The difference between newspaper and online ads

News advertWith online mags like The Verge claiming “the mobile web sucks” and others showing that no, it’s the The Verge website that sucks because it’s so plastered with ads and trackers, technology journalist Charles Arthur has hit the nail right on the head:

In all the years I’ve viewed print adverts, I’ve never had one that:

  • filled the page I was trying to read and insisted I either wait or click on a particular point on the page to read the article I came for;
  • moved up from off the page to insert itself in front of the article I was reading and ask me to sign up for a mailing list;
  • started automatically playing a video advert while I was reading some text;
  • infected my computer with malware inserted in the ad;
  • ran a Javascript script that pretended I need to pay a ransom, or otherwise blocked any interaction unless I pressed a button saying “OK”;
  • turned me away from the page I was reading to a completely different one demanding I download an unrelated app.

And then there’s tracking as well, of course. :(

It’s no wonder that so many people have installed ad blockers like Ad Block Plus on their desktop and laptop browsers, and we’re going to see more blocking of ads on mobile devices once iOS 9 has been released.

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Want to see what a difference ad-blocking can make to surfing on an iOS device? Check out this sneak preview of Purify, one of the ad blockers that will be coming out later this year for iPhones and iPads:

Purify for iOS: [Refined] Sneak-Peek

Make sure to read Charles Arthur’s thoughtful piece on web advertising and blocking, and its potential implications to big players like Google, on his website.

Earlier today I ran a poll on this page asking folks if they ran ad-blocking software. Here are the results of that poll:

Do you run ad-blocking software?

– Yes… 83.4%
– No… 4.6%
– No, but I’m thinking about it… 12%

(Insert usual caveat about poll not being scientific, blah blah, here.)

What do you think? Do you run an ad blocker? Leave a comment below.

Graham Cluley is an award-winning keynote speaker who has given presentations around the world about cybersecurity, hackers, and online privacy. A veteran of the computer security industry since the early 1990s, he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows, makes regular media appearances, and is the co-host of the popular "Smashing Security" podcast. Follow him on Twitter, Mastodon, Threads, Bluesky, or drop him an email.

9 comments on “The difference between newspaper and online ads”

  1. Coyote

    Well blocking ads (and other scripts) isn't new, is it (neither is ignoring ads in newspapers.. I have always and always will skip over them – if I want a specific service/shop/whatever, I'll look for it myself)? So I see no problem here at all. And if they want adverts to be displayed, perhaps they should have the decency to be basic and not animated/graphical, sound, scripted, etc. If they want to set the rules and disregard others, then why should anyone play by their rules? Without supposed (and/or would-be) customers, they wouldn't be in business, so treat them with respect (and be grateful) if you expect them to stay (customer service is everything, after all) or respect you.

    The fact that some use iframes is even worse.

    In short, if they feel too many are being dismissive of them, maybe they should evaluate whether they can change any of it (i.e. maybe it is partially or wholly their fault). This isn't like bullying where they do it just because they can (and it makes them feel better because they can make someone else miserable). As such, they might consider that they could make things better. But it might be too late by that point. It is their choice and we're all responsible for our actions.

  2. R. Dale Barrow

    I've noticed a few sites that detect ad-blockers and do their best to make you feel guilty. I wonder if the next step is going to be "enable our ads or you won't be served our content". I haven't seen or heard about sites doing that. Yet.

    And by the way, the Emperor has no clothes: while I was reading this article an ad for your newsletter popped up. Tsk tsk tsk.

    1. Graham CluleyGraham Cluley · in reply to R. Dale Barrow

      It's a fair cop guv, and I put my hands up to it.

      The silver lining is that you should only see that request to sign-up for my newsletter once every 30 days, and (hopefully) never again if you do choose to join the mailing list. Hopefully it's not too irritating and it doesn't actually require any additional keypresses/clicks to continue about your browsing… although I am sure some folks may find it off-putting.

      I also use Google Analytics and Gravatar on my site (and some pages have a an embedded Twitter button) which some folks may not like. Analytics helps me determine how many people come to my site (which is helpful information to convince sponsors to cough up some cash), and Gravatar makes the comments section slightly less bland.

      Some time ago I decided to drop all display ads, and move to a weekly sponsorship model which I hope most readers find preferable. Certainly I prefer things that way.

      1. Coyote · in reply to Graham Cluley

        It isn't all that irritating. Some websites do it every page every time. Now that is annoying. Here it is mostly a minor nuisance but every 30 days is hardly an issue, and in any case, all things have a reason behind them (and your reason is reasonable). Your newsletter is mostly an extension to this site, I think (I don't subscribe because I have too much many mailboxes to worry about as it is and I have a backlog of mail in some of those mailboxes). That would be your reason behind it, of course, and it is fair enough. And at least you don't have adverts (granted, I ignore ads anyway, but less to load and less clutter). I'd much rather the way it is here, than elsewhere.

        I never noticed the Twitter button you refer to, but maybe it is because I only have a whitelist (by domain) of scripts allowed. Or I'm simply ignoring it because it doesn't concern me (and I could see this being the case too).

  3. drsolly

    The only time I lost control of a computer I was using, was in 2004, after I accessed, and one of the served ads included an iframe exploit that installed something on my computer that resisted all my efforts to get rid of it … until I reformatted the hard disk, and replaced Windows with Linux.

    You bet your bum I run an ad blocker. And a java disabler.

  4. Phil J

    I do run an ad blocker, mostly to stop the autorun videos. I appreciate that I'm getting a free ride on the backs of those that don't have the technical wherewithal to instal a blocker.

    The problem with newspapers is that it is the content that is corrupted. For instance the Telegraph is edited by HSBC and News International titles run stories to further their political campaigns.

    On balance I think I would prefer honest content and obtrusive adverts.

  5. Jean

    It's a shame that it will be only possible in iOS9.

    I use adblock and also Noosfeer, the best advantage it's that it doesn't need an app to run on the phone, everything is browser based.

    1. David L · in reply to Jean


      On Android, Firefox has add-ons just like desktop,with all major blockers. That said,this website is one of the very few I whitelisted. Like Grahams explanation above, I see no harm in helping his site because of the conscientious steps he has taken. Too bad more don't think that way about ads.

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