How to save online advertising

[Read the post]

I’d suggest a fourth factor: security. It’s not unknown for ads to serve malware of several types. Ad-blocking and privacy software can be effective at reducing the surface area of a computer, making it less susceptible to attack.


“… mutated attention-economy market-failures …” is my new go-to insult.

By the way, there’s a glitch in the article. It currently says “publishers sell inventory to publishers”, but should probably read “publishers sell inventory to advertisers.

1 Like

This back and forth will happen until advertisers engage the people they are advertising to and not trying to see what they can get away with for a while. I think ads are a good thing (banner ads, sidebars…) because they keeps some site free but there is a limit (popups, trackers…). I would like to curate my ads better, I like that google shows me relevant ads but I’d also like to hide some of those ads for me. For example the next star wars movie: I’m avoiding the trailers and spoilers but I have no doubt google will start to serve them up to me as the release date approaches, but why? I’m already sold on it (have plans to go, even buying a couple of new neatoshop shirts for the occasion) and it would make my experience better if the ads served up to me were just the title and release date and not a snip-its of characters, ships or droids.


I’m an AV guy. The only time I got infected by a drive-by was an ad served by Cnet.


Or it might make your experience worse.

I’m not able to install AdBlock on my work computer… or Firefox or anything at all. So, during the slow season, I get to see how obnoxious all those sites are that I usually view ad-free. It is bad. It’s hard to believe anybody will buy a product because it dominated their browser when they wanted to do something else. Maybe they were very bored already.


My one zero day I got hit with in the past was from ad malware and stupid me for ignoring the google hey don’t do this warning. Happily restoring to a previous version of windows fixed everything on it. Most sites themselves these days are safe but the ad servers are etiher shady or the main target for hacking as you can spread the fun far and wide a lot easier that way.


Even if ads were well behaved it’s also about the extra latency too.

At a high level, when an ad is served to you:

  1. On page load a web beacon is triggered to a 3rd party url
  2. Ad provider checks which segments you belong to (gender, interests, platform etc)
  3. The ad provider auctions off to highest bidder which ad to serve based on what segments advertisers are trying to reach (~ 100 ms)
  4. js on the page runs, and then inserts the winning ad (possibly though some convoluted redirect chains.)

I do think that people want to support content on the web. The solution just has to be so easy that people don’t think about it anymore, and where the experience is better or equivalent to what you get navigating with an ad blocker on.

It’s a hard problem but I don’t think it’s impossible to overcome. Just look at what Steam did for gaming or Netflix for television programing.


Are there ads on BoingBoing? I haven’t seen any in a while.


I’d like to say that the ads inserted between articles on BoingBoing on my cell phone are extremely annoying because they tend to load last so when i go to open an article the page will jump on me and it’ll open something else. Also the constant sponsored/BB Store posts in between articles also annoys me but to a lesser extent.

So i’m not sure if Cory has much of a case to stand on the whole “Hey this is how you do advertising right”, because my experience thus far as been better on my desktop where i have my adblockers


On mobile, If you aren’t using mobile Safari and IOS 9, Apps like Weblock are your friends.

1 Like

There’s a good point here: because malware-laced ads really come from other parties, they can be served to you even by sites you trust. This means that you take a risk by whitelisting sites you think are worthy of support. Wikipedia’s “Malvertising” page lists several sites I would not otherwise suspect of trying to infect my computer, including The New York Times and The Onion.

If you can’t safely whitelist the NYT, who the fuck CAN you trust?


Yeah when I am at work I regularly see place like NYT and Slashdot have ads blocked by the firewall for malware problems.


I use firefox on Android, and i can probably install adblock on it. I think… i havent really checked but i might look into it one of these days because BB is one of the sites i visit the most throughout the day so the annoying ads are tiresome.

Most other mobile sites are actually fairly innocuous with the ads and they don’t bother me as much but i presume it is because i visit BB so much that it bothers me more. And mind you i’m not trying to shit all over Boing Boing for their ads, i would prefer something less intrusive but sadly i can’t offer constructive feedback on what that could be.

1 Like

Yeah, every site serves up malware at some point. Because even if you trust the site, you can’t trust their ad network. And even if you trust the ad network (hah) they still get tricked by Russian/Chinese/NSA hackers into serving up malware.

I don’t see how you can fix that one either - though I guess if publishers were serving up their own ads it’d be a bit harder for the hackers. They’d have to compromise the publisher’s ad servers. Which they will. But it’d be slightly more effort.

I’m saying roll back the aggressive ads so you don’t need adblocker not just get rid of adblocker. Can’t imagine the crap you’re seeing without an ad blocker. I guess i could imagine, just use IE…

1 Like

Or a tablet. Every damn site has an a big ad that pops up in the middle of any page your trying to read. I generally just close the page when this happens; not worth my time to waste it on abusive publishers. On my desktop, with adblock and privacy badger, things are much better.

The publishers and advertisers have conspired to make the Web unusable, and I really have no sympathy for either anymore. They have no respect for me, and thus I have no reason to respect them. My general advertising philosophy is; “I don’t need you, you need me.” I’ve even been tempted to remove Boing Boing from my RSS reader, since I’m getting sick of fake content (some of which feels a bit scammy).


I have read various articles and reports that we are confronted with between 4,000 and 6,000 ads, logos, company names, product names every single day

They are on the appliances we use, the media hardware we own, sports stadiums and arenas, posters on cars trucks buses trains planes subways, on billboards, building sides, front windows and doors, signs on the rooftops, spoken on the radio, shown on television, printed in newspapers and magazines, added to the beginnings of in-theater movies, dumped in our inboxes, dropped on our front doors, stuffed under our windshield wipers, pressed into our hands by strangers …

Fuck them.

I’m keeping my ad-blocker. Its the only sense of control I have.


Another option to using dedicated ad-blocking programs is to add URLs to your /etc/.hosts file.

I think it’s about the user directing their own experience of navigating their online experience, instead of being jerked around by third parties. When people go to a website, they should not be expected to consent to links to ANY other sites. Opt-in for their Akamai or YouTube content, or whatever. What I hate is that it had become the norm to script people’s connection to other sites. Some sites will silently connect you to even dozens of their “partners”. It has got to go.


Content providers and advertisers need to re-think their game.

When I’m reading an article, I won’t stand for page takeovers, autoplay video in the margins or other intrusive ads. I just close the window immediately. Eventually I know which sites to not bother with.

I will gladly watch a video ad before a video, or have static visual ads in my static content, but ads that interrupt your train of thought are not acceptable.