liz_marcs (liz_marcs) wrote,

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Ads on LJ

First, a disclaimer: I'm a paid user, so I don't see ads anywhere. So you should probably take my opinion with the grain of sand it probably deserves.

Secondly, some news: There's been a slow roil about the TOS regarding ads, specifically, that Ad-Blockers are not allowed. Turns out that this was a bit of a screw-up on the part of LJ. They have issued an apology with an explanation that use of ad-Blockers will not get you TOS'd because:

  • They can't tell if you're using an Ad-Blocker anyway
  • A lot of software (like Firefox) have ad-blockers pre-installed that can't be removed
  • People do not use the same computers all the time to access LJ (i.e., work, school, and home computers are all used), so you don't always have control over what's installed on the computer you're using.

I suppose that means a new TOS will be forthcoming.

Now, I'm going to go against the grain of opinion and say that I honestly can't see what the big deal about ads on LJ actually is.

Adfree was nice as long as it could last, but it really couldn't. When the servers are holding more than 10 million accounts, and considering that traffic keeps growing and new journals are constantly being created, the free ride was going to come to an end sooner of later.

All in all, I think LJ is being more than reasonable with the new ad policy. For a start, you've got the option to completely op out of ads by either paying or if you're a free user, by simply refusing to carry them.

The fact is, nothing is free. If you want something, someone somewhere has to foot the bill. Now from what I understand, the paid users had been footing the bill for the free users. To get people to convert to paid accounts, LJ dangled the goodies in front of people's noses. Now, can I say for certain that the number of paid accounts no longer can support the number of free accounts? No. I can't. Do I think it's possible that's the case? Yup. I sure can.

The fact is, LJ does have a right to make a profit. Profit = good. Profit allows people to pay rent, keep the lights on, earn salaries, buy groceries. Where I have problems is when profit becomes gouging (see: "oil companies").

I know. Funny to hear coming from a screaming liberal like little ol' me, but a healthy economy (or healthy companies) helps all boats rise, so to speak.

In all honesty, I don't see price gouging for subscriptions. I don't see "hidden gouging" in allowing ads, especially since people can most certainly opt out of seeing them.

Now, I'm not going to sit here and say: "Thou must pay or stop yer bitching about your virgin eyes, bend over, and accept ads."

There are a lot of reasons why people don't pay. People have financial issues that preclude ponying up the cash. Dude, I get that. I've been poor. As in dig-through-the-couch-cushions-to-find-spare-change poor. As in this-stick-of-gum-is-dinner poor.

Sure, $25 a year doesn't sound like a whole lot, but when you're making the chewing gum last because of lack of actual food, $25 might as well be a zillion million dollars.

Then there's a group of people who need to prioritize where their money goes. They're not broke, but they don't feel comfortable plunking down the cash because, hell, they've got other expenses that need to be covered first. They'd like to pay, but right now is simply a bad time to do it.

Then there's another group of people who simply don't think LJ is worth paying for. This is a perfectly legitimate stance. It may be a fun little tool, but all in all, really not something they want to pay for because, to them, it's kind of a waste of money.

Now, I ponied up the cash because, hell, I think it's worth it. I use it enough. When RL isn't kicking me in the ass, LJ can provide me with hours of entertainment. I, personally, feel I should pay since it is providing me with a service and I enjoy using it. I even kicked in another $10 for the extra user pics.

Also, the second important point: I can afford the $35 a year I pay for this account. It's cheaper than my subscription to the Boston Globe, it's cheaper than one month of basic cable, it's cheaper than the amount I spend on coffee in one month, it's cheaper than filling up the gas tank once. Truth to tell, I can cut some expenses if I ever had a major financial crisis and still make the bills I've got.

Now, I'm not bragging, "I ro0l because I pay!" I'm just saying I can pay and I don't mind paying. I didn't mind paying even when I knew I was subsidizing the free users. Why? Because for some free users, LJ is an important tool to connect with other people or to socialize. I don't begrudge free users (and never have) one bit.

I suppose I look at it as being part of a community. Those who can and want to should, those who can't and don't want to shouldn't have to. Or, to put it another way, those of us with resources and the willingness to do so should pitch in for those of us who don't have the resources.

I'm a big believer in the commonweal, I suppose.

I also think LJ giving paid users extras (i.e., more user pics, more storage space, ability to make phone posts or polls) is also fair. It's a nice carrot to get those who can pay, but aren't necessarily willing to pay, to convert their free accounts. I don't see it as "classism" (as I've seen some free users put it), I see it as "incentive."

So how does this tie into the the whole ad deal?

I view LJers who choose to take on ads as taking advantage of a pretty sweet deal. They're getting some bennies in exchange for providing a service to LJ. I have zero problem with that. I'd have zero problem with that even if I was a free user and would be one of the ones who couldn't completely escape the ads.

It benefits people who'd like to pay, but really can't. It benefits people who'd like some extra goodies, but don't want to pay.

Most of all (and this is where I see the real benefit), LJ communities and RP journals can get some extras if they agree to take on ads. I'm sure that in the coming months there'll be kerfluffles all across LJ as community owners and moderators debate the whole ad issue. I can see pros and cons to allowing ads on group journals, and I can see why some might want the ads, and some might want to keep the adds away. Hopefully, the owners and moderators will put the issue up for a vote before their memberships. Chances are showing that basic sensitivity will keep the coming furor to a medium roar.

But here's the point: If someone doesn't want ads on their LJ, they don't have to sign up for the program. If you're a free user and don't want to see ads, you won't see them unless you go to someone's LJ who carries the ads or to to the LJ homepage. You can completely opt out. That means: no ads on your LJ or your FList.

Which is why I don't understand the howling and breast-beating over this. I don't understand why people are threatening to "de-friend" people who choose to have the ads on their LJ. Nor do I get the whole "boycott" of SixApart or LJ. I honestly don't. If someone else chooses to accept the ads, it really doesn't affect you at all, unless you're a free user and go directly to their LJ or to the LJ homepage.

What makes it doubly mystifying to me is this: how many people use Google on a regular basis? Or Gmail as one of their email accounts? There are text ads and sponsored links all over Google and Gmail, yet I've never heard anyone complaining or threatening to boycott.

It's really the same concept.

I can completely understand why some people would chose to accept ads on their LJ and I really don't see the big deal.

I don't understand why people are trying to make it into a big deal.

You can completely opt out by either refusing and keeping your free account or ponying up the money. In short, LJ is not engaging in extortion. You don't even have to pay to avoid the ads.

Many browsers and anti-virus programs have ad-blockers so you can't even see the ads unless you tell your browser and anti-virus program to let the ads through. LJ isn't going to block functionality if you don't open up and allow ads (unlike, say, Salon).

I suppose that what I'm saying is this: How is someone's acceptance of ads actually hurting someone who can't or doesn't want to pay and doesn't want ads?

I'm utterly mystified by the hostile stance some people have to this whole ads scheme.

I'll be over here in the corner wearing my asbestos underwear...

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