Money makes the world go round as well as the World Wide Web. The revenue generating aspects of the Internet is very apparent, they practically pop-up (or pop-under) at you, but it doesn’t always click with people when they are browsing a website how ads and other means are related to being able to provide content. Unfortunately, there are some up-front costs with running a website, like domain name registration, hosting, and the time to create the quality content. It took running my own self-hosted website for me to learn first-hand how this all works and how a site is affected by the community it attracts.
Ads are the most common way for a website to generate money, but not all ads are made the same. Ads can make money for a webmaster in a variety of ways. Some ads will pay a webmaster every time it is loaded/viewed on their website. Others only pay when a visitor clicks on the ad. Still another method consists of paying a fixed amount for the webmaster to show an ad for a set amount of time; the price is usually determined by the average views that ad will receive. (View this article for examples.)
The one common thing between all of those and additional ad-based business models is that they require people to view the ad in the first place. The webmaster would get paid for more views, have the potential for more clicks, and earn a higher price with a higher average views.
Unfortunately, ads got aggressive, abusive, and annoying. This caused users to respond with ad blocking software. I use ad blocking methods myself. A number of sites employ more ads than content or use some of the abusive means listed previously. In these instances, I would say that ad blocking software is justified. I disagree with the culture of ad blocking that has come about lately. Blanket ad blocking makes all webmasters suffer. Also, don’t forget about all the people that work in advertising or the IT jobs related to serving ads.
Annoying ads, like a Prius that drives across your screen or Classmates ads that expand and don’t retract, which won’t allow you to access the content have justified the use of ad-blocking software. Unfortunately, most of these filters work by blocking all or most ads out there. This deeply hurts small publishers. People that try to place relevant, non-intrusive ads on their site just to pay the bills. I believe it should be the other way around, people should have ad-blocking software turned off by default and enable it only if a website has proven themselves to have intrusive, detracting ads.
The use and effects of ad blockers have already had long discussions, so I won’t go into that in detail. If you’d like to hear more discussions on the issue, visit AdBlock.org
There are a few easy ways to detect if ad blocking software is in use and the website can serve up a different page or disable the CSS if they notice it. One nice WordPress plugin, Anti-AdBlock, simply pops a message asking the visitor to turn off the ad blocking software for at least this site. You can configure it to be very annoying or just a simple one time, out-of-the-way message.
Other ways of Contributing
A lot of websites will have different means of contributing to the authors/webmasters if you look into it. Some may have donate buttons where you can send them money directly through Paypal. You can often find such information about a site under their About page. Others will have an Amazon wishlist where you could buy something from their wishlist and it will get sent to their door. Lastly, if you’re signing up for some product and notice a box asking for your referral. See if any of your favorite sites qualify. You’ll see this a lot with web hosting sites. You could provide anywhere from a few bucks to a free month of hosting or more. Trust me, it’s appreciated.
GoodSearch is a means primarily designed to support charities and organizations. If you use GoodSearch to perform searches, they will contribute a penny (or so) per query to your designated organization. This could be a church, a private school, a charity, a library, or any other number of organizations. If your favorite site happens to be one of these, look on GoodSearch to see if they have a presence on GoodSearch. Then, you can contribute to their cause just through your normal web behavior. GoodSearch piggybacks off of Yahoo! search results.
Amazon shopping referrals are a way individuals can make recommendations for products from Amazon and then they get a small amount of the cost (around 4%) of each sale. The cost doesn’t go up for the consumer and the 4% would just go to Amazon without the referral. If you’re recommending a product, as a webmaster, you might as well go through Amazon’s shopping referrals if they have that product. As a visitor, you have nothing to worry about and can know you’re supporting this site by going through the referral.
I would argue that not blocking ads and being aware of other ways to support favorite or useful sites should be a standard part of netiquette or etiquette on the web. The initial costs or hosting and domain name along with the time to create content all adds up. You may not know it, but some of your standard practices like clicking on ads or buying through referrals might be paying the bills to get more content up without any additional cost to you.
I’d be interested in hearing any other thoughts on this topic and if you’re viewing this article today and not using any ad blocking software or plug-ins, thank you.