Why Web Designers Should Not Use Ad Blockers


Editor’s Note

This post is an article from our new series of “opinion columns,” in which we give people in the Web design community a platform to raise their voice and present their opinion on something they feel strongly about to the community. Please note that the content in this series is not in any way influenced by the Smashing Magazine Editorial team. If you want to publish your article in this series, please send us your thoughts1 and we will get back to you.

— Vitaly Friedman, Editor in Chief of Smashing Magazine

I’ll start this article with a positive statement: Most people frequenting the web design community (whether they are casual readers or regular design bloggers doing research) understand that nothing is truly free (not even content2), and appreciate the fact that many blogs, design resources, and tech news sites rely on advertising to keep them afloat.

Ad Blockers: Evil?

But unfortunately, not everyone gets this, and not everyone understands that with some viral pushing of certain trends and ideas, we as a community could be inadvertently shooting ourselves in the foot while we try to make our own browsing experience less ad-intrusive, and more comfortable.

Because of the advent of social media and the apparent ease with which trends, habits, and ideas can be spread, and because of the incredible speed with which such ideas can be spread, the mere discussion of ads being too intrusive on web design blogs could cause a serious problem in a presently-thriving community.

Ad Blockers Hinder the Community

The design blogging community would not be what it is today without ads. It’s true that you could make the argument that much of the trash and superficial design writing online wouldn’t exist without the support of advertisements, but that is just a natural byproduct of mass media. Infomercials would not exist if ABC3 and the Discovery Channel4 didn’t exist. But that doesn’t mean ABC and the Discovery Channel never produce quality content. The bad content will always exist if money is involved — but that doesn’t make the financial benefits necessarily evil.

We should be proud that we are part of a community whose advertisements are often from high-quality software and app development companies. Many of these companies have worked hard to produce useful and beautiful products that assist us immensely in our workflow. Many of such products are offered free of charge, with pay options for enhanced versions. You don’t find that kind of thing very often in other media, so we should be willing to support our advertisers fully, and should from time to time take a look at the products they offer and, if we genuinely find them useful, share them with our contacts.

Ad Blockers Promote a Me-First Attitude

Nothing succeeds when individuals are selfish. Ultimately, selfishness will lead to demise because a community cannot truly thrive if the individuals that comprise it are only in it for themselves. When you choose to block ads while you surf the web, you’re basically saying “I only care about my own comfort, and I don’t want anyone else to benefit from my web surfing.” It’s a shame that any web designer would have that attitude.

What would happen if ad blocker plugins started spreading like wildfire throughout the design community, rendering virtually all ads useless? That would be a terrible thing, and would effectively destroy many of our favorite blogs, and would negatively impact many of the very people in the community we claim to be “friends” with.

Ad Blockers Could Cause a Mini “dot com bust”

I’m in no position to intelligently analyze the dot com bubble burst5 or “dot com bust” of the late 90s, but if we promote an “everything should be free” industry, then we’re just setting ourselves up for something similar.

To get an idea of the type of revenue streams that we’re hindering when we use an ad blocker, go to the BuySellAds “buy ads” page6 and do a search for any of the top design blogs, then click on the “more details” link to view the amount of money that advertisers are willing to pay for a simple square or rectangular ad on many of these websites.

Sure, you can have a negative, selfish view of this, thinking that these sites are getting rich because of your web browsing, but that would be a terrible attitude to have. No, these advertisers are not making these website owners rich, they’re putting thousands of dollars into the design community, which is positively affecting all of us.

If we ignore the contribution these advertisers are making, we could inadvertently cause our own little bubble to burst. That’s why it really upsets me when I see design blogs promoting the use of ad blockers, and even worse when I see design bloggers writing about blogs being too ugly because of ads.

Ad Blockers Make the Web Less Real

When I worked for a big design agency here in Toronto, I almost always used Internet Explorer for my browsing. My co-workers didn’t understand why I used IE so much. Mainly I did so because I was used to it from years of using IE6. But it was also great because it gave me a realistic view of the web, because I saw things the way our clients did. What does this have to do with ad blockers?

An ad blocker reduces your ability (if only slightly) to design with your clients’ needs in mind. With ads showing through in full force, you’ll always see things the way they’re intended, and, as mentioned, you’ll be supporting the quality ads that have helped build our community.

Ad Blockers Shouldn’t Be Used (for Quality Blogs)

As a community, we should take a stand against any person or blog that promotes the use of plugins or other methods that effectively take money out of the pockets of the very people who are willing to put money into our community. I wrote this article because I saw a tweet promoting a roundup of Google Chrome extensions, one of which was an ad blocker. I found a few of the extensions useful, but I wouldn’t bother promoting the roundup myself because I don’t want to promote the use of such a plugin.

If you run a web design blog, don’t promote the use of these browser plugins, and don’t complain about the amount of ads that appear on your favorite blogs — because you probably wouldn’t even know about those blogs if they didn’t have ads on them. Instead, have a balanced view7 of ads on design blogs, and help support the community by using the products and services that our advertisers are selling (or in some cases, generously giving away).

Some Useful Related Links

Poll: Do You Use an Ad Blocker?


  1. 1 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/contact/index.php/form
  2. 2 http://incisive.nu/2010/content-is-not-free/
  3. 3 http://abc.go.com/
  4. 4 http://dsc.discovery.com/
  5. 5 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dot-com_bubble#The_bubble_bursts
  6. 6 http://buysellads.com/buy
  7. 7 http://www.drawar.com/articles/dont-let-ads-kill-your-site/
  8. 8 http://css-tricks.com/video-screencasts/78-on-web-advertising/
  9. 9 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2009/06/19/ad-management-plugins-and-tutorials-for-managing-ads-on-your-website/
  10. 10 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2008/12/03/online-advertising-and-its-impact-on-web-design/
  11. 11 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2010/02/12/successful-strategies-for-selling-ad-space-on-low-traffic-websites/
  12. 12 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2010/04/12/the-path-to-advertising-nirvana/
  13. 13 http://polldaddy.com/poll/3343287/
  14. 14 http://polldaddy.com/features-surveys/

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Louis Lazaris is a freelance web developer and author based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs about front-end code on Impressive Webs and curates Web Tools Weekly, a weekly newsletter for front-end developers.

  1. 1

    I am actually blocking all kind of ads, not because they are annoying but to load the pages faster. My connexion is not that fast and i can’t bear waiting several minutes just to load few content with lots of ad around.
    So who are selfish ? Those who block the ads to make “their internet faster” or those who just dont care how slow our connexion can be and make huge page full of ads even when the content is just about few lines of text ?

  2. 52

    Certainly I can’t be the only one who thinks this opinion piece is approaching the issue from completely the wrong angle. What I’ve gotten from this article is that because someone designs for the web, they are automatically burdened with both the responsibility for providing others with revenue, as well as sacrificing their personal comfort as an internet user. As a concept, this is completely counter-productive, as web designers are not the only people who use ad blockers. Naturally I don’t have statistics at hand, but it’s a fair assumption that most people who use ad blockers are not members of the design community.

    It would then follow that as designers, we should be designing and developing methods for creating revenue with this in mind. Many internet users employ ad blockers; that is simply a fact. It makes better business sense to work on innovation around this concept than malign that reality isn’t shaping up the way you’d prefer. Asking users to sacrifice the comfort of their browsing experience is quite frankly ridiculous and unrealistic, regardless of their vocation.

  3. 103

    Ads on the web are intrusive, annoying, and far to pushed into everyone’s face. Until this changes—keep blocking them.

  4. 154

    If adverts didn’t have such an adverse effect on computer performance, they wouldn’t be so bad to start with – the more flash adverts a page is loaded with, the worse its performance gets (to the point on some that its not usable). Plenty of people don’t have the latest and greatest computers, ad blockers make the internet usable again for these type of machines.

  5. 205

    Until ads stop being ugly, intrusive, misleading and generally worthless, I will always use adblock.

  6. 256

    There’s more than one way to skin a cat. If the provision of ads was (in general) more relevant then I would be happy to leave them unblocked. This trend is beginning but it’s slow to develop as I’m still not over the buzzing mosquito.

    Why should I pay attention to poorly written affiliate link ads when all I want is to read the article? Ads are supposed to work by attraction. The interest in social marketing is, in part, a reaction to the mistrust of push advertising.

    What will happen if all this content goes behind paywalls, even if they are micropayment based? Will people pay for these design blog posts? If this is where we’re going all these blog owners are going to have to up their game. No more cannibalised top 10 lists and rehashed tutorials.

  7. 307

    I wish I was using an ad blocker when watching the England vs USA game on ITV HD, bloody advert was run exactly when we scored…

    Just proves adverts are useless :D

  8. 358

    Yes, we all love free content, and blogs/magazine sites love to give us free content. And yes, those sites need to find a way of being able to offer that free content without going out of business. But if your website’s entire existence relies upon being able to serve up ads to your visitors, then you are doing something very wrong.

    By its very nature free content is free. You can’t monetise free. What you can do, however, is find alternative revenue streams to supplement your free offerings. The two obvious examples are merchandise (Smashing Magazine has its merchandise, including the increasing number of books that are being released) and premium content (Chris Spooner, among others, recently introduced a “premium” area for people who want to pay for premium content).

    The trick is to figure out non-intrusive ancilliaries are available to you (or come up with some of your own!) and develop them effectively.

    Chucking eyes at the same BuySellAds that I saw on the previous 5 sites I visited is not a good business model, and it WILL come and bite you in the ass.

  9. 409

    all users of the internet should be able to choose what they want to see and what they do not want to see. period.

    i’ll tell you, tho, as a web developer who uses ad-block plus, i have no idea what the internet actually looks like anymore. i’m okay with that!

    • 460

      Benito Aramando

      June 14, 2010 7:19 am

      You are free to do that, but the point is that there are moral issues around you exercising that freedom.

      • 511

        You’re confusing morals with economics. A sense of entitlement to money based on your own perceived value of your work is probably what’s caused that.

        • 562

          Benito Aramando

          June 14, 2010 8:28 am

          I’m actually a salaried web developer, so I have no personal investment in this issue. However, I have empathy for content producers of all kinds who, although we recognise they have no entitlement to money for their work, do unfairly suffer the economic consequences of consumers who seem to feel they have an entitlement to free content, which of course they do not. I view this as a moral issue because it is; just because it is possible to take something without giving anything back does not mean it is a fair thing to do.

          • 613

            Blocking advertisement does not equal a sense of entitlement. The content is free, coupled with easily blocked advertisements. In fact, most ads can even be disabled by simply disabling javascript. With the possibility of users viewing a site in any number of browsers and formats, it’s the responsibility of the person running the blog to block ad blocking users if they do not actually wish to distribute free content, but *free content (with ads). Many others have compared this experience to watching television. They can’t guarantee you’ll sit and watch the commercial, or even allow the commercial to play on your TV (Tivo, skipping to another station, etc.), and attempting to enforce it could severely affect their viewer base. Getting up to get another beer while the same annoying TV ads run is not a moral decision. They’ve paid for the potential viewing of their ads.

            It’s not a moral issue, it’s a matter of “Will the actual value (not self-perceived value) and success of my services/product sustain a paid subscription or forced advertisement (adblock users blocked) model?” If the answer is no, the market has done its job and it might be back to the drawing board for the aspiring design blogger. Sites that are able to adapt by either not being large enough to cost more than they make, or by using a different business model like paid subscriptions, will survive. Those that aren’t able to adapt will “die.” Feel free to play the blame game and try to bring morality into the argument to justify failure, but the success of a website is the sole responsibility of those who run it.

        • 664

          Benito Aramando

          June 15, 2010 3:00 am

          [Reply to your next post] No, blocking ads does not equal a sense of entitlement, but it’s clear from a lot of the comments here that that is what ad blocking often goes hand in hand with. I’m just surprised how many people are *completely* at ease with enjoying the benefits of free content without feeling *any* sense of obligation to reciprocate through the simple act of allowing a few innocuous ads to display on their screen, especially so when we’re talking about content that is part of a community. Where’s the sense of fairness? That’s where morals come into it, and if people still can’t see how it can be viewed as a moral issue then I suggest they look up the meaning of “moral”. You obviously take a much more hard-line capitalist view than I do, though, which is fine, and you are able to support your position with sound arguments, but quite a lot of people come across as taking their position for purely selfish reasons. Some people may also feel that they reciprocate in less direct ways, by contributing their own resources to a community, and again, that’s fine.

          BTW blocking web ads is not the same as ignoring or skipping TV ads. The TV company still gets paid by the advertisers. The equivalent would be to not block web ads but just ignore them. The point is that it shifts the loss from the advertiser to the content provider, although some might say “so what’s the difference?”, and they may well have a point.

          Anyway, I’m just arguing a principle here. I really don’t think blocking ads is a big deal, just *very slightly* selfish. I haven’t bothered to whitelist ad-serving domains in my NoScript or anything!

          • 715

            Actually it’s exactly the same as my TV example. Viewing the ads and simply ignoring them would be akin to sitting at your TV watching the commercials but not paying attention to them, talking to family members, etc. while they’re playing with the sound on. Getting up to go get a snack while the commercials run is exactly the same as using an ad blocker. You know you’re not interested in the ads, so you don’t even allow them to assault your senses in the first place. There’s nothing selfish about limiting the influence marketing/advertisers have on your life in any sense.

          • 766

            Benito Aramando

            June 15, 2010 11:05 am

            Totally agree with your last statement, Paul, but your comparison with TV ads remains flawed. I believe I’m right in saying that a lot of web ads are pay-per-display, as opposed to pay-per-click. When you block ads that are pay-per-display you actively deprive the website owner of revenue, whilst at the same time you have cost them some (admittedly very small, or even just notional) amount of money by visiting their site. You make a distinction between seeing TV ads and paying no attention, and not seeing them at all (e.g. by moving to another room), but in truth *whatever* you do while they are on, the TV company still gets paid, which is not the same outcome as when you block pay-per-display web ads.

          • 817

            In the case of pay per display (where the adverts are typically loaded and tracked via javascript), where do you make the distinction between someone who’s using ad blocking software vs. someone who simply doesn’t have javascript enabled? Is it the responsibility of JS disabled users to enable Javascript to ensure that the sites they visit receive maximum advertising revenue? Where do you draw the line between the responsibility of the users and the business owners?

            Furthermore, why is it okay for you to walk out on a commercial and allow the advertisers to falsely pay the television station for exposure? Isn’t it dishonest to allow the advertiser to pay for an ad spot and then allow a false positive to be recorded when no one was actually around to watch it? Why is it okay for advertisers to take the calculated financial risk of paying for potential exposure but not for blog owners to take the risk of time and money spent on providing free content coupled with the potential for advertising revenue?

          • 868

            Benito Aramando

            June 15, 2010 2:54 pm

            I don’t see the need to make any such distinctions in the first place; if some people don’t receive ads for whatever reason then that’s that, and it doesn’t greatly matter. I don’t make judgements of people who actively block web ads and I certainly have no criticism of those who don’t receive them as a by-product of some other measure, such as using NoScript. My basic point has been, and remains, that unlike turning over when the ads come on TV or ignoring a billboard, preventing web ads from displaying hurts the provider of the content that you are benefitting from, and so jason kuhn’s idea that web users should just do what they please all the time without regard for its effect on other people or some sub-community of the web doesn’t sit right with me. Since this article is a discussion pertaining to the providers of web content I’m not really interested in the welfare of the advertisers right now.

          • 919

            Great time to say you can’t make a distinction.

            I’ll ask again: Why is it okay for advertisers to take the calculated financial risk of paying for potential exposure but not for blog owners to take the risk of time and money spent on providing free content coupled with the potential for advertising revenue? You don’t feel right about web users doing what they want, which implies that you feel that they hold some responsibility in the success of a design blog.

      • 970

        If you think there are “moral issues” to using an adblocker, then you’re an idiot. I say that with a clean conscience… because it’s truth.

        • 1021

          Benito Aramando

          June 15, 2010 1:27 am

          There’s no need to resort to name-calling. It’s not my fault you can’t understand the issues.

          • 1072

            Well I hope you see a priest every time you fast forward through DVR’ed commercials, or skip past the “Coming Soon” ads on a DVD you own. I hope to god you stop your car and marvel at every billboard on the side of the road, and open and read every peice of junk mail or spam… I mean… you wouldn’t want to be “immoral” or anything…

            Believe me, I’m not “resorting” to calling you an idiot… I’m calling you an idiot because I truly believe you’re an idiot.

        • 1123

          Benito Aramando

          June 15, 2010 10:34 am

          If you were a more civilised, agreeable person you would have kept your crude opinion of me to yourself and used reasoned argument to demonstrate how, in your view, I was wrong, but it seems you are either too lazy or inarticulate to do that.

          Can you seriously not comprehend the difference between not passively taking in an advert on TV or a billboard, which makes no difference to anyone, and actively preventing the sender of some information, which they have incurred a cost to produce and supply you with, from receiving remuneration for doing so? Because your ridiculous last reply suggests as much, with its completely inappropriate examples.

          Whenever your actions impact on other people, there are moral considerations. I really hope you understand this already. They may be trivial, but they are there nonetheless. That’s what I mean by “moral issues”. I don’t mean it’s necessarily a “bad” thing, equivalent to defrauding vulnerable old-age pensioners, just that it’s about more than just our own selfish desires, and people should at least be aware of that.

  10. 1225

    thanx for reminding me/us of that important topic. I guess an adblock-detection function and thereby a message “please whitelist us to support this blog/mag” would be helpful for people and companys like yours.

    I instantly wanted to de-blocked you, but got lost in ADblock-plus… any hints welcome

  11. 1276

    I don’t have problems with normal banners that “blend” into the layout of a site and are unobstrusive.
    But what I really hate are those bloody layer ads. So I tend to leave my ad-blocker deactivated on most sites and add manual rules whenever I come across a site with a layer ad more or less frequently.

  12. 1327

    The internet has opened a whole new world to marketers. They can create ads that are more engaging and relevant to a specific user, instead of simply building towards a set demographic.

    Unfortunately, like a lot of other industries, many of these individuals have failed because they approached advertising on the web with a traditional mindset. In my experience (and my own personal viewpoint), if the ads are engaging and relevant, I don’t want to block them. If they aren’t, they become this annoyance that hurts my productivity.

    Your view that everyone takes a “me-first” attitude and how that is wrong means that you are missing the bigger picture. Everyone has a “me-first” attitude… you do. You wrote this article to express your personal opinion and, in the end, hopefully protect some of your ad revenue. It is a fundamental tenant of economics that everyone works in their own self interest. At the end of the day, everyone working the betterment of themselves yields benefits to all through innovation and building collective knowledge of best practices.

    A marketer who is unable to create ads that work will lose his/her job. One that can build an ad experience that is worthy of shutting down an ad blocker will make a ton of money and others will copy their success leading to better ads for all of us.

  13. 1378

    I use ad blockers and install them on everyone’s pc I know. I am a HUGE advocate of them, and this article has done absolutely nothing to change my mind. why? Because adblockers are more effective than virus scanners. I’d had a couple of family members and friends that constantly got viruses no matter now many virus scanners I installed with automatic updates. I installed Firefox with adblocking and they have yet to get another virus.

    Until sites start hosting advertisements on their own servers and taking full responsibility for any and all malicious code in ads, I will never ever allow you to make one penny of revenue off me or anyone else I know, unless you care to reimburse me and those I know or all the lost time and damages these ads have caused.

  14. 1429

    Ad-blocking is content piracy – fact.

    It’s one thing to use ad-blockers, it’s another to try and defend the use of them as some sort of right. It’s the same sorts of arguments we hear from software/movie/music pirates to rationalize their theft.

    That said – I’m not here to stand on some sort of high horse. I’ve downloaded my share of torrents. I’ve blocked my share of ads…. but I’m in no way kidding myself that what I’m doing is somehow my right or justified. I can get away with it, it’s more convenient for ME, I’ll pay for what I find valuable, I’ll steal what I don’t if it’s easier. Most people are of this mindset, but aren’t honest with themselves about it.

    These days I simply use a Flash blocker. 99.9% of annoying or intrusive ads are Flash based. I find this is an easy way to “punish” publishers of annoying/intrusive ads without hindering sites that use tasteful placement and static graphics.

  15. 1480

    Would you like some cheese with that whine? I use ADblock because I don’t like ads. If I didn’t use an ad blocker, I still wouldn’t click on the ad! so whats the point?

    • 1531

      …because not all advertising is “Pay per Click” based. There are plenty of “Pay per Impression” ads that pay out based on the number of “views” an ad gets. Blocking the ad limits the number of views, which de-values the ad placement.

      • 1582

        James @ June 14th, 2010 7:13: “…not all advertising is “Pay per Click” based. There are plenty of “Pay per Impression” ads that pay out based on the number of “views” an ad gets. Blocking the ad limits the number of views, which de-values the ad placement.”

        But, that being said, people using AdBlocker, who are less likely to click on advertisements anyway, no longer getting being counted in the impressions statistic, would, by logical extension, most likely drive up the click-through ratio and thereby increase the value of the placement in those terms, would they not?

        • 1633

          Are you honestly trying to suggest that ad blockers can increase the profits a website makes?

          • 1684

            @Tomer: June 17th, 2010 4:35 pm
            Are you honestly trying to suggest that ad blockers can increase the profits a website makes?

            I am simply stating that, from a statistics perspective, the use of adblockers would should increase the percentage of clicks to impressions.

            For instance, if, without adblockers, 100 people see the advert, but, 20 of those people (being, for round figures, the percentage of people who use adblockers) completely ignore it. And, we’ll also take, for arguments-sake, that 10 people click on the advert out of those 100 impressions, giving a click-through-rate of 10%.

            The same instance, with those 20 people ignoring adverts now using adblockers, you now have those 10 click-throughs from 80 impressions, giving a click-through-rate of 12.5%.

  16. 1735

    An interesting article and discussion. I am a web developer and I use AdBlocker. I also tend to include AdBlocker into the Firefox installs I do for clients, friends and families. I do not make any income through any advertisements shown on any of my websites.

    [Now that I have made my details somewhat clear.]

    I disagree with this article’s suggestion that, as a consumer of online material, people should not use adblocking software/plugins as they deny the content provider/host with an income stream.

    AdBlocks, for the most part, and in my opinion, were almost an essential response by regular internet users to a growing torrent of online advertising. The number of websites which were utilising advertising in deceptive manners (styled in such a way as to suggest that they were part of the site’s content, rather than an external and paid-for advert), disruptive fashions (where the display of advertising has a detrimental effect on the user experience) or, in some cases, almost outweighed the “content” of the page.

    So, I started using an AdBlocker – pages loaded faster, my bandwidth usage was reduced, and the online world became something that I could enjoy once again, without being bombarded with crud.

    The old (and in some cases, current) nature of online advertising has, for too long, and too widely, degraded into something which would not be accepted in other forms of mass media. If, for instance, I was watching TV and the shows I was wanting to watch were interrupted every 3 minutes by advertisements, I would be upset. If those advertisements featured the same cast and characters as the show which they were injected into, I would be upset. If, during the very limited content between those advertisements, I was hounded by scrolling adverts and teasers along the bottom of the image, I would be upset.

    Don’t get me wrong – I contribute financially to a number of sites, through purchasing books and products, through donations (especially to Open Source initiatives which I use in my work), but I do not see the point in turning off my AdBlocker and degrading my online experience for a negligible return to the content providers.

    I also agree with some of the above posters, who make the point that, even as this is an opinion piece, it’s publication through SmashingMagazine does suggest their support for the views stated in the article. I understand that may not be the case, and the purpose of this article may be to offer one viewpoint on the topic, however, if that was truly the case, I believe that a joint article, showing both sides of the topic, would have been better received.

    I do also see the point raised by another poster, that removing the ability for visitors making comment to post their URLs, and the stated request of “…do not advertise!” does not seem inline with the underlying theme of this article, which, in my reading is, do not deny online citizens their ability to create income through growing and monetising traffic. Preventing people who are adding to the value of this site, from gaining a return in value through linking, if anything, I believe, is a greater offence than people visiting sites using AdBlockers.

    Regardless, and in all honesty, if a designer/developer/owner wants to prevent access to their site for people using AdBlocker, there are, of course, methods to do so, or to show “nag” messages to people using them. Not that I would recommend that, as, with so many sites out there, none are irreplaceable, but, if you truly feel strongly about this topic, then do something about it, rather than trying to guilt trip all and sundry into changing our (admittedly, Me-First) behaviours.

  17. 1786

    People use advert blockers for several reasons:

    1. They are incredibly distracting – some adverts remind me of a 70’s disco ball.
    2. Adverts that hijack my page with their pop out flyover videos – very annoying.
    3. In fact, any sort of video in an advert at all – this isn’t YouTube.
    4. Adverts that install spyware or other nasties – why should I trust ads from networks that condone this?
    5. Adverts that deliberately attempt to mimic the website they’re on.
    6. Adverts are irrelevant or repetitive. Looking at this page right now, I see 2 PSD2HTML services, 2 email marketing contacts, and two particularly annoying and gaudy “ESSENTIAL INSPIRATION” advertisements. I feel that promoting similar services (especially right next to each other) is a bad move, as it dilutes the value of each advert.

    If all advertising networks published ads that weren’t annoying, deceitful, repetitive and actually meaningful to me, then I might be considered to uninstall my ad blocker.

    There are very few sites that I have white listed – SM is one of them, because occasionally there is a single tidbit of information I find useful.

    [ Off-topic: Did you know, I bought the book too? ]

    See what I did there?

    As I recall, this topic has come up on SM before, and I said roughly the same thing – adverts are failing at their job because they’re just not relevant enough – and the duplication of adverts seriously dilutes their value. Instead of 10 mediocre adverts, why not have 5 super awesome adverts that really are relevant. Have them rotate so they’re fresh.

    And what would be really awesome? If those 5 adverts weren’t the same 5 adverts that I see on every other website on the internet that focuses on a similar topic.

  18. 1837

    Just looking at the SM ads on this page. Design to XHTML, PSD to CSS, free Flash websites…

    If you offered something of worth to your readers, you’d probably get more clickthroughs. All I see here are the same, tired, boring ads that appear on all design blogs. I see them so often that I hardly notice them anymore. And as a professional web designer; I’d never use any on those services.

    • 1888

      I don’t support Ad Block but I do agree that most of the ads on Smashing Magazine are ridiculously irrelevant to me. Three of them are useful to me but I barely notice them because they are surrounded by services I would never use.

      I think Smashing Magazine needs to cut down on the number of ads they show, the side bar could be extremely valuable if it were only one or two big ads instead of eleven small ones.

    • 1939

      Regardless of the fact that you find those ads pointless, those companies are still willing to pay good money to be on there. So my point is, let them be on there, let them have their impressions, even if you don’t find them particularly useful. I think it’s a small sacrifice to make that will ultimately keep the money from those advertisers coming into our community.

      • 1990

        Are they paying good money to have the ads displayed? If so, me paying attention to them doesn’t matter; they’re still paying SM for the ad placement. Or are they paying by the referral? The adverts to the right of this article all seem to have referral ID’s attached to them. Making me think they pay by the click. If they’re paying for the click, or the conversion then no wonder they aren’t making any money, these ads are useless to me (and most of the readers of this blog).

        Like I said, give me something I’m interested in and I’ll check it out, throw me the same irrelevant adverts I see on EVERY SINGLE design blog and I’m going to ignore them.

        Banner ad’s are obtrusive, old hat and clearly don’t work. So adopt (for example) the Envato method. If your content is worth paying for, people will pay for more of it. if not, they won’t. Evolve or die.

        • 2041

          If banner ads don’t work, then why are people paying thousands for them? Come on, Pete. Just because you personally would never click one does not mean they don’t work.

          • 2092

            So then why does it matter if I, as a designer use an ad blocker? This is a personal thing, I don’t click on banner ads, so it’s irrelevant to the blog owner as to whether I block them or not. If they worked so well, then why the need for ad blockers in the first place?

            Web designers, by nature are web-savvy. We’ve seen these same, boring useless ads for products we don’t use day in, day out, seven days a week. If a blog thinks that sticking up the same ad scripts from the same affiliate networks as the next design blog I visit is acceptable, I’m going to block them; because I’m sick of looking at them. Your audience are creative, show some acknowledgment of this and get creative with your advertising.

            Take your own website for example. You have a nasty, flashing animated banner advertising link building. Is this a product you’d recommend to a close friend? It it something you’d advise a family member to get? If I can see a legitimate reason for you advertising a product, something you believe in and rate then (if I respect your opinion) I’ll check it out, if not, I’ll just assume you’ve set up a blog to garner some traffic and sell some ad space.

            You have ADVERTS on your web design services page FFS. Is really an acceptable professional level to be working to?

          • 2143

            I realised I’ve been dismissing the banner model without offering any alternatives other than the Envato model.

            Check out Ken Rockwell’s website. I respect his opinion on camera products, he’s fair and unbiased. I’ve purchased lenses based on his reviews, and as a little footnote on each page, he’ll link to the product he’s reviewed with an Amazon affiliate link. I’ve actually gone out of my way to buy a lens via one of these links, because I’ve been using his website for years. He’s built up a level of trust.

    • 2194

      I agree with Pete, I’m a customer of MailChimp and iStockphoto (so I’m not gonna click them) and the other services are totally useless, so it doesn’t matter if I see the banners or not.

  19. 2245

    I’m a completely regular internet user who just happens to be interested in design.

    And I never use Internet Explorer.

    And I always use AdBlock Plus. And NoScript.

    Among my acquaintances even _casual_ users don’t use IE, and they _all_ use some kind of adblocking software.

    For many reasons. Too many ads come with spyware or viruses. And of course they are ugly, obnoxious, and distract from what I’ve come to a site for. No one in their right mind will look at ads if they can avoid it, unless they want to support a certain website that way.

    If you are a designer, you’re not designing for me if you plaster space for idiot ads everywhere into your designs.

  20. 2296

    This guy is nuts ‘dont use ad blockers because I lose money’. Not really, good people making their advertising contracts get most of their money from impressions not clicks. Most of the adblockers still load the ads but hide them from showing up on the page. So people still get paid.

    Ads are blocked because people arent responsible for the content of the ads (inappropriate or malicious ads).

    If a site is shown to show responsible ad usage, then people can unblock sites but otherwise ad revenue, based on clicks, is just the owner setting up a bad contract.

    • 2347


      I’m not sure if you’re correct about the impressions still counting even when the ads are blocked. Maybe someone who knows how the software works would know better. I have never tried an ad blocker, so I wouldn’t know.

      If you’re right, then the ad blockers are even worse than I thought, because now the advertisers are paying for nonexistent impressions. That would be worse than no impressions, because it’s money wasted with no potential return on the investment.

      • 2398

        WTF??!? Your main argument was “I just want to defend the design community so we can still get free content”!

        I mean, right above, you’re saying “Regardless of the fact that you find those ads pointless, those companies are still willing to pay good money to be on there. So my point is, let them be on there, let them have their impressions, even if you don’t find them particularly useful. I think it’s a small sacrifice to make that will ultimately keep the money from those advertisers coming into our community.”.

        So you’ve explicitly said you don’t give a damn about the ads being useful to advertisers, and now you’re claiming that adblockers are even worse than you thought “because it’s money wasted with no potential return on the investment”… I am speechless facing so much inconsistency :-|

        > I have never tried an ad blocker, so I wouldn’t know.
        That’s called researching a subject before writing a piece about it. But your article already showed you didn’t do that, since you didn’t explain a single bit _why_ would people start using adblockers in the first place, neither drew any comparison with pop-up blockers that are now built in all browsers…

        • 2449

          Matti, my point was that one person finding them pointless would not mean they were actually pointless. I’m saying by allowing the impressions, we show support for the advertisers. I never meant to say that I don’t care about the value of the ads.

          The point is: the advertisers themselves feel the ads are valuable to their marketing efforts, and they support the community with their money. That’s a GOOD THING! Why should we change that for our own selfish interests?

  21. 2500

    The problem isn’t the end-users who use ad-blockers. Don’t blame us.

    The problem is the publishers who insist on heavy, obtrusive, Flash ads.

    If the ads weren’t so obtrusive and in your face, users would have little reason to block them.

  22. 2551

    Benito Aramando

    June 14, 2010 7:55 am

    The irony of all these ad-haters blocking onscreen adverts is that they are actually doing the advertisers a favour. Given that they are generally not the type to even look at ads, let alone click on them, if they were to allow them to show then the advertisers would have a higher view:conversion ratio, and therefore see a poorer return on their advertising investment. It *might* even make enough of a difference to stop them bothering to advertise at all!

    My position is that blocking ads is a *slightly* selfish act. Admittedly I do it myself, however, albeit only as a side effect of using NoScript for security (and note I have taken the altruistic step of whitelisting Google Analytics). About those who do it deliberately I am pragmatic; advertisers have a habit of shooting themselves in the foot by going too far for attention, and you can’t blame people for wanting to block ads given some of the abominations we’ve seen. I no longer hear TV ads because they have cranked up the relative volume to levels I can no longer bear, which is a major own goal in my view. That said, I don’t really have any time for people so rabidly opposed to all advertising on the web that they won’t even accept the legitimacy of a few unobtrusive text ads. So what if they always offer the same products or services?! Just ignore them! Who are you to tell providers of free content that you enjoy how they can or cannot support their efforts!?

    • 2602


      You actually bring up a good point about conversion ratios. But I think most advertisers would welcome AdBlockers being banned because their impressions would increase. Many of them are not as concerned about immediate click-throughs, but more about long-term branding and recognition.

  23. 2653

    I haven’t owned a TV in years. I just use Netflix. I barely watch Hulu anymore because of the ads. I really do hate ads.

    The reason why I whitelist Smashing Magazine is because some of the ads are quite useful services and products.
    When ads are targeted to me and they not distracting from the content I will whitelist a website.

    Why don’t you remind people to whitelist your site and stop displaying that horrible ad with the flashing green letters!

  24. 2704

    WCAG 2.0, 2.2.2 (level A):
    “For any moving, blinking or scrolling information […], there is a mechanism for the user to pause, stop, or hide it […]”

    Adblocking fixes this fundamental accessibility problem many Web sites commit. So I’d like all you privileged folk to think for a second before you say “adblocking is killing the sites you love”, about people who can’t access a large amount of information on the Web without using an adblocker.

    And before you say “but Smashing Magazine’s adverts aren’t animated” – do you expect me to spend 5 minutes on every Web site I like figuring out if the adverts are bearable or not?

    • 2755

      Oh, but Tom, they are animated.

      I took the time to unblock this page, felt that I could deal with the right-column animated adverts, then realized the huge, animated ad right below the title of the article was something I COULD NOT tolerate. I re-enabled it. Really, if sites ask us to unblock their ads, then they could, at the very least, make sure the adverts aren’t annoying.

  25. 2806

    If ads are blocked automatically, why not try integrating your advertising like most talk radio shows (the host reads the ad, or even improvises the advertisement hitting on a few key points). If you don’t feel comfortable writing an obvious advertisement piece within your site as if it was your own content, then you shouldn’t feel comfortable pushing obnoxious advertisements on your users in the form of graphic banners, flash, javascript popups, etc. Hell, these days most “design” blog posts are just poorly veiled advertisements anyway.

  26. 2857

    Silly webdesign people.

    Block an important source of revenue, and you increase the appeal of alternatives. In this case, the main alternative consists of cleverly disguised advertorials.

    So basically, by blocking the unobtrusive and clearly labeled ads you find on most sites worth visiting, you contribute to a reality where the line between advertising and content fades even further than it already has.

    • 2908

      That’s fine for me as the reader, but I have a feeling most people who run blogs dislike the idea of heavily incorporating advertising within their content (you know, that dirty feeling you get when you’re not being totally truthful). If they can’t deal with that, maybe they need to rethink advertising on their site and decide if they want to A) make their blog completely free but limit the amount of content/time/bandwidth spent on it as you would any personal project, B) consider a subscription based model where content is only available to paying members. If they go with B, that’s the real test as to whether or not their content is perceived as valuable by their readers as it is by the author.

      I think most design blog authors can’t face the fact that they’re basically writing fluff articles coupled with a few pretty portfolio pictures and they feel that they deserve more for content that’s essentially not valuable enough to look at when it isn’t totally free.

      • 2959

        “I think most design blog authors can’t face the fact that they’re basically writing fluff articles coupled with a few pretty portfolio pictures and they feel that they deserve more for content that’s essentially not valuable enough to look at when it isn’t totally free.”

        That is *exactly* right.

      • 3010

        Paul, you’re absolutely right about most people who run blogs not wanting to heavily incorporate advertising in their content. So, those people (ie. the honest ones) would effectively get forced out of business by more widespread use of ad blockers.

        Which is good news for people like me, who have no such qualms. Less competition? Yes please.

        Your “pay wall” argument is flawed, however. You see, sites don’t just use content to inform and/or entertain their readers. They also use it to generate the links, tweets, diggs, etc. that attract new readers.

        So if the content is locked behind a pay wall, this severely limits growth. For large sites with a solid reputation (e.g. newspapers), this is a major problem. For small sites that still need to build such a reputation, it’s a death blow.

        Now you might argue that if the content is good, word of mouth will still ensure popularity. And that’s absolutely true – but it might take a few decades.

        Aside from that, your comment about fluff pieces may be somewhat valid, but it also misses a major point. In order to sell subscriptions, quality is not enough – quantity counts as well. Most bloggers simply aren’t able to produce enough content to satisfy paid subscribers, no matter how high the quality of their writings.

        Moreover, even if the blogger in question actually manages to produce the vast quantities of high-quality content that justify a paid subscription, he will still lose the casual reader.

        Most experiments with pay walls have failed conclusively, even those performed by major newspapers with numerous writers on staff and seven figure advertising budgets. When you take into account the fact that economies of scale are a major factor in online publishing, it should be obvious that the outlook for bloggers is even bleaker.

        Right now, there are really only five good ways to monetize content for bloggers. Advertising, advertorials, link sales, direct product sales and using the blog itself as an advertisement for ones own services or products. Of those, advertising is the main one, and if it were to become less profitable, the other options would necessarily increase in popularity.

        I do see potential other solutions which do not rely on advertising, but those would have to be backed by major corporations to have a chance of being successful.

        • 3061

          If you can’t turn a profit for the variety of potential reasons you’ve listed, then guess what? As I said before, it might be time to “A) make their blog completely free but limit the amount of content/time/bandwidth spent on it as you would any personal project.” Not interested in working on a design blog that only costs you a couple hundred a year and treating it like a personal hobby rather than your main source of income? Then don’t run one if you can’t be financially successful with it.

          I run several websites with no advertisements and only pay about $200 a year for hosting and domain registration, and it’s a hobby for me. I could try to turn it into a profitable business, but I’d probably have to load my site full of ads and annoy the hell out of my users, or charge for content and have to spend more time on it. It would be doable, but I’d probably even have to run several more sites (running just a single site might not bring in enough revenue), and that’s a financial risk that I don’t feel would be worth it (I’d have to quit my job and start working full time on creating content for multiple sites). The problem isn’t the user who’s using ad blocking software, the problem is the blogger who’s so disconnected with reality that they feel updating a site a few times a week should entitle them to revenue. Blogging isn’t hard, and most design blogs sites just spout the same rehashed tutorials and discussions that we’ve all seen for years. Maybe it’s time to reconsider whether or not running a design blog is a viable career choice.

          • 3112

            Sorry, but that’s a load of crock.

            Your argument is essentially that if their ability to turn a profit is impaired when their main source of revenue is compromised, they should instead just work for free.

            A few commercial bloggers might agree with you, but most will simply look for alternative sources of revenue. As it happens, advertorials are a great source of revenue, allowing them to make even more money with their blogs than they do now with advertising.

            The part of your comment that says it all is this:

            “The problem isn’t the user who’s using ad blocking software, the problem is the blogger who’s so disconnected with reality that they feel updating a site a few times a week should entitle them to revenue.”

            Are you #$%^%& kidding me? Running blogs or other sites professionally is *work*, work that entails far more than “updating a site a few times a week.” To create a successful commercial site, you’ll usually have to spend countless hours on promotion, usability/user experience optimization, search engine optimization, sponsor evaluation, A/B-testing, content optimization, etc.

            You maintain blogs for fun, I design websites for fun. Would you say the latter implies that webdesign in general is just a hobby and that those who think they can make a living with it are disconnected with reality and should just do it for free, instead?

            And if you feel that way, do you think it would be an ok thing for me to take, say, all the WooThemes designs and release them for free to promote my own websites? (which is legal, since they’re GPL-licensed)

            You are well within your rights when you block ads. Just like you are well within your rights when you blatantly copy open source designs, cheat on your wife, make loud cellphone calls on the subway, or just behave like a jerk in general.

            So if you want to act like a jerk and block the unobtrusive ads that many of the sites you visit run, by all means, go right ahead. But don’t start crying when you get the sneaking suspicion that more and more of your favorite sites might just be posting some of their articles simply because they’re getting paid to.

            PS. The $200/year hosting made me laugh. Hard. Get back to me when your sites get some actual traffic and you see your hosting bill reach and pass the four figure/month range.

          • 3163

            If you’re in it to make money and you’re no longer able to make money in whatever it is you’re doing, you can sit around and whine about how users/customers/consumers are to blame for your business failings, or you can get into another business. If you still feel the need to run any kind of website and you can’t make it profitable or don’t want to take the plunge into something more, just make it an inexpensive hobby instead and spend less time doing it.

            “You maintain blogs for fun, I design websites for fun. Would you say the latter implies that webdesign in general is just a hobby and that those who think they can make a living with it are disconnected with reality and should just do it for free, instead?
            And if you feel that way, do you think it would be an ok thing for me to take, say, all the WooThemes designs and release them for free to promote my own websites? (which is legal, since they’re GPL-licensed)”

            Actually, yes. If you work within a particular niche of web design, like say, only sports websites, and you’re finding that clients are less and less willing to pay you what you feel you’re entitled to, chances are you need to reassess how valuable the work you’re providing actually is, and if you want to rethink your business strategy or just abandon it entirely and maintain it as a hobby instead. Not all businesses are profitable, and if design blogs are potentially failing for some of the reasons you listed in a previous post, then perhaps it’s time to reconsider your line of work if you’re a failing design blog owner rather than attacking people who were willing to accept your *free work without acknowledging your advertisers.

            If it’s legal for you to distribute something, feel free to. You’re trying to imply that it’s the responsibility of users to support blog sites rather than accepting that every business involves taking risks. Going with the *free + advertising model is a risk, and if it doesn’t pay off, reassess your business. Simple as that.

            Also: “PS. The $200/year hosting made me laugh. Hard. Get back to me when your sites get some actual traffic and you see your hosting bill reach and pass the four figure/month range.”

            If you’re spending that much money on a hobby, you’re a fool, and if you’re investing that much money in a web business without a business plan other than blaming the users, congratulations on your failing business, awful hosting company (because WHOOPS all of a sudden you’re bleeding thousands a month). I have a small targeted audience and I do it for fun, it’s not a business, so I don’t see why that’s laughable.

    • 3214

      The comment by Thomas hits the nail right on the head.

      • 3265

        [Comment removed due to abuse]

        • 3316

          Journalistic standards? On the internet? Really?

          Most design blogs, like most other blogs and indeed sites in general, offer mindless entertainment. Someone who visits a blog post titled “40 fantabulous cat-based designs” probably isn’t looking for comprehensive journalistic rigor.

          • 3367

            Since the comment depth on SM appears to be limited, this is actually a reply to the post by Paul a bit above this, written on June 16th, 1:12 pm.


            Paul, you post is clear and definitive proof that you just don’t get it.

            It’s not about design blogs (or other sites) being profitable or not. It’s about them continuing using ads or not, and what the alternatives to ads are. Something I already mentioned several times, but which you apparently didn’t pick up on.

            By blocking ads, you’re contributing to a move towards a business model that hurts users, not site owners, the most.

            Most non-flash ads aren’t particularly annoying. They just sit there, stationary graphics in clearly marked corners of the page which you can easily ignore entirely.

            If enough people block ads, most commercial sites will not go out of business. They will just move to using more advertorials and compensated name-dropping – something many sites are doing already. Their profits will stay the same, but they will use different methods to get those profits.

            For you, the visitor, that’s *bad*. It means advertisers spend money on feeding you biased information instead of on hoping to catch your attention.

            It means that the next time you google for information on that new laptop you’re considering buying, the blogs you read might just offer a slightly biased view. It means that the next time you do research on finding a new host that can handle high traffic, the opinions you read may mislead you. It means that the next time you buy a piece of software based on the recommendations you read online, you might find out afterwards that some serious usability issues weren’t mentioned in the review.

            All of this has *nothing* to do with failing businesses. Only those who refuse to adapt to the new paradigm will fail. The rest of us will happily carry on making money, simply changing from sidebar and header ads to paid namedropping, skewed information and biased reviews.

            When social media came along, we made the move from information to infotainment (“25 hamster pictures to inspire you”). If the market demands it, we’ll move from infotainment to advertorials (“25 hamster pictures made using Product X”).

          • 3418

            The users aren’t contributing toward any sort of move, it would be the decision of the owner to make that move if their current approach to making money is failing. If they choose to go that route and it works for them, great for them. If a review site thinks it’s going to be more successful writing biased, paid for reviews instead of using banner ads, then good for them. The market will decide, and the users hold no personal responsibility for the successes or failures of any business, including design blogs. There are potential repercussions for the incorporation of any attempt at earning revenue that affect the end user, including the possibility that a site’s reputation could be damaged by even a handful of clearly biased reviews, as you’ve stated as an example. This is not my concern, nor should it be yours unless it’s your business.

            I don’t need to stop blocking ads to save the internet as we know it. Sorry!

  27. 3469

    I admit that I 99% of the time browse using a an ad-blocker. And here is why… I am a Christian and also work full-time at my church as a designer. In general I have no problem with blogs or websites having ads on their pages. Unfortunately there are way to many pornography ads out there! Or they are using half-naked women to sell their product. (Maybe you should write an article about how to design without using sex to sell your product) So yes, I use and ad-blocker because I do not want to see those ads, and am trying to control the content that I look at.

    • 3520

      You should whitelist Smashing Magazine. Most design related blogs have ads that are targeted to designers.

      What kind of websites are you visiting?

  28. 3571

    I use an adblocker, I’ll use it even if Smashing Mag goes out of business. I’ll use it long after your paychecks have dried up and your office is vacant. I’ll use it and laugh from my mountion top about how I’m blocking your ads. I don’t “get it”? Oh, I get it alright… my evil plan is to put you out of business by not viewing your ads! MWUHAHAHAHA.

    I hope you can’t afford the next big Apple product, and your children have to eat regular produce instead of organic! I hope you have to brew Maxwell House instead of some hip little known brand! Oh yes, you will suffer!!! MWUHAHAHAHAHA!

    You know what else I do??? I LISTEN TO NPR AND I NEVER DONATE!!!! HAHAHAAHAH!!!! IN YOUR FACES!!!

  29. 3622

    This whole BS about stealing FREE content and not supporting the sites doesn’t hold one ounce of water. No one forced you to create and offer free content on an open system like the world wide web, you chose to do that yourselves and people will consume it anyway they wish. If you want people to pay for it then charge them to see it.

    This whole argument is so blatantly filled with self-serving, self-important greed and utter illogical stupidity that I can’t even believe Smashing would post such drivel. Are you so professionally unethical and underhanded that you create sites for companies without them asking, show it to them and THEN cry because they refuse to pay you for work that they never asked for? That is exactly what you are doing with this article. You’ve taken the design community and portrayed the people as hucksters and con-men running lowlife bait-and-switch schemes. Completely disgusting.

    • 3673

      Exactly the kind of attitude that should be removed from the community.

      • 3724

        [Comment removed because of abuse]

      • 3775

        [Comment removed because of abuse]

      • 3826

        [Comment removed due to abuse]

        • 3877

          [Comment removed due to abuse]

          • 3928

            Oh look… instead of deleting only the parts that actually “abuse”, you (or SM) removed the whole comments and all the otherwise valid points about your problematic reaction are gone too! How convenient!

            I won’t play the censorship-card here because you can do whatever you want on your article but it does speak loud enough.

            Thanks. You’ve disqualified yourself way more efficiently than we could probably ever do.

          • 3979

            [Comment removed due to pointing out the glaring holes in Louis’s argument]

  30. 4030

    I became aware of most of your points a year ago and ever since then I never used any ad-blocker on web browsers I’m using.
    Good that you point this out, though.

    • 4081

      You should block ads by default. Personally I don’t know people can use the internet without it.
      I whitelisted Smashing last year. There are two ads that annoy me but they are only at the beginning of articles. The rest of the ads in the sidebar are typically static. And they are typically in good taste. Some are well designed even.

      If all ads were all static and free from viruses and trojans then no one would bother with adblocker and similar technologies.

      • 4132

        Not true. People have shown time and time again that, on the internet, they’ll do anything to get stuff for free.

  31. 4183

    I agree with the author’s outcomes if *everyone used an ad-blocker. But that is not, and never will be, the case. Designers make up such a small percentage that if 100% used ad-blockers it wouldn’t make a bit of difference. A few dollars, if any. I personally don’t use an ad-blocker, unless pop-up blocking is considered “ad-blocking.” Ads can be integrated quite nicely into sites and apps, such as Tweetie and NetNewsWire.

    • 4234

      My article was referring to ads in the web design industry, not ads in general on the internet. So when I said “everyone”, I was referring to “everyone in the design blogging industry”. So, yes, there would be a huge impact, because hundreds of thousands of dollars every month in marketing revenue would essentially disappear.

  32. 4285

    If we re-thought advertising on the web, and make the ads relevant, I mean really relevant to the user or the page content, there would be a valid argument for this post [not to use an ad blocker].

    As it stands now, advertising on the web is nothing more than yelling, shouting “Hey, look at me”. There’s 10 little square banners on this page alone, and most are not relevant to the page content, or even the user.

    Why would I want to create a free flash website when I’m reading a blog post about why I shouldn’t use an ad blocker? There’s nothing to tie the 2 things together. That’s like running an ad for a free oil change on a celebrity gossip blog. Not relevant.

    Until advertisers (and content publishers) understand how to better serve their audiences (and don’t call your audience a target), people are well justified in using ad blockers. Give me something relevant to look at, or I will block you:)

    • 4336

      If an advertiser is willing to pay large amounts of money for an irrelevant ad, then let them. You don’t have to click on them. Some others might click on them, and that’s why they’re there. It’s almost impossible to ensure all ads are relevant. Even those by “the Deck” and “Fusion” are often not relevant to the content. I really don’t see a good solution to the problem you’re talking about, but it definitely is something worth improving on, as you mention.

  33. 4387

    I can understand and appreciate this perspective (that web designers should support the blog by allowing the ads), but in retrospect, maybe the whole business-model needs to be revised. tutsplus is a good model, where you get free tutorials and pay for the ‘premium’ ones. You guys have the traffic obviously, there are probably other ways to generate $ other than ads.

    I bought the ‘Smashing WordPress’ book by the way to show my support for this site.

  34. 4438

    I never buy products advertised online, blocker or no-blocker. The foolish person is the one expecting a reasonable business plan from online ads alone. I have several websites, none have ads on them. Those I do for fun, I do for fun, and don’t expect financial benefit from (though I have ways people can donate if they like the content, which is a far more direct way for users to show their support). For sites that are not for fun, I get money from the client who pays me to create and update them. Ads play no part in my internet experience, other than to slow down my computer and freeze my browser.

    • 4489

      “The foolish person is the one expecting a reasonable business plan from online ads alone.”

      Smashing Magazine, Envato, Ars Technica and CNET called. Apparently they’re shutting down due to their “foolish” and unreasonable business plans. It’s not like they manage to pay their employees, afford pricey hosting, and still turn a profit.

      • 4540

        He said “alone”. Smashing has a whole network, sells books, etc. Envato has entire marketplaces where they sell things and take a small cut. Ars was bought by Conde Nast in 2008, so I wouldn’t be too worried about them, and CNet has been a mess ever since they couldn’t keep their TV network afloat, which was hardly an advertising based problem (that station had more ads than anything else).

        What part of “we don’t want to see them” don’t you guys understand? It’s our choice. If a website is solely financed through ads and they’re struggling they either need to find alternative sources of income or increase their traffic with quality content. More ads are not the solution to anything.

        • 4591

          I never said more ads were the solution. I’m a firm believer is less ads, higher quality ads, and higher-paying ads. It’s not easy to get an entire industry to bend to your way of thinking though.

          • 4642

            Then at least we can agree on that. It’s unfortunately the shady, dancing, blinking, talking flash ads on less than reputable websites that turn most people off. I know that’s 99% of the reason why I have an ad-blocker. If more sites advertised like Smashing or like Ars, then I think we wouldn’t even be having this discussion. You’re right though, there’s more sites that advertise the wrong way than the right way. Maybe, as a community, we strive for advertising quality and reform rather than higher ad penetration numbers.

  35. 4693

    I only use Flash Block so I can kill those frustrating flash ads that jump out of their content area and take up half the page. Those things need to die.

  36. 4744

    I am disgusted by many of the comments here. If you use an ad blocker, get lost. Don’t come back to Smashing Magazine.

    I’m not an economist, but I can see (and have blogged about) the impending “bubble” this article mentioned. Most ads are sold on a CPM basis (i.e. Advertiser X pays $100 to put a banner ad on a page with 100,000 monthly page views), unlike the much lower-paying CPC (cost-per-click) ads that companies like Google provide. Ad blockers lower the page views the ad network logs, which in turn lowers the amount of money the publisher is paid. The more people there are who block ads, the less money the websites get.

    It costs me, for my small-to-medium blog, about $250 per year for hosting. I have to make that money back somehow, otherwise I couldn’t afford to keep running the site. Larger blogs like Smashing Magazine cost thousands of dollars, and they pay several writers a sizable sum to contribute posts. How do you think Envato can afford to pay their writers $150 for each post? Ads. Like it or not, they are entirely necessary to the online content economy.

    I’ll admit, I do have an ad blocker installed. But I use it as a blacklist. If a website or ad network consistently serves-up ads that greatly hinder my browsing, such as the ones that move across the screen or auto-play sound, I will add the URLs to the blocking list. I do not blanket-block ads, however tempting some web sites may make it.

    • 4795

      redwall_hp @ June 14th, 2010 9:38 am: “If you use an ad blocker, get lost. … I’ll admit, I do have an ad blocker installed.”

      Take some of your own medicine and jog on.

      • 4846

        Oops. :)

        I meant to say “if you use EasyList or similar.” I don’t mind ad blockers, providing they’re blacklists rather than “smart” filters that block everything.

    • 4897

      I don’t promote ad blockers, but let’s face it, placing ads is not a business model, if a site with a premium membership can’t pay the authors and other costs with that money and still earn some, they have a serious problem.

    • 4948

      Oh yes, I read your blog every day with ad blocker in full effect! AND YOU CAN’T STOP ME!

      … btw your blog is terrible.

  37. 4999

    I don’t get how some people see ad blockers as a problem. Let’s take an example real quick tutsplus. They rely on the ads on their sidebar for paying tha authors. If they did what some of you are saying, remove the ads, they would have little income, which means that they would have to shut down for they could not pay their authors. The same is for thousands of sites out there.

    That’s the reason I don’t use ad blockers at least.

    • 5050

      If they would shut down without the income from those ads then perhaps they need to find a better business model?

      This is essentially the same argument that the newspaper industry is making right now. Newspaper content and sales has never been what has turned a profit. Newspapers make money from the ads. Online media is killing the old school newspaper, but instead of adapting to changing conditions many papers will quite happily sit there and die. Or try to force government protection. Or try to charge users for all of their content. Regardless, they are failing because that is not what their customers want.

      The response to the newspapers is the same as it is here – why should the consumer be punished for your failing business model?

  38. 5101

    This is an argument you will not win. The fact is, consumers HATE ads, and no amount of reasoning along the very valid lines of “ads are the reason you get content for free” will change their – or my – minds.

    To me, Google is the gold standard for effective and reasonable advertising. Their search based ads are simple, un-intrusive, and often quite relevant to what I’m looking for. The fact that Google is sitting on several billion dollars in cash means, obviously, they got it right. The industry needs to take a note and redefine how and when advertising is delivered to the customer, because so far their tactics have only been reactionary and counter-productive.

  39. 5152

    I’d like to know the author’s (and all ad defenders’) opinion(s) on RSS feeds.

    I notice Smashing Magazine only provides excerpts of posts, and have their feeds full of ads, but many sites don’t. They quite happily serve up an RSS version of complete posts, sans any ads. Google Reader + RSS feeds is a pretty handy way to get all of your content, and a lot of people read this way.

    Are all the people that read the RSS feed that YOU provide also to blame for your loss of “earnings”? Are those people also pirating your content (-fact, as James so interestingly pointed out a bit further above).

    • 5203

      If a website allows their articles to be accessed via a web feed, then obviously they have no problem with that, so why would that be piracy?

      And, since feeds can have ads (as you pointed out) then that option is available, so it’s just another way the content is legitimately delivered. In my opinion, when a user blocks the ads, he’s receiving the content in an illegitimate fashion — regardless of what he has (as some have stated) “the right” to do.

  40. 5254

    Had a great experience reading this article using Safari 5 Reader. No distracting ads, just the content.

    Ads are mostly pointless to me, I have never bought anything based on ads (I actually hardly spend money at all) and I think I have clicked less then 10 ads in my life. So I might as well block them.

  41. 5305

    Personally, I’d rather not use an ad-blocker. I’d like for people who want to provide content to be able to make money without directly charging their users. However, I use an ad-blocker because most of the ad services out there are so bad. Almost all ad services require the use of inline javascript that calls document.load() causing the page to stop rendering until the ad service’s slow and overloaded server responds. It’s not something I’m willing to wait for.

  42. 5356

    I only hate flash ads appearing over the main content but adds like here on sm don’t bother me at all – I just don’t see them. But due to the fact that these adds are always in the left column on any of the (design-)blogs I follow, I completely ignore the content on the left side of mostly all typical blog-styled websites. Not only I can’t tell you what kind of add are on right now, I can’t neither tell you what content is underneath them.

    So as web designer or site owner I think you should be aware, that if you put adds on your site, you are loosing the left column space at all.

  43. 5407

    Thanks for the article Louis. While I believe this article seeks to provide a solution to a problem we are having right now in the web community, I believe that the majority of developers, advertisers, and companies have lost sight of what’s important here; the consumer.

    We can all agree that the tools consumers use to get information is a constantly changing landscape. What doesn’t change much however is human behavior. Humans live and thrive through relationships. Relationships with other humans. Advertising as a whole has completely lost it’s human factor, ignoring the very people who make decisions wether to buy or not buy, or tell a friend. This is insulting to us humans, because we are intelligent and creative, and we don’t appreciate being disrespected by someone who wants to sell us something.

    Let’s take a lesson from the early 20th century, when Radio was the biggest thing in entertainment, with television just beginning to be a major player. Back then, there wasn’t really a thing called “advertising” per say, that’s because basically everything was an advertisement. Hours upon hours of content sponsored by companies who’s main goal was to sell a product. These extended commercials featured talent ranging from comedy, to music, to drama, and more.

    The difference back then was these companies understood human behavior. When humans place their trust in someone, or hold that individual’s opinions in high regard, they are far more likely to purchase a product they recommend. This is basic human behavior. Companies back then, (and some, although rare, still today) sent time building relationships with the right people, so that these people would recommend their products to their audience.

    The sad state of affairs today is that everyone has just become lazy. Companies stopped trying to build relationships with people, because that takes more work than just paying a fee to put a high-contrast animated gif on a website. Content delivery lost it’s entertainment value, and the people who create that content have forgotten their audience and began to worry more about money and ads.

    The consumer, the free-thinking creative human, has become wise to the laziness and greed of the advertisers and content creators. They are smart enough to understand that just because this animated gif is on a website, does not mean that the person who creates the content actually endorses or uses that product. The consumer has chosen to ignore ads because they see them for what they are. Useless, vestigial boxes that mean nothing to the person who made the content they are viewing. So why should they even care?

    Now companies are saying: “These ads cost us $50,000.00 to place, and took our intern FIVE WHOLE MINUTES to create! Please stop blocking them!”,

    Advertisers are saying: “We are charging $50,000.00 for this thing and the company hasn’t made a cent! We are gonna lose our clients! Please stop blocking ads!”

    Content Creators are saying: “Hey bro, this gig costs money. These ads that I don’t care about and took me 5 minutes to include in my webpage are the only thing that keeps me ‘off the ramen’. Be cool, stop blocking”.

    How do we really think consumers will react to this?

    There is hope for us all. Go back to our roots, learn from the past, and remember the CONSUMER > $$$. Your users are people, not robots.

    Content Creators: we need to seek out companies whom we like, and then endorse them. And by endorsement, I mean NOT a little logo tucked away somewhere. Create content that tells your audience why you like them and use their products. This is integrated, word-of-mouth marketing.

    Companies: Start remembering who pays your bills. HUMANS. And work with other humans to build strong relationships. Find them, befriend them, support them (partnership/monetary), and they will endorse your product.

    Advertisers: Since you’ve never done anything but ruin a good thing, you need to start looking around you because your ship has sailed, ran aground, and just about fully sunk. Advertisers don’t create content, and don’t have a product to sell. They are a greedy middle-man who can easily be replaced by a smart company working directly with a smart individual. So I would suggest you make a shift to help facilitate a more personal relationship between your companies and content deliverers. Also find a day job for a backup plan because you are likely going to be replaced. Air is free, but advertisers will try and find a way to charge for it.

    There are some fine examples beginning to re-surface. People are beginning to write case-studies on product they actually like, and have them IN THE CONTENT on their websites. Television & movies are starting to bring back the integrated advertising.

    One great example I saw, was an episode of 30-Rock, where they were sitting down eating McDonald’s McFlurrys. It was really over the top, but hilarious. And after watching the actors, I actually really really wanted a McFlurry. This to me was a great example of a creative content producer, endorsing a product. The company (McD’s) gave them the freedom to integrate and put their own comedic spin on it as well. In the end, it was not a commercial, or an ad, it was just someone I happen to think is talented and funny, enjoying a product.

    So we should learn from the past, and adapt to the rapidly growing population of tech-savvy consumers. Integrated product endorsement, case-studies, partnerships. Stay creative and don’t be lazy.

    • 5458
    • 5560

      Giorgo Paizanis

      June 14, 2010 3:58 pm

      Good post, but I disagree with one thing. You speak about product placement like it’s such a great alternative to advertising (ie: McDs in 30 rock), but many people also hate this form of advertising. In fact, some people dislike that more than a typical ad because it is integrated into the show and “ruins the experience.”

      I think that relevant high quality ads can be good for everyone. That’s the revolution we need. Companies need to realize that flashy annoying ads don’t lead to sales (even if they lead to clicks.) However, quality products that advertise to inform people of a great service can be helpful to the consumer.

      I think it is up to the publishers (such as blogs) to man up and deny advertisers who want to place annoying, obtrusive, and irrelevant ads. They should treat ads with the same scrutiny they would place on their own content.

    • 5611


      I can’t agree with what you’re saying. You want the line between advertisement and content blurred beyond recognition. Users online don’t want that. So it won’t work in the long run.

  44. 5662

    I actually like ads when they are relevant and unobtrusive. But the Flashing Getty ads running on recent Smashing Magazine posts (like this one) are EXTREMELY irritating. You force me to block ads on Smashing Magazine even though I used to click through to the useful ads on the right side of the page.

  45. 5713

    the percentage of people who block ads is still so incredibly small that none of the ad networks (including us at BuySellAds.com, and we’re very tech heavy) waste their time trying to do anything about it.

    people hate ads, but they like content and those ads keep the content flowing.

    people hate paying for gas, but you have to put gas in your car or else it’s useless.

    people hate paying their taxes, but tax enables the government to operate, build roads, etc.

    ads are like gas for your car or taxes for the government. they’re part of the ecosystem that keeps it alive. if you had to pay for content, would you? I’d guess that 99% of the people who hate ads would also hate paying for the content. but you know what they say about assumptions…

    it’s OK that people hate ads, really. it forces the advertisers and ad sellers to get more creative with their delivery. creativity can lead to innovation. chances are, ads will be here for a long, long time. and, it’s up to us people who make a living from either buying or selling ads to get creative and turn the haters into lovers :)

    • 5764

      Great comment, Todd. Thanks for chiming in.

      • 5815

        Ultimately a stupid argument. Why? Because if there were a legal way to “Turn off” taxes and “Turn off” paying for gas… I’d do it… and so would everyone else.

        • 5866

          That’s the problem, Ben. People shouldn’t be looking for ways to “exercise their rights”. Just because you have the right to do something, doesn’t mean you should do it.

          And by the way: There is a way to “turn off” paying for gas — don’t drive! Which gets to the heart of this issue — If you can’t afford to read “free” blogs, then you shouldn’t read them.

          • 5917

            The gas analogy is even worse now that you’ve made a straw man of it; Good job. While you’re googling what a straw man is, consider this:

            If you can’t get by on your company’s revenue, it’s YOUR fault, not your viewers’. You set up the business model. You developed the site. You’re in charge. Placing the blame for your own failures on strangers with ad blockers is the pinnacle of childishness.

            Just get rid of the ads and start charging subscriptions. I’d pay… at least until another site popped up with similar free content that didn’t cry and moan about ad blockers. That ought to take a week or two.

            Jesus, I bought your damn book. What else do you need?!

          • 5968

            On the flip side, if you want to start giving me free gas to view your ads, I’ll happily disable my adblocker.

          • 6019

            Ben, I didn’t write a book. This article is not written by SM, it’s written by me. They felt it was a necessary topic to publish, so they did. They agree with the premise, but not necessarily every detail.

            And there’s nothing about my argument that was a strawman. You made the gas analogy, not me. I just pointed out why it clearly made no sense to use it as an argument in your favor. I’m sorry that you disagree, but I’m afraid my argument stands: If you can’t afford to read “free” blogs, then you shouldn’t read them.

          • 6070

            I suppose you open every piece of junk mail too? …and watch every commercial on your DVR/TiVo’ed shows? If not, you’re a hypocrite. Then again, if you do, you’re insane. I guess your argument has you in a bit of a pickle then.

            Well good luck with all that. I’m sure you’ll get a few saps to turn off their ad blocking. At least until the ads annoy them enough to start blocking them again.

    • 6121

      Can we employ the same penalty towards ad blockers as governments do for tax-evaders? ;)

  46. 6172

    Since I installed the particular adblocker I’m using, it has blocked 217,917 ads. And it has blocked 1,010 since I last launched my browser.

    Pure insanity.

  47. 6223

    Even if you block users who use adblocking extensions, you’re still vulnerable to something you have absolutely no control of: The user’s HOSTS file.

    It takes about twenty minutes for me to create a HOSTS file that permanently blocks every ad serving domain, and a designer can’t do anything about it.

    Louis, if you’re really that hard hit by ad blockers, maybe you should pursue a different revenue stream like Amazon Associates. Get a referral fee for telling visitors about the books/software/CDs you love to use when you’re working.

    • 6274

      When did I say I was hard hit by ads? I’ve made my living primarily by coding and designing websites, so it’s not as important to me as it is to web design blogs and others who rely on ads.

      That being said, I get paid for submitting articles on sites like this, and they could not pay me if they could not display ads — so it does help me to some degree, especially when client projects are slow.

      My whole purpose in writing this article was to help people see that a lot of companies in the web design community are putting a lot of money into the pockets of web designers — and this is great for the community. Why should we hinder this?

      • 6325

        You mean you’ve been paid for this piece of crap? Well, I think I’m going to reactivate my adblocker on this article on SM, because I wouldn’t want you to be paid for this.

      • 6376

        Louis, I misunderstood. I thought you were relying on ads for payment.

        But even if I replace your name with the name of Smashing Magazine (or any other site), my argument still stands: You can’t get past the HOSTS file.

        And using something like Amazon Associates to earn a commission on the books a designer regards as vital is still a good idea. In fact if I knew an author I liked used a certain book all the time, I’d be more likely to buy it – particularly if the purchase would help fund more high-quality articles.

  48. 6427

    I’m not a big fan of intrusive and nefarious ads either, but I don’t think blanket ad-blocking is the way to go. I think most sites, especially blogs who cater to people who make websites, understand that annoying or harmful ads hurt *them* in the long run, and don’t allow them on their sites.

    I ad-block, but only on a case-by-case basis, in the event that some ad is particularly egregious.

  49. 6478

    I read this article using the new Safari Reader. Thank you.

    • 6529

      Google Reader here… no ads, really. But I came here purely to state that I think this whole article is garbage. Perhaps SM has jumped the shark.

  50. 6580

    The internet itself is driven by the user, it is not put into the user’s face without the user requesting the content. Saying that using ad blocking softer is promoting a “me attitude” is ridiculous. Long live users, whatever they choose to do. I hated this article – whatever you choose to do in your browser or on your site is fine, it’s your choice, whatever it may be.


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