I Followed a Link To A Newspaper Article. What Happened Next Will Shock You!

No Comments November 26, 2014

OK, that's it - I've had enough. I'm fed up to the back teeth with invasive online advertising and as a result I'm going to start doing something I've never actively done before - I'm now going to pro-actively start blocking them.

As an active net denizen since the mid-1990s I'm well aware that advertising is a necessary evil; servers don't magically make themselves available for free and virtual bandwidth costs physical money. As such I've accepted them as a minor annoyance - I've even followed the advertising at times to sites where the lure looks interesting. But no more.

There has been a trend recently to provide saturation-level advertising in online content - and I don't just mean on those interminable "He had a sick puppy. You won't believe what it did next" style click-bait articles, but even on "reputable" news sources.

Let's take a look at an article on my local newspaper's website- http://www.westerngazette.co.uk/Jo-Pavey-goes-Rory-McIlroy-Lewis-Hamilton-BBC/story-24668001-detail/story.html. Deep breath now...

First, before I even get to see the content I've asked for, I get presented with a full page advert for Vodafone complete with auto-playing video (and sound).

Now we get to see the page content; there's the site masthead, a top banner advert, side banner advert and the headline and photo for the main story. Excellent.

Screenshot #1

Scroll down to the article body and just as I start reading the first paragraph, a video advert pops into the page pushing the content I'm reading down. This is a massively jarring experience as I've now got to visually re-scan the page to find the point in the sentence I had previously got to.

Screenshot #2

Read through the five brutally short paragraphs and get presented with the ubiquitous "Sponsored Links by Taboola" section, complete with dangerous links to unsubstantiated woo claims about drugs and cancer. Lovely.

enter image description here

So, apart from the full-screen advert, the unwanted audio instantly blaring out, the adverts deliberately breaking into the content you're reading and the links to dangerous faux-medical sites, what's the problem? Well, take a look at this:

Page payload

To serve what was (if I'm being charitable) 150 kilobytes of actual content, the browser has had to deal with 9,492 kilobytes of data; that's a percentage increase of 6,228%.

As luck would have it, I was recently introduced to Ghostery by a colleague as a simple way of blocking trackers to test our own client-side code, and as well as stopping trackers it does a nice line in blocking obnoxious adverts as well.

After Ghostery

So, with just the woo-promoting and intrusive advertising providers blocked, the page becomes silent and readable; in addition, the payload reduces from around 9.5 MB to around 1.2 MB.

For the time being then I'll carry on using Ghostery and if that doesn't work I'll try using AdBlock - and to anyone from Local World who happens to read this, it's your own fault. I've coexisted with advertising on the web for many, many years but when you saturate my online experience with crap I have to take action.

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