Ken Barbalace On Steve Lambert’s Web Fight: Blocking Ads and Adding Art

Ken Barbalace, who is mentioned in my recent post Steve Lambert’s Web Fight: Blocking Ads and Adding Art, has kindly taken the time to offer his own thoughts on this matter in the form of a comment.

As I have noted before the nature of blogs is such that the author’s writings are displayed much more prominently than user comments, so I am posting his comments as a separate post here to hopefully give his words the attention they deserve:

Although the article in question quoted the gist of what I said pretty well, there were some minor errors. First I actually started blocking ads at the end of 2003, not in 2004. Also the reason I did this was my server load and bandwidth needs were about to push me to a dedicated server solution, which would have tripled my costs increasing them to around $300 a month. Blocking those who blocked my ads allowed me to avoid moving to a dedicated server.

One part of the article that I felt was a little misleading was the numbers of users that have ad-blocking software installed because these numbers did not differentiate between “software” that blocks behaviors like popups and flash objects and that software that specifically targets ads. I personally do not think popup blockers and the Firefox Extension Flashblock should be considered ad-blocking programs because they target behaviors that have been known to cause problems for users (e.g. Flash objects have frequently crashed my browser) regardless of whether the blocked behaviors are ads or actual content.

Last year I disabled my ad-blocking countermeasures as an experiment to see how it affected revenues and traffic. The reason I was willing to revisit my ad-blocking policy was because my ad revenues had significantly improved as more advertisers moved from traditional media to the Internet and there were more advertisers for my niche. This wasn’t so much a truce with those who blocked ads, but an effort to provide better service to the majority of my users who do not block ads.

As part of this change I also dumped about half of my least productive ads to reduce noise and speed up the loading of my website. Ironically what I found is that by reducing the number of ads on my site and reducing its load time for individual pages I was able to increase ad revenues as my best performing ads had less competition for attention and users tended to stick around my site longer.

I do monitor the ad-blocking situation and if I find it necessary in the future, I can quite easily turn my ad-blocking countermeasures back on. I’d really prefer to leave the countermeasures turned off, but I must be able to make a living. If I see ad-blocking become a serious concern again in the future I will take actions.

Users should make no mistake about it. Generating high quality contest costs a great deal of money and requires a great amount of effort. These are expenses that website publishers like myself MUST be compensated for. Either users can allow publishers like myself to earn compensation for our efforts via the display of advertising or users will have to pay to access said content.

Short of this, high quality independent content sites like mine will disappear and the only thing left will be amateur hobby sites, e-commerce sites and sites run by big media companies. This is not to say that websites don’t need to exercise more restraint with their advertising. As my experience has shown, sometimes less ads equals more ad-revenue and greater reader loyalty.

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