The Ethics of Internet Based Ads and Blocking Them

It really is a tough question from many perspectives, right?

Many of the websites we like to visit on a regular basis —- whether they are the NY Times, DrudgeReport,, MacWorld —- support that part of the operation with web based ads. Some of these web based ads cost big bucks.

However, its very possible that these ads can be annoying, confusing, prompt you to sign up or download things, be tailored to the kind of computer you are using (ie. a Mac specific ad), or know what location you are surfing from. In rare but profound cases — these ads can inject malware onto your computer.

Since about 2006 — one of the most popular Firefox (and later Chrome) extensions has been AdBlock Plus. I have used it since about that time. There is also a very nice adblocker for Safari I don’t know the people behind the Safari extension but it has been developed by an American husband wife team and this is their full time job. (It’s free but donations are encouraged.)

Yet still, there is the ethical dilemma. Ok — so the local newspaper has to pay their people and only 1/2 of the print subscribers are still around. They count on that ad money. So do MacWorld and other websites that are near and dear to our hearts. I guess I got over this quandary about 3 or 4 years ago when self-appointed consumer advocate Clark Howard (heard on 100’s of radio stations nationwide) admitted that he doesn’t even control the ads on his own website. With over 500,000 visitors a month and a paid staff of 8 to 10 people — he farms it out his ads to a 3rd party and even tells people DON’T CLICK ON THEM. (Clark is notoriously stingy to the point where i believe he mistakenly tells 60 year old callers with no tech skills to switch to Google Voice for home phone — huge mistake IMHO. Anyway….)

In the past 2 years or so, AdBlock Plus, decided they wanted to make themselves into a business and have allowed non-obtrusive text based ads. Because of this, they got a big investment from Google and were able to grow their brand. I wish more advertisers would latch on to text based ads. Google shouldn’t be the only ones benefiting from them.

How do you stand? Do you block ads or not? What kind of ads on websites are acceptable? Do you pay for any websites or services like HBO so you don’t get ads?