The woes of online journalism and the challenges of ad-blocker

I’ve never used an ad-blocker.

They’re something I didn’t even know existed until about a year ago, and even if I did know of their existence sooner, I never would have set foot near one.

I’ve understood for a long time that nothing in this world is free, and that goes for the content I consume on the internet as well. I’ve consciously looked at the ads that I see on my favourite websites as a good thing. When I see an ad, the people who create the content get paid. So when I discovered just how large the majority of my friends – and apparently the rest of the tech-savvy world – is that uses an ad-blocker I was shocked.

The annoyance that I experience from a couple of banner ads or pre-video Youtube commercials has never been enough for me to consider removing them at the expense of the content creators. Besides, in a world where a lot of our online movements are tracked, and relevant ads can be targeted at our individual preferences, I’ve noticed even less instances of annoying and intrusive ads.

That said, after studying at university how the business of newspapers has evolved, reading several articles on the state of ad supported businesses such as Niero Gonzalez’s breakdown on how ad-blockers effect Destructoid, and most recently Ben Kuchera’s explanation of why the advertising system currently sucks, I realize that a lot needs to change.

I understand where a lot of journalist are coming from when they make comments like these on Twitter in reaction to the discussion:

But I simply don’t have the responsibilities of a full time journalism job right now, so I’m going to take some time and weigh in on how we can improve our industry’s business situation when I can.

In response to Kuchera’s piece on Wednesday, long time developer David Jaffe put forward a method to “fix” games journalism. He proposes a vote for the 10 best journalist and then have one of those names drawn from a hat. The journalist drawn would then independently report on the industry for a year thanks to funds from a Kickstarter campaign.

It’s an interesting idea that, although (as Jaffe himself describes it) “half baked”, could be worth a try, if only to show that there are enough readers out there willing to pay for quality content. There’s likely a better way to demonstrate this fact, but I like where he’s coming from.

The one part of his idea that I don’t agree with is the emphasis on independence on the part of the chosen writer. I don’t disagree with his desire to eliminate the advertisers from the workflow, but with the lack of an editorial team.

I love working with other talented writers who have had different experiences than me. This is something I realized while practically living with the other members of the griff’s editorial team over the last two semesters, and I think it ultimately makes the final written product better. I will always prefer writing with, and for, a team, to writing exclusively by myself, and I don’t think I’m alone in this opinion.

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