimgrey.net domain. My photography, which is this site’s focus, cost more than $1,100 last year, however.
I’m economizing. The bill for sending my older son to college is growing considerably this fall, and in 2017 my younger son starts college. I’m looking at a number of ways to save money to bear the college burden. If running ads here can offset the costs of running this blog in a way that limits the abuses of online advertising, I’m going to try it.
And as far as I can tell, WordAds does limit those abuses. My blog template allows exactly one ad per page. And WordAds allows no popups, video ads don’t automatically play, and my site seems to be as fast as ever. But I’m sure these ads are placing trackers on your computer. You can’t have it all.
Because ad rates fluctuate and you can’t predict who’s blocking ads, the WordAds people are cagey about how much this will pay. But I found a couple sites that run WordAds and have divulged their payouts, and used that info to do some quick and dirty calculations. It leads me to think that this should at least pay the blog’s costs, and maybe a little more. Any help I get offsetting the costs of my photography will be better than nothing.
And so I hope that if you block ads, you’ll whitelist Down the Road. But if you don’t, I’ll understand. Each of us has to draw the line somewhere.