August 2003: Advertising on the Internet: Make it Stop!

 
The internet is supposed to be a convenient way to get information quickly, send written messages quicker and also be more profitable for businesses.  When the internet first started out, this was the case.  Newspapers, magazines, companies and so forth placed their information online.  Newspapers like The Toronto Star and the Ottawa Sun placed their entire daily editions in online formats.  Companies were merely happy to put their products on their own websites in order to make it easier for their customers to order.  Then came the advent of the “banner add”.  Websites found it quite expensive to place all this free content on the internet.  Thus, when the banner ad was invented websites quickly gravitated to this type of advertising.  Banner ads then started appearing at the top of webpages in various cases including before newspaper articles and personal essays on free website hosting firms (e.g. netfirms.com).  Website visitors got used to the banner add and quickly got used to ignoring these type of advertisements.  By ignoring these ads, website visitors were not clicking on these ads which caused revenues to decline.  The problem was that banner adds were contracted to pay, in most cases, on a “per click”.  For example, an overture.com banner ad pays about $0.02 per click to the website displaying the ad.    Therefore, with visitors ignoring these ads and, thus, not clicking on them, website producers were not making any money off these advertisements. 

Facing declining revenues and increasing internet costs to host website content and, in the newspaper industry, declining revenues from newspaper sales, the relationship between advertisers and the internet content producers had to change.  Newspapers owned by the Canwest Global Communications started restricting the number of stories carried on their respective newspaper websites (i.e. Ottawa Citizen) so that visitors were forced to purchase the product from the local newsstand instead of reading the whole daily newspaper online.  Free website hosting companies were also hit as well.  Geocities.com started restricting services to their website hosting customers unless they upgraded to one of Geocities’ paid packages.  In other words, in some cases both the newspapers and the free website hosting companies started to move toward having the visitors pay for their products they were using and moving away from free content while still collecting revenue from the banner add.

The “pop up add” started to gain in popularity with websites.  Banner and other sized advertisements could be popped up on the visitor’s computer screen while the consumer surfed the website.  These new “pop up” advertisements were a hit with the website companies because the visitor was forced to see the advertisement because the visitors were now forced to close the window with the advertisement in it.  Internet companies specializing in programs that could be installed on a visitor’s computer without the person even knowing where the program came from also began to start up.  Internet surfers quickly became disgruntled over this new type of advertising as the number of these advertisements clogged up their toolbars, screens and, in some cases, even forced computers to run out of memory and crash. 

Website visitors and web browser companies (i.e. Microsoft Internet Explorer) struck back at the dirty tactics of the advertising firms and their tactics of forcing unwanted banner ads on website visitor’s screens.  The companies wanting to install programs that force pop up advertisements and track your interests by tracking the websites visited were the first to be targeted.  With the advent of Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0, website visitors could set the security settings to notify them when a internet program was about to be downloaded.  Within this screen is a lot of important information including the program’s name and the name of the company who produced the program.  Also, an option to either accept the downloading and installation of the program or not.   Thus, a quick click on the “no” button wouldn’t allow the dirty underhanded fiends of advertisers to install their programs without the knowledge of the user.  I use this feature of Internet Explorer to screw over companies like Gain Publishing (formally known as Gator.com or “Gator”) who sells the information they receive to marketing companies.  Also, by installing programs like Gain Publishing’s, web surfers are sending important information to Gain Publishing on their interests.  This is done be recording where people surf to on the internet and who doesn’t search their interests on the internet?    Gain Publishing and other similar companies can now sell the information to other companies or use it themselves in order to target marketing information to you through pop up add programs and sending advertisements to your e-mail address (SPAM).  However, by not allowing these programs to be downloaded onto their computers, companies like Gain Publishing cannot get this information for free.  Besides, consumers should be paid for doing providing their personal information including their interests.  So be sure to look into this feature of Microsoft Internet Explorer by looking at: “Tools”, “Internet Options”, “Privacy” tab and moving the bar up to the “medium level”.  This will restrict the programs from being downloaded without your consent.  However, Internet Explorer does not prevent pop up adds to be launched by websites that have code embedded in their page code (i.e. language used to tell computer what the page should look like) to be launched. 

Pop up stoppers have become popular with web surfers.  I currently use the pop up stopping button on the Google toolbar (see Google.com to download) which doesn’t allow pop up windows to appear without your permission.  Some of these pop up stopper programs they encourage you to pay for it.  However, the Google bar is free to download.  I have found this program to be very effective in eliminating unwanted pop up windows.  Also, if this program is programmed correctly by the user, the program will allow pop up windows that are launched when the user clicks on a link but still eliminates the ensuing pop up advertisements. 

Screwing over website hosting companies by employing anti-downloading techniques such as pop up stoppers and not downloading programs will only send the message that pop up advertisements and tricking us into giving them and other personal information without appropriate compensation will not be tolerated!  Therefore, when you see a website host only using banner ads for revenue (e.g. canoe.ca, google.com, the star.ca, etc.), be sure to patronize their sites more and more.    By encouraging other web hosts to not have annoying styles of advertising web viewers can show the marketing companies their true preferences, that the advertising that annoys will not be tolerated!
 
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