There’s a problem in this world, according to Mike Zaneis. It’s ad blockers.
On one level, I can relate to the guy. Ad blockers cost me between $500 and $1,000 a year, personally. But on another level, I have no sympathy for him. Because there’s so much problematic advertising out there. If you ever try to download something from one of the major download sites, good luck. There are 14 download buttons. 13 of them are ads that deliver something other than what you want, or ridealong stuff you don’t want. Somehow, Mike Zaneis thinks that’s OK, but blocking ads is wrong.
How about misleading ads that talk about government programs that don’t exist? I see an ad promising me a mortgage bailout every day. I’d love for Mike Zaneis to explain to me how this is ethical.
There are hundreds, if not dozens, of spammy news stories that are really just advertisements, preying on ignorant people, spreading misinformation and damaging society, littering the web today. Stop eating cumquats and lose 20 pounds! Buy gas at precisely 7:05 AM and gain 4 MPG! Here’s how Warren Buffet is preparing for the apocalypse! These things don’t work, and I haven’t figured out how these newsvertisements make anyone any money except perhaps through profiling, and I’d love for Mike Zaneis to explain this. There’s a guy named Kevin Trudeau who made a career of spreading this kind of stuff. He’s in prison now. The difference between Trudeau and this stuff is that Trudeau pitched it in late-night infomercials charging $19.95 rather than giving it away for free and turning the people who read it into the product–something Mike Zaneis denies anyone thinks is a problem.
But the worst of all are malvertisements–advertisements that plant malware on your machines. If I run computer code on someone’s computer who doesn’t belong to me, I’ll be hanging out with Kevin Trudeau in prison for the next 20 years. But for some reason, it’s ok to do this in the name of advertising. I’d love for Mike Zaneis to explain this, too.
But unlike Mike Zaneis, I’m not complaining. It might be nice to be a professional blogger, but I’m better off with my day job than I would ever be as a pro blogger. It’s nice when I make a little money off this web site, but a lot of what I write is to support that day job–I can find what I need at a later date very quickly if it’s on the blog. That content never makes me a dime. I have some niche content that makes virtually all of the revenue I see, but I’m hesitant to elaborate much further lest someone like Mike Zaneis launch a site and steal all that traffic.
But that’s the thing. I adapt. I have to do that in everything I do. I can whine about how I don’t make the kind of revenue I made in 2005, but the fact is, if I were willing to change a few things, I probably could make more now than I did in 2005. About 5% of what I write accounts for all of my revenue. If I could devote 20% of my content to those subjects, I’m sure I would make considerably more. Since that would require me spending four times as much time thinking about and doing different things from what I do now, I haven’t made that shift. But if I ever needed to, I could.
Mike Zaneis thinks people who create and use ad blockers are out to extort him. They aren’t. They’re trying to encourage certain limits on acceptable behavior. That’s one reason I’m careful about the kinds of ads I let run on this site. There are certain categories–profitable categories–that I don’t allow, such as ads for gambling sites, political ads, prescription drugs, and get-rich-quick schemes. Some of those categories were profitable for me before I discovered my account was using them, but taking money from those behaviors would be wrong, so I stopped doing it. There was nothing illegal about those ads, but there was nothing ethical about them either. So I draw the line there, because some things are much more important than money.
Mike Zaneis draws the line at a different place, and he’s trying to start a war. I’m not convinced it’s a war he can win, and I have no reason to root for him.