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Online advertisements: a necessary or unnecessary evil? 
28th-Mar-2010 10:57 am
Ghost Trick, Sissel
A recent entry from a friend regarding online ads has made me wonder just how "necessary" an evil they really are. So naturally, I'm curious as to what your thoughts are on this phenomenon.

Due to length, poll is under the cut. I also apologize that it wasn't very well designed; there were character limits that I had to honor, and it only allows fifteen items per question. =/ I also admit that I am very biased against ads, but maybe this bias is misinformed? YOU GUYS TELL ME. XD (I just ask that you keep your comments respectful; no flaming or name-calling, please.)

Also, just to clarify, I'm mainly talking about ads served from third-party sites, not necessarily those for the original site. I apologize that I neglected to make that distinction there.

Poll #1544251 Online ads

1. Please ticky all that reflect your feelings and thoughts on online ads.

They're a necessary evil; they help keep websites running.
1(1.5%)
There needs to be a better way for websites to raise revenue than imposing ads on their viewers.
0(0.0%)
The text-only ads aren't too bad, since they theoretically cause no harm to the viewer's system and take up little bandwidth.
0(0.0%)
All ads needlessly increase load times and waste bandwidth, especially if the viewer has no interest in purchasing anything based off an online ad.
0(0.0%)
In order to help websites remain free for viewing, people visiting these website should never use ad-blocking software or browser add-ons because such software robs these websites of their revenue.
0(0.0%)
Online ads often contain malware and put all viewers' computers at risk, even if they never click on an ad, so visiting any website without an ad-blocker is foolishness in this day and age.
0(0.0%)
It's the web surfer's responsibility to use a secure web browser with ad-blocking add-ons; if they visit a site they had thought "safe" without these protections, then it's their fault if they got slammed with malware from ads served on that site.
0(0.0%)
It's the web surfer's responsibility to contact the owner of the website and/or their ad-server to inform them of security problems with the ads; these people can't be expected to be perfect!
0(0.0%)
It's the website's and/or ad-server's responsibility to ensure the safety of all delivered content because they're the ones providing a service, and even "safe" sites can mistakenly include ads containing malware.
0(0.0%)
I find online ads useful as a way to get the word out about a product.
0(0.0%)
There are better ways to get the word out about products; there's something called "word of mouth" and "personal LJ pimping," which both entail a trusted friend recommending a product they use and can attest to its safety.
0(0.0%)
I have purchased (or would purchase) something I learned about via an online ad.
0(0.0%)
I would never purchase anything I learned about solely from an online ad; if I'm in the market for something, I would use other methods such as asking trusted friends and relatives or browsing the shelves of my local store.
0(0.0%)
I would never purchase anything advertised in an online ad because I mentally block out ads and/or find them a nuisance.
0(0.0%)
Other (will comment to this entry or answer #2)
0(0.0%)

2. If you tickied "Other" in #1, please explain here (255 character max).

Comments 
28th-Mar-2010 06:02 pm (UTC)
Excerpts of my own comments from elsejournal:

Sorry, but I'll stop ad-blocking only when I can be assured that the ads won't compromise the performance and security of my machine. It was through an ad that was presented on my local newspaper's website (of all sites, and a reputable one at that) that my old workstation (as well as a bunch of other people's workstations) at my previous job got infected with a password-stealing trojan. Granted, we were forced to use IE 6.0 on our workstations at the time, and the built-in pop-up blocker was only marginally effective.

I rarely pay attention to ads unless they: 1. Slow down my browser and/or computer, 2. Obscure parts of the page I need to see, or 3. Force the page to scroll, which is very disruptive. In none of these cases would I be interested in checking out the advertised product. More likely, I'll be far more interested in boycotting it and/or bitching to the advertiser (or the site where the ad appeared).

I'm not saying that advertising doesn't have its place or can't be used for the purposes of good. It's just that all too often, it's abused. Plus, there's nothing like the good old word of mouth and recommendations from trusted folks. This is precisely why I frequently ask folks on my Friends list which products they prefer (especially when it comes to security software). There are just too many scams out there.


Even if the SITE is legit, their ad-server may not be. Or the ad-server can't always reliably filter out malware. Even LiveJournal has been victim to this. You just can't be too safe these days.

Again, after the password-stealing trojan that was dropped by an errant ad on my local newspaper's website (they didn't know about it until after the fact, and it was in the hands of their ad-server), I am not taking any preventable chances.


I always use Firefox whenever possible, although I'm on a PC. At work, we're forced to use IE, for what reason I still have yet to fathom. =/

But when I heard that some malware can be dropped by mere images, that freaked the hell out of me. =/ I don't know quite how that works, but after the trojan incident, as well as the fact I just got my home PC replaced (my old one was so slow that most anti-malware programs wouldn't run on it without having to expand virtual memory), I don't want to take any unnecessary chances with the "new" one.

Maybe ads aren't always a source of malware (although they often are), but I still don't get how wasting bandwidth and slowing down one's machine and adding needless clutter to a page helps raise revenue for someone. If I'm in the market for something, I'll browse the related shelves at the store, poll my friends, or visit the website if I know and reasonably trust the manufacturer (or if a trusted friend has recommended it). Pimpages on Friends pages are great for this (if it's not from some unknown person in a community post).

Yeah, I know I sound really paranoid, but with so many scams out there, you just can't be too safe anymore. =(


Edited at 2010-03-28 06:03 pm (UTC)
28th-Mar-2010 07:04 pm (UTC)
I think it varies too much for me to make unequivocal answers.

Ads for random crap on something like LJ? Always noise, and I'll adblock the heck out of them.

But when I'm actually looking to buy something but don't know what there is out there in the marketplace? A lot of the time, the ads that Google pulls up in those "sponsored results" or whatever, ARE the product I was hoping to find.

Then there's things like some of political blogging sites I'm a member of, where the "ads" are mostly causes and well-targeted products -- with fairly careful screening for appropriateness, no popunders/malware/whatever, etc. Those I don't mind, though it's rare if ever that I click on them.
28th-Mar-2010 08:22 pm (UTC)
*Nodnod* Yeah, I know I simplified things a bit too much here, but that was largely limited by poll limitations and my imagination. XD;

That, plus ads have always had a wonderful capacity to break the display of pages on LiveJournal. The developers do fix this wherever possible, though. Still, I agree: it's just easiest to block all of it and avoid the headache.

That can be true... but just be careful... sometimes those sponsored results contain things you least want. ^^;; I've heard that rogueware applications are notorious for this when someone is looking for anti-malware applications.

Targeted ads aren't nearly as bad, I agree. They can imply an infringement on privacy (especially if they were served due to information from tracking cookies), but that particular case is not really as nefarious as it might sound. And someimes, when looking at games or books on Amazon, I might take a peek at the section that lists other similar products that they have available, although granted, this is on their own site and not served by a third-party ad.
28th-Mar-2010 06:09 pm (UTC)
I wouldn't mind online ads so much if they were for products that interest me. But so often they seem to be for sleezy and useless products that I'd never consider using. Or else they make you follow a zillion links to find out exactly what the product is about and waste your time. I wish ads could be better tailored to the interests of people using the website, but they never seem to be (other than pornsites I suppose.)
30th-Mar-2010 12:07 am (UTC)
Heh, so you're for increased user profiling and tracking by ad companies?

That's the big debate. Targeted ads annoy the users less but mean less privacy. If the ad company doing the targeting is less than trustworthy...
28th-Mar-2010 06:35 pm (UTC)
I must admit, before I had a paid account, I was delighted when an ad on my LJ featured "Ponystars." I haven't joined it or anything, but it looks adorable, and I never would have heard about it otherwise.
28th-Mar-2010 07:25 pm (UTC)
Some ads are worse than others. Gmail ads don't bother me, but the ads that pop up and force you to watch them before you can "continue your experience" are frustrating.

I said I would never buy a product based on the ad, but the truth is, I wouldn't say never. I would say extremely unlikely.

Also, I've gotten some pretty awful trojans/malware/viruses from ads on popular websites. I ad block. I don't mind paying for a good website like LJ, but I'm not taking any chances on the other sites. They will have to find another way to make revenue if they need money to run the site, because as long as there is adblocker, I'll be using it -- for my own protection.

Edited at 2010-03-28 07:26 pm (UTC)
28th-Mar-2010 07:44 pm (UTC)
That person who said that people should never use ad-blocking mods or software is an idiot.
28th-Mar-2010 08:08 pm (UTC)
No name-calling, please. =/

Besides, were this an ideal world, I can understand that view (even if I don't agree with it). I never quite understood how the advertisement model works, but apparently, even just viewing an ad (whether or not you click on it) provides revenue to the site displaying the ad. I guess it's because the viewer could be a potential customer.

I do miss the days of yore when the Internet wasn't a virtual billboard of ads, though. Back then, all we really had to worry about was downloading something that contained a virus (and even then, that could be greatly avoided by simply not going to warez BBSes and such). It's the fact that we even have to arm ourselves even against the most seemingly innocuous of sites in this day and age is what's headwall-worthy.

Edited at 2010-03-28 08:09 pm (UTC)
28th-Mar-2010 08:33 pm (UTC)
I would be far less closed-off about ads if I knew I wasn't risking my computer, bank account, WoW account, whatever, with viruses, trojans, malware, and keyloggers just by viewing ads let alone mousing over or clicking on them.
28th-Mar-2010 08:52 pm (UTC)
Oh, believe me, I am completely with you on that. >.< What makes it suck even worse is that the malware writers tend to be one step ahead of everyone else, so by the time their crapware is detectable, it's already been disseminated and done damage. And the fact that ads are one means of distribution makes it that much more counterproductive to intended purpose of advertising. *Joins your icon in the headbanging*
29th-Mar-2010 11:47 pm (UTC)
It really depends on which ad service. Google ads you only make money if someone clicks on them. Other sites pay you just for impressions.
28th-Mar-2010 08:23 pm (UTC)
I agree with a lot of what's being said above. Viruses really seem to sneak into online ads. Also a lot of time they're loud, distracting, or obnoxious.

Mostly I wanted to add that I think websites are starting to get better at generating revenue through other means; I hope they continue to improve in this area and eventually will be able to ditch ads altogether (although I suppose they might not want to lose a revenue source, no matter how annoying).
29th-Mar-2010 05:20 am (UTC)
My thoughts on ads depend a lot on what kind of site is running them. I'd say my strongest feelings are probably about ads on webcomics, where often the artists and/or writers are doing it as a hobby hosting out of pocket etc.; in cases such as those, they're often paying for the site out of their own money, and the ads help offset that some. So I feel that it is directly harmful to the content creator to block ads in cases such as those, especially in cases where the artist can't afford to keep doing the comic if they don't make enough ad revenue. I'd rather scroll past a few ads if it keeps the content going, but I also don't have a bandwidth cap.

On the other hand, most sites hosted by corporations or big businesses can probably deal with not making much money off ads, so I don't think that's such a big deal.

Given how third-party ad servers work, often site creators don't know if malware is being served until viewers inform them, and most of the time I'd think the creators are just as opposed to those kinds of ads, so they take them down as quickly as possible when reported. But it's hard to filter them out beforehand, and some slip through. I do think ad servers have a responsibility not to serve malware, but many of them do anyway.

I don't generally tend to notice or buy things through ads, although if an interesting enough site is being advertised occasionally I'll click through to it. (I've found several interesting webcomics that way, and some that weren't so great.) I wouldn't buy something without further researching it and other options.

Also, I think the advertising model as we know it may not last forever.

Edited at 2010-03-29 05:21 am (UTC)
29th-Mar-2010 11:52 pm (UTC)
As I posted above, Ads are a necessary evil for providing content free on the web. I would prefer it if nearly all websites would either on their own, or together create networks where you can pay a yearly fee to block all ads from sites that participate in that particular network. Many sites do this already, but unfortunately not all.

I've found that sites that have flash ads tend to have LOTS of flash ads all at once, and in linux that brings my web browsers to their knees.

With a subscription model though, I just hope they never start bringing ads back in later. That's what happened with Cable TV. Initially, cable was an ad free medium aside from retransmitted over the air content... They added the Ads later after they had everyone hooked.

For example, if Hulu charged $3 or $5 a month for full season back episodes with no ads, I'd probably subscribe to it just to get rid of the ads...
1st-Apr-2010 12:27 am (UTC)
I have deliberately shopped at a site because I saw its ad on one of thehungersite group of charities pages. I usually ignore advertising, but pay attention to it when I am looking at ads for the sake of a charity, especially as paying attention to the ads and buying stuff from them helps to encourage web sites to advertise on charity web sites.
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