Over the the past year, we’ve been showing a message to those of you who use an ad blocker. This message basically says, “Hey, could you not?”. It then offers a few options: whitelist RPS in your ad blocker, become an RPS supporter to get access to an official ad-free version of the site, or ignore the message and continue reading the site anyway.
We are starting to take this third option away.
Over the past month, we’ve been running a test in which we show a message to 10% of signed-out readers who use an ad blocker that does not feature a “continue ad blocking” button. People who receive this message either turn off their ad blocker, become a supporter to get an official ad-free version of the site, or they can’t read Rock Paper Shotgun. This week, we’re expanding that test to 35% of signed-out ad-blocking users. It’s likely that percentage is going to increase in the weeks and months ahead, too.
The reasons we’re doing this are fairly straightforward. Everything RPS does costs money, and most of the money we make comes from advertising. If readers are blocking the adverts on our site, then they’re benefiting from our work while not giving anything back. The more readers who block adverts, the harder it is for us to keep making everything you (hopefully) enjoy about RPS. And without advertising, RPS would cease to exist.
Since most ad blocking software blocks all adverts on all sites by default, most readers never think to whitelist the sites they enjoy or the sites which make the effort to have good advertising. That’s what the message we’ve run for the past year has aimed to change: it’s a friendly reminder that we need advertising to survive, and if you’d consider whitelisting us, that’d be a huge help.
Unfortunately, this message only converts so many users. The vast percentage of readers hit the “Continue ad blocking” button without thinking twice. By removing that button, we’re effectively leaving people with no choice: either they think our work has value and let advertising appear on the page, or they turn around and go somewhere else. Yes, this means that some people will go somewhere else.
Over the last ten years, I’ve had a lot of discussions with a lot of people about advertising. I always start by pointing out that we aim to make our advertising unobtrusive. We don’t allow auto-playing videos with sound (and if any ever sneaks in, email me and we’ll have it removed immediately). We don’t do pop-ups or sticky blocks which follow you around the page. You can customise how we use your information to personalise adverts. Our ads team work to make sure that what we show you is relevant and that we meet industry standards.
Sometimes the conversation ends here, but other times it continues. The response I hear most often is that there’s no such thing as “good” advertising, because advertising is inherently bad. This is normally either an anti-commercialism argument, a pro-privacy argument, or a PC-performance issue. I can respect a person attempting to live by a set of principles, but here’s the response I usually give: if you object to advertising in principle, then you shouldn’t read websites with adverts.
Ad blocking does not make websites better; ad blocking leads to advertising that’s more obtrusive, as it fights to get in front of you and get your attention by other means. It creates an adversarial relationship between us, the creators of RPS trying to make a living, and you, the reader trying to duck and dodge those efforts.
If you whitelist us however, and trust us to show you decent adverts, then now we’re in a mutually beneficial relationship. You become our customer and as such we’re beholden to you, and we have cause to make sure our adverts don’t chase you away.
The same is true if you decide to pay and become an RPS supporter. Sign up and you’ll get a version of RPS without adverts, but with bigger images and a cleaner reading experience.
It’s possible you’re reading all this and thinking: “I am seeing this message even though I don’t use an ad blocker.” It is extremely likely that if you’re seeing adverts but still getting the message, then it’s because you’re running another browser plugin or VPN which blocks some adverts or cookies, and therefore we have no way of knowing that you’re seeing the adverts. If you think that’s not the case and that we’re showing you the message in error, then please get in touch and we’ll do everything we can to fix the issue.
I am a reader of the internet and I know how bad advertising can be. I believe RPS’s adverts are some of the best in the business, and if you think they can be better still, then hit that email link and tell me. I have all the motivation in the world to make them better.
If you still don’t want to see our adverts, consider signing up to the RPS Supporter Program. We relaunched it back in July and now those most-beloved people who support RPS with hard cash get not only our undying appreciation, they also get games and gifts, three extra posts a week, and an official ad-free version of the site. No ad blocker required.