What's so bad about the pay to avoid ads model?
14 January 2019
(edit 11 Apr 2019: Split item 2 into 3a and 3b.)
A lot of people have come up with the idea of a system that lets readers of a web site pay to avoid the advertising. This is obviously bad, wrong and dangerous, for several reasons.
The model assumes that advertising is unredeemably awful, and walks away from future revenue that would be made possible from fixing advertising. (So far, Online Ads Haven't Built Brands, but what if they could?)
The model creates incentives to make advertising worse.
Ever since we started running the auto-playing video campaign for MIRACLE ASS FUNGUS CURE, our subscriptions are through the roof! Bonuses for all!
(a)Because the ads on news sites will keep getting worse and worse, non-subscribers will get more and more of their news from biased sources that re-report and spin it. (The most common sound effect on Rush Limbaugh's radio show, last I heard it, was him flipping the pages of the New York Times as he selectively quoted from news stories.)
(b) Or, because the ads keep getting shittier and shittier, because that's the best way to incentivize people to pay to get out of them, ad blocking keeps going up.
As soon as site owners realize that number 3 is growing, and won't go away, they'll start lobbying for extensive copyright expansion laws that limit fair use, or create new exclusive rights, or apply DRM to web pages to limit ad blocking, and, as a side effect, restrict other software that gives users control over their web experience. Probably all three. Freedom-hostile companies will repurpose these laws for censorship and break the Internet.
I know that "this stupid idea will break the Internet" posts are everywhere, but I just wrote one more. Keeping the ads just high enough in signal, and low enough in resource suckage and privacy/security risk that they mostly aren't worth blocking, is just one of the many things that has to come out somewhere close to right in order to prevent a bunch of bad stuff.