I hate internet display ads. These poorly-integrated, poorly-targeted, ineffective pieces of digital garbage are the ugliest scar of the internet’s maturation. What a waste of bandwidth. I don’t need to be visually assaulted by an animated monstrosity every three paragraphs just so some irrelevant retailer can get their sweet, sweet 0.14% click-through rate.

“But wait, don’t you like reading free content on the internet? The ads you’re blocking help pay for that content! If you don’t want to look at ads it’s your obligation to buy their subscriptions.”

If only it were that easy.

It’s one of the many blessings of the internet that high-quality journalism and writing is available, in some capacity, for no charge. Organizations like The New York Times, The Atlantic, and The Washington Post all allow users to read a limited number of ad-supported articles in a given period before hiding the rest of their content behind a paywall.

If you’d like to purchase unlimited, ad-free access to their content, these organizations are happy to sell you a digital subscription. And if you love The New York Times, that’s great! You throw them ten dollars a month and everyone’s happy.

I like The Times, but I don’t read their content any more often than The Atlantic’s, or WaPo’s, or a dozen others’. And yeah, they all sell subscriptions; and yeah, I could dish out the cash, but at that point the trouble alone makes an ad-blocker look like a better option.

I mean we’re talking a dozen different contact and billing forms, several dozen billing and confirmation emails, plus the associated spam. Login credentials, password confirmation emails, all that. There has to be a way for these companies to produce good content and get paid for it by consumers who aren’t wedded to their brand. A way that doesn’t involve a message from Clorox™ after every third paragraph.

I’ll come clean: I used to pirate music. Like, a lot. It was free, but beyond that, it was reliable. Sometimes it was a hassle, but it worked. You know why I pay Spotify ten dollars every month now? They make it easy. All the music, everywhere, all the time. It just works. Why isn’t news the same way?

It could be.

If I can get one subscription to those dozen sites – or even half of them – in one payment, I’ll cut the check. If it works on my phone, my computer, and my iPad (I don’t actually have an iPad) with no extra logins or emails, I’m in. Maybe it’s an app, or a Chrome extension that handles the website credentials, or perhaps it’s a new benefit of Amazon Prime.

I’m not averse to paying for access to content. I already do it for music, movies, and TV. Shit, I do it for two-day shipping. It’s not about the money, it’s about the quality and convenience of the service.

The writing’s on the wall for display ads. One way or another, you won’t be getting ad money from me when I visit your site. Internet content companies need to make the same hard choices the music industry avoided for so long. Band together and make your collective content effortless to access, or go down with the ship.

December 19, 2017