How Naked Capitalism Leaves Advertising Dollars on the Table So Nothing Comes Between You and Your Content

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

I suppose if I were a clickbait maven, I would have written a headine like “15 Brutal Advertising Tactics Even Naked Capitalism Can’t Bring Itself to Use,” or “You Won’t Believe How Bad Online Advertising Can Be (Because at Naked Capitalism You See So Little of It”). But I’m not, so I won’t. Instead, as I did the last I time I presented such a parade of horribles, a cavalcade of ugly as will shortly follow, I’ll content myself with pointing to our business model, as documented on our policies page:

Yes, we have it. No ads, no site. We don’t like the visual clutter any more than you do but treating this website like an enterprise rather than a hobby requires funding.

Two things you can do to help the enterprise: 1) Whitelist us. Fewer adblockers, and advertisers like us better. 2) Click through ads once in a while, and stay long enough to read them. (Lambert here: I do, for things like camera lenses, where I want to support those businesses and that line of business.) We are not paid on clicks but advertisers like sites more when there are more viewer clickthroughs.

In longer form, we have two funding streams: One is reader donations, as in this fundraiser — the Tip Jar, as always, is to your right — and the other is online advertising. We don’t maximize advertising revenue, and we avoid the kind of advertising that gets between you, reader, and the straightforward process of going to our site, clicking on a link to an article, and reading from the start of the article to the end, without having your reading experience interrupted by any of the horrid object lessons I am about to present. We value your time. We value your sensibilities. And since the most obnoxious ads are the most lucrative, we’re leaving even more money on the table than you might think we are!

That said…. Naked Capitalism is an enterprise, and as an enterprise, we require funding. If this fundraiser  — heaven forfend — falls short, we’ll have to look at more ways to sell ads, ugly though that will be (though we’ll never go to autoplay video popups, I promise). Conversely, if advertising — which is under continued, massive assault by Google and Facebook — falls short, we may need to appeal to you again. That said, to the parade of horribles!

1. We do not publish advertising “blades” that you will never be able to unsee, unlike Talking Points Memo. (Please help us avoid seeing what cannot be unseen by going to the Tip Jar.)

2. We do not force you to click through an advertising “splash” screen to get to your content, unlike Governing (although you may click the Tip Jar to your right):

3. We do not force you to click through offers of “free e-books,” although gawd knows we have the content for a hundred e-books, unlike this photography site (The Tip Jar is in the side bar, under the heading “Tip Jar.”)

4. We do not force you to click through transparent efforts to scarf up your email address and monetize it, unlike Daily Kos. (You may click the Tip Jar’s Donate or Subcribe links.)

5. We do not have any popups, especially popups that try to suck you into being “notified,” interrupting your flow, or nap, or state of pleasing equanimity with silly — and monetized — messages, unlike PJ Media. (You can even click the Tip Jar’s image of snow leopards).

6. We do not have site-busting pop-up videos, because we never fell for Facebook’s “pivot to video” scam in the first place, unlike Salon. (The Tip Jar has not moved. It’s still to your right.)

7. We especially do not have autoplay popup videos that keep coming back even if you manage to close them, unlike The Hill. (Perhaps we should make the Tip Jar into a pop-up and put advertising on it?)

8. We are not Forbes, who also fell for the “pivot to video,” and who combine video autoplay….

9. … with a screen-covering pop-over that forces you to click through it…

10. … only to come to a second video autoplay! All in the same “Editor’s Choice” article! (Better idea: Make the Tip Jar an autoplay video! With advertising!)

11. We do not pester you to subscribe, because we do not have a subscription model, unlike Le Monde, although to be fair, Le Monde is relatively restrained. (You know why I have to keep doing the hard sell; the Tip Jar is over there ☞☞☞☞☞☞)

12. We do not take up your precious screen real estate with subscription offers demands, unlike The Economist. (The Tip Jar, as it was in items one thorugh ten, is to your right.)

13. We do not use dark patterns, unlike WaPo. (Please reward us for our self-restraint by going to the Tip Jar now!)

(Dark Patterns: “Dark Patterns are tricks used in websites and apps that make you buy or sign up for things that you didn’t mean to.” Look at the Economist’s real-estate-sucking but fair subscription in #12: The buttons are, from left-to-right, “Preferred Offer,” “Second Offer,” close box; the close box at top right is Windows standard, and best practice on the web. So what does WaPo do? They put the close box at the right, but bury it with yet more subscription offers — offers you have already rejected — that they hope you accidentally click on! Ugh.

14. We do not take up your precious screen real estate with subscription offers demands that are so darn complicated they might as well be on the ObamaCare website:

(As a sidebar, it sure is weird that the Times’ basic subscription is news, and if you pay more, you pay for life-style material like the crossword and recipes, or, at the high end, “Times experiences” [shudder]. I can’t help but think that says nothing good The Grey Lady’s management priorities.)

15. Finally, we do not monetize comments, unlike TMZ (or anybody else who uses Disqus or social media logins, because what else would they do with your data? (Unless you have a heart of stone, the Tip Jar is to your right.)

* * *

Naked Capitalism can’t do without advertising. But we can — and have — avoided the the most horrid and intrusive practices, as you can see. Your contributions help keep the experience of reading Naked Capitalism simple, clean, and fast, not just for you, but for everyone. Splash screens, popups, autoplay videos, subscription offers, or bizarre advertising “blades” you cannot unsee: All these come between you and your content, which is why we don’t use them. Please make a contribution now if you haven’t already!

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


    1. False Solace

      Much like the classic XKCD: “So much of ‘AI’ is just figuring out how to offload work onto random strangers”.

      1. lyman alpha blob

        Aaaah, it’s funny because it’s true. I’d put the whole automated payment industry in that category. The AI doesn’t actually automate the payment set up process, it just sloughs the work from one company’s AP department on to the AR department of the company that wants to get paid.

        Anyhoo, glad to donate to keep the website readable!

  1. Ignacio

    Ads are everywhere and I long ago became fed up with it. NC is, in this sense, an island of tranquility. I am happy to contribute to that.

    Some media claim to be independent but they depend on ad revenues. A two-fold problem: 1)ads interfer with information in ways showed above in this post, and 2) the clients of media with ads are not readers but advertisers. Readers are no longer recipients of information but “messages”. Journalists, no matter how honest they are, owe it to the true Editors in Chief, the advertisers.

  2. Arizona Slim

    How big of a fundraiser would we need in order to rid NC of all ads? On more than one occasion, pop-up ads have hijacked my phone and they’re very hard to get rid of.

      1. Arizona Slim

        Thanks, Lambert.

        Here’s the thing about those pesky pop-up ads: They’re ridiculously obvious scams. Complete with audio that congratulates me for something like winning a free Amazon gift card. I’m loathe to click on such garbage, but there are times when that’s the only way to make them stop hijacking my NC website visits.

    1. Yves Smith

      Significantly more than we can get from donations at our current traffic levels. We do not run popups at all, and we only have one site format (we use responsive design), so it isn’t possible for you to be getting something on your mobile device that other people aren’t getting too.

    2. BillC

      I have seen the same thing a few times apparently in conjunction with NC browsing on my Android phone (Motorola, which is reputed to be pretty much pure Android, sans the add-on apps with which Samsung and many others “enhance” their product). And I’m using Firefox, not Android’s default Chrome.

      If it’s not directly triggered by advertiser links in NC content, could there be logic in the browser (or — pure paranoia to think it — buried in the OS TCP/IP stack) that triggers on some HTML feature to pop up ads not invoked by the content itself? Or could it be that NC’s ad-filtering specs are not scrupulously observed by Google or whoever’s serving the ads and paying NC a pittance for the privilege?

      1. Yves Smith

        We have ads that are sold by our ad service at a not bad rate, and the rest are filled by Google Adsense. Google Adsense does not provide popups.

        The way our site is set up (responsive design in CSS), the only filters for the premium ads are by geography (as in they can be served only to the US or even only the NYC metro area). It is not possible for one or two users or only mobile users to get an ad, such as a popup, from our service. All users who are eligible to see an ad when it is running see that ad. So I wonder if this is a very much delayed ad load from the site you were leaving.

  3. TastySharkSnack

    I suppose if you made the never ending pop up video a stream of the 2 snow leopard cubs I watched play at the SF zoo this weekend, all may be forgiven.

  4. False Solace

    As of a couple of months ago Chrome has a setting to turn off “autoplay” videos. Oddly enough it only works on certain sites (not Youtube — mysteriously) and only on certain days/phases of the moon. I think it’s only for non-muted videos. Not quite sure. Anyway if you’re using Chrome it may be worth a shot.

    Go to “chrome://flags/” (in the URL bar) and search for the “Autoplay policy” option. Set it to “Document user activation is required”.

    But you’re better off switching to Firefox and disabling Javascript by default.

  5. david lamy

    Ms Slim’s 10:59 comment about funding and lack of ads is the segue to my comment.

    I subscribe to “Linux Weekly News” (LWN) and they have a subscription model that is successful and fair (your opinion may differ!):

    (1) For non-subscribers certain articles are unavailable for two weeks. You will get the ads! You may submit comments!

    (2) For a very modest subscription fee all articles are available. (They call it the ‘starving hacker’ level). You do get served ads. You can comment too! I
    think modest is $42US yearly.

    (3) For ‘professional hackers’ (yours truly), you get all the content available,
    you can turn off the ads (I do!) and you can filter comments based on author (I don’t). This runs around $84US per year.

    (4) There are two levels further above which confer timely email notifications and complementary beverage purchase at certain conferences.

    LWN Subscriptions gets you all the gory details.

    Now LWN does not run on WordPress so being able to filter out david lamy’s comments may never be in the cards. (I have no clue about WordPress, if you can enable this people will pay for it.)

    The time limit for the pay wall could be much shorter, in my opinion, a two day wait on Links would get a large number of ‘starving readers’.

    I think a lot of people will pay doubly to triply ‘starving reader’ levels to avoid the ads.

    Allowing all subscribers to send a complementary article link to non-subscribers would allow for subscriber growth. This worked well for LWN during the Spectre crisis unveiling.

    On a personal aside: I at anytime could fall to pay wall threshold. I welshed on a promised contribution to Water Cooler when a tooth abscessed right after my pledge. But at the least: perhaps Water Cooler is the place for a subscription trial. And subscriptions avoid these moral dilemmas …

    Some thoughts about levels, features and associated rates may be helpful.

    My deepest thanks to Yves, Lambert and Jerry Lynn for the curation and commentary that is the bulwark of this great site.

  6. JamesT

    Hi Lambert, Hi Yves,

    have you ever thought about organising the wealth of information and insights you have gathered and produced over the years in a more accessible format?

    Some kind of Wiki springs to mind especially given that
    a) the software for administrating and moderating such a system are well developed and fairly easy to implement(e.g. Wikimedia) and
    b) Wikipedia itself has become far more conservative/mainstream and far less of a source for links to alternative/interesting/innovative ideas, especially in your main area(s) of experties.
    c) that you have the support of plenty of active commentators( Plutonium Kun, Clive, vlade, …) more than capable of filling and moderating such a system

    1. Yves Smith

      We don’t have the staffing to do anything extra. I don’t even have the staffing to do things like go tag articles from before we implemented categories, or to restore the embeds that were lost when we were kicked off ScribD for being falsely accused of copyright infringement (ScribD does not listen to facts and didn’t care that we had the legal right to show the content at issue).

  7. Occupant

    I use an ad blocker and NoScript and it takes care of most ads (sorry).

    Longtime lurker, finally posting to say I donated and thank you for what you do. I believe I stumbled across this site through EmptyWheel, which I found through a mention on the Intercepted podcast. I’m a recovering Democrat who realized that the guys I thought were the good guys…probably weren’t. When you’re one of them, that’s disconcerting.

    A Gen Xer with computer experience from way back (building your computer with stuff bought from Computer Shopper, anyone?), I’ve had to rearrange my news gathering habits, and sites like yours are an amazing resource. I despair about so many of my contemporaries who get everything pushed to them on Facebook, or even worse, from watching the morning infotainment programs, NPR and MSNBC. There is just so damned much information, and I feel like I’m getting better sources and different perspectives (the comments are so good with all the different viewpoints and life experiences), and it’s a valuable service to me.

    I saw the different categories for donation go by, and then decided to finally put some cash down to say thanks because I totally block everything ad-related. Keep up the good work, glad to contribute to keeping the enterprise going.

Comments are closed.