October 25, 2015

Ben Brooks tackles the ad blockers

(Originally posted on 2015-09-27)

Which iOS Content Blocker is the Fastest? — The Brooks Review

A Few More Thoughts on My Top Three Content Blockers — The Brooks Review

Saving 30% or More of Your Data Transfer With Content Blockers — The Brooks Review

Ye Olde Content Blocking — The Brooks Review

Finally, he expresses his opinion on “Native Advertising.”

Native Advertising is a Bad Solution — The Brooks Review

Kudos to Ben Brooks. He is providing a valuable service in testing the various ad blockers out and presenting data-supported recommendations. I bought 1Blocker based on his say-so and am happy with it.

He is thinking about the ethical issues related to ad blocking and he makes some interesting assertions. The issue he is trying to handle deal with bloggers who expect to monetize the exercise in some way. He is not much interested in media houses and their web sites. They have a dedicated sales staff and there is “separation” between the revenue source and the writers reviewing the products. He is much more concerned about the individual operators like him and me, who have to juggle the dilemma of writing and finding ways to generate income from said writing. The conflict obviously arises when a product you review ends up being a sponsor of your writing. The core problem is credibility.

There is a big word associated with this debate. It is “objectivity”.

The chain of sequence is the following: You are objective, that is, free of biases. You write and recommend something, or do not recommend something. The reader respects your objective opinion and thus values your recommendation (or lack thereof). Anything that gets in the way of this fanciful equation is going to be a drag on your credibility.

I am not sure that writers who are writing on the web to make a living, are really “objective.” We are not academics, we are not trying to provide analysis of objectively collected data points (I would argue that few academics in the social sciences meet that bar). We are a composite of our biases and inclinations and we look at the world through that prism. If that is something that is relevant & entertaining, then people pay us attention. That is our audience.

More importantly, I am not sure that we need to be “objective.” In fact, the more biased you are, the better your opportunity to gain attention. I remember the early days of Gruber. People liked him because he was unapologetically an Apple fan. His audience has grown a lot since then. His unique personality, his ability with the written word, his irritating baseball tweets, all add to the persona he has created and successfully monetized. I am not certain that people go to Daring Fireball because they think Gruber is objective. They go there because he is entertaining and sometimes he has good information to share. And he does snark, oh-so-well.

As an independent in this market space, how do I build credibility? This is a list of some of the things I do:

  1. If I am reviewing a product, I try to provide links to other reviews of the same product. I am particularly conscious of doing this when I am panning a product.
  2. I try to lay out my biases if they are relevant. I like Ulysses, I use it every day, I make sure that people know that when I write about it or its competitors.
  3. Credibility is a nebulous thing. You have to work on building it over a period of time and your readers will get the picture. Can you lose it? Sure? But it won’t be in the sponsors you have accepted money from. It will be in your writing.


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