Does ad-blocking mean that in the future what we read will be the ad?

April 10 2016

I'm just waking up to all of this so bare with me here, but I was just thinking about what might arise from ad-blocking becoming more of a normal internet behaviour.

Skywriter's Block

Sometimes when I read the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal I feel a little like I'm reading an advertisement...

In the NYT example above, I'm not sure what the article is trying to convince me of, but I know it has something to do with Google and this Larry Page fellow. I think we're all supposed to be very excited about him. In the Wall Street Journal article, I feel a little like I'm meant to demonize Theranos. There's a palpable feeling of smeer in the article that makes me second guess where the intention is coming from. In the case of the Wall Street Journal, they've been basically running a coordinated attack campaign on Theranos and you have to wonder why?

It's not that either of these articles are telling me explicitly to buy, but it is definitely trying to convince me of an argument; often that company xyz is doing something we should all be in awe of or we should all be in hate of.

When we were learning how to "market" (promote) Volley, we naively thought that tech news publishers pushed content that they investigated and deemed story-worthy with no involvement with the company. We thought this because in school we learned how important objectivity and integrity are in writing, especially when a massive public audience is on the other side.

We learned that instead, journalists traditionally want to be "pitched" your company. You don't show them what you made and then ask them to investigate it and see if they think it's newsworthy; you essentially tell them what to write (your story) and if it appeals to them, they'll publish it. It's a strange way of writing, but I get the impression it's the norm in the technology and political journalism worlds.

Imagine if your doctor asked you to tell her what you thought you had and then if she thought it were true, she would confirm it. Imagine how much of the "story" of your health you would miss out on...

I think ad blockers might only encourage the long-tail of bloggers and publishers to adopt the model that I think many big publishers have adopted; where the content is the advertisement.

I also suspect that the train has left the station. I think we might be reading a lot of advertisements and not really know it. Maybe in-article Flash ads were just the gravy for these publishers.

So who will I read? I think I'll still read the New York Times, but as entertainment; not as news. I'll do what I always do, which is trust the little bloggers of the world on aggregators like Hacker News. The crowd has always been a great decider of what's "fit to print" 😉. I think things like Patreon are creating interesting subscription based models that work well for small, single journalist situations.

Idea: It would be interesting if you had a daily newspaper made of articles by journalists you directly endorse with a little monthly subscription to each one.

NB: This article goes in depth about some things I touched on.