A suggestion to WIRED on the occasion of their adblock-blocking

February 16th, 2016

WIRED magazine recently started dropping an overlay on their articles whenever they detected an adblocker:

Here’s The Thing With Ad Blockers

We get it: Ads aren’t what you’re here for. But ads help us keep the lights on. So, add us to your ad blocker’s whitelist or pay $1 per week for an ad-free version of WIRED. Either way, you are supporting our journalism. We’d really appreciate it.

Ouch, it hurts to see such a good site take itself hostage like that -- and make exactly the same mistake as so many other sites in their approach and phrasing. I want WIRED to do well, so I sent in a letter to the editor. I present it here as well, adapted slightly for the web:

Dear WIRED,

I want you to succeed, but you're making a mistake in the messaging around adblockers that is being overlaid on every article.[1] I care about you, so I'm taking the time to write in with some advice:

Don't phrase it like you're holding your users' privacy and security ransom.

(I'll suggest some alternative phrasing, but first a bit of scene-setting.) I'm happy to give money to sites that provide value. I don't want to be a Free User and I have even written to sites asking them to please take my money. What I won't do is unblock third-party, targeted ads, no matter how tasteful and relevant; the malware risk is too high and the privacy damage is well understood. It's just not an option.

So when your page says "whitelist us or pay", what I hear is "pay up or we'll hurt you". I know that's not what you mean, so let me suggest a replacement. Instead of:

So, add us to your ad blocker’s whitelist or pay $1 per week for an ad-free version of WIRED. Either way, you are supporting our journalism.

I recommend something like:

So, add us to your ad blocker’s whitelist or pay $1 per week to support our journalism directly (and see an ad-free WIRED, of course.)

I'm never going to pay to get rid of the ads I never saw in the first place. I will happily pay to support journalism and other worthwhile endeavors. I think other users will as well.

Best of luck,

- Tim McCormack