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Newsletter Issue #823

THIS WEEK’S TECH NIGHT OWL RADIO UPDATE

In recent days, with speculation about the next iPhone more or less stabilizing around a basic set of specs, talk has increased over the form and function of the next Apple TV. One story quoted Steve Jobs on the subject back in 2010, bemoaning the inability of tech companies to replace the cable/satellite set-top box. His theory, that since can get them for just $10 a month, rental, competitive products are really going to have rough going. And don’t forget there are often several devices that might be hooked up to your set, such as a gaming console, Blu-ray player, and maybe even a video streaming box.

Add to that the remotes — and yes, I realize there are universal remotes that promise to, more or less, replace them all, and you have the source of plenty of clutter. I have a Logitech remote that is programmed for the TV, soundbox, Blu-ray player and an Apple TV. It’s an awkward process to get any single function to start up properly, unless I hold remote just so to allow its signal to reach all the devices, and maybe not even then. The Logitech has a Help menu that attempts to fix things, but it usually requires extra steps to respond to the queries about whether a particular device is on or off.

It’s a mess, and Apple would do wonders to straighten it all out, if they can. But is that what the next Apple TV is all about? Or will it just be a spruced up version of the one we have, with more functions and a higher price tag to justify the extra goodness? And what about reports that Apple is planning to introduce a subscription TV — someday? How does that fit into their strategy to conquer the living room?

So this week’s episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE. we presented Bryan Chaffin, co-founder and co-publisher of The Mac Observer. He discussed predictions about the fourth generation Apple TV. What new features can we expect? Will Apple raise the price, and what about 4K (Ultra HD) support? You also heard a debate about a recent commentary from columnist Jonny Evans, a friend of the show, who suggested Apple ought to consider making a version of OS X that’ll run in a virtual machine on a Windows box for enterprise use. Would that endanger sales of high priced Macs? And what about the admission, from an Apple executive, that they are working on fixes for Apple Music problems?

You also heard from Avram Pitch, the Online Editorial Director for Laptop magazine. He also discussed what might be expected from the next Apple TV. The discussion also focused on Apple’s rumored plans for a subscription TV service, and the potential pitfalls of cord-cutting. What about cable and satellite companies offering a la carte, where you pick just the channels you want? There was also an extended discussion about ad-blockers, which are designed to shield you from ads on web sites. But is there a downside — the large potential loss of income by online publishers? I’ll have more to say about that shortly. Avram also briefly discussed the possibilities for a larger version of the iPad, subbed iPad Pro by the media.

On this week’s episode of our other radio show, The Paracast: Gene and Chris and Goggs Mackay are joined by Walter Bosley, an author, a former AFOSI agent and a former FBI counterintelligence specialist. They discuss a wide variety of subjects from pop culture, movie special effects, to so-called breakaway civilizations. So is it possible that UFOs and other unusual events are caused by individuals who have left our known world and are engaging in actions that we do not quite understand? The term was originally coined by UFO researcher and historian Richard Dolan to describe black budget projects, a secret space program, central bankers, secret societies and other agencies that fly under the radar. But Bosley feels there are actually two breakaway civilizations.

Now Shipping! The Official Paracast T-Shirt! We’ve got swag! We’re taking orders direct from our Official Paracast Store, where you can place your order and pay with a major credit card or PayPal. The shirts come in white, 100% cotton, and feature The Paracast logo on the front. The rear emblem states: “Separating Signal From Noise.” We’ve also added a huge selection of additional special custom-imprinted merchandise for fans of our show.

PLEASE TURN OFF THE AD BLOCKER!

This is a self-serving column. I’ll say that up front, so you know my point of view without excuses. But stick with me for a little while, and maybe you’ll agree with me. You see, I’m talking about some widely installed browser extensions, or apps, that are costing companies billions of dollars in lost revenue.

Do I have your attention?

How about this oft-repeated statistic, that digital advertising totals $60 billion each year in the U.S. alone. But 25% of Internet users are running ad blockers to hide that content. No, I cannot tell you how much money is actually lost from ad blockers, although there are estimates in the billions of dollars.

Now imagine any industry where that much money is left on the table. It means that people might lose their jobs, publishers might go out of business, or be forced to establish paywalls for their online content. So with the Washington Post, for example, you are allowed to read up to 10 articles, free, each month. After that number is reached, you are taken to a page where you are told to pay up if you want more. But I wonder how that works towards persuading readers to go elsewhere, or maybe enough sign after sampling the material to make it all worthwhile regardless.

But consider this: Web advertisers demand performance, more so than broadcast and newspaper ads. Something that merely builds brand awareness, reinforced by repetition, doesn’t count. They want to see evidence of exposures, or impressions, and clicks. If your click is converted to a sale, and the tracking mechanism needs to be accurate to make that determination, particularly if it’s not all done in a single process, that’s considered prime evidence of an advertising medium’s viability.

We carry some Google AdSense banners, and we get paid if you click on those ads. There is no other factor that generates money from that source. It doesn’t matter if you see the ad and, eventually, buy the product somewhere based on seeing it over and over again. It has to be immediate gratification, since that’s the way a pay-per-click ad works. If you are caught repeatedly clicking on those ads yourself to increase your payout, watch out. You might just lose the opportunity to run those banners.

So basically digital advertising requires more of the publisher than other forms of advertising. While the rates paid by advertisers has actually decreased — and Google has reported this in their recent financial reports — if more and more people do not see those ads, the publisher loses even more money.

So what about ad blockers? Well, Adblock Plus is the 800 pound gorilla in the room, although there are other ways for you to block ads. Malware apps and other ad blocking utilities come to mind. Adblock Plus is offered as an extension to your browser, and that includes Safari. When you go to their site, and I will not list it here for obvious reasons, you are offered the version that works with the browser detected for your visit.

Now Adblock Plus offers different ways to shield you from the ads you don’t want. One is just to block everything. Another is to allow “acceptable ads,” which are provided by advertisers or publishers that meet the company’s requirements. And they can be stringent. When I checked, there were references to text-only, no animation, and clear labeling as ads. But I hardly think a traditional web banner requires an “advertising” label, since its intent is obvious.

Adblock Plus earns revenue from donations and from publishers who participate in its “acceptable ads” program.

I don’t want to be graphic about this, but paying an entity to allow your ads to be seen comes across to me as ransom. If you don’t want to be blocked, prepare to accept the program and pay up. I don’t begrudge the right to earn a living, but this scheme doesn’t strike me as fair. Advertisers or publishers who cannot afford to pay the piper are in danger of losing the revenue they need to survive.

Now I am not going to argue that you should always accept web ads, or not use an ad blocker. Usually you can enter exceptions and allow some content to appear with ads intact.

I would hope our sites are included.

Unfortunately, some web publishers are not making the experience of seeing ads terribly pleasant.

Consider USA Today. It has a lot of material I’d like to read, but far too much of it contains embedded autoplay videos. You call up the page, and within seconds, something starts playing, even if the page is in the background. It come be startling if you’re busy listening to something else, or cherish your silence while working on your computing device. Indeed, Safari for OS X El Capitan is one browser that will allow you to kill the unwanted audio with a single click, and that’s a good thing.

Other advertisers throw up so-called interstitial ads, huge things that suddenly insert themselves between you and the content you want to read. Usually you can click them away, but sometimes you have to look at the huge banner or multimedia presentation to find the exit button or link. I find it irritating and do not accept such ads, although a few advertisers will occasionally put up a smaller display that can be easily dismissed.

Most ads we present have limited animation, and do not generate audio without your approval. I don’t want to see our ads interfere with your ability to read the content. Unfortunately, far too many publishers do not consider your comfort and peace of mind when they throw things in your face willy nilly hoping that you’ll click on something and help them earn their keep.

That sort of behavior is what increases the number of users who install Adblock Plus or a similar extension. Unfortunately, it’s throwing out the baby with the bathwater. The vast majority of sites who present ads in a tasteful manner are hidden just as easily as those who don’t. Regardless, unless you set the option to block everything, you may still see ads that they consider acceptable in large part because someone paid them for the privilege.

As some of you know, I have anti-ad block utilities installed on most of my sites. They are designed to detect if you’re using an ad blocker, and put up a gentle message reminding you that we are paid by advertisers so we can stay in business, and wouldn’t you please allow our ads to appear?

What’s more, if you see an advertiser putting up content that is presented in an offensive manner, let me know right away and I’ll try to fix it. Sometimes it’s just a matter of setting up an exception in an ad network’s control panel.

Consider this: Web publishers are entitled to be paid for their work. Just as you can fast forward through ads on a podcast or a TV show, you can block the ads if you want. But when too many people do that, incomes suffer. Or publishers are forced to charge extra to make up the difference. I do offer versions of my two radio shows free of network ads — for a price.

So I hope you will think about what I have to say. If you’re using an ad blocker, please also consider the harmful consequences to the company who is providing the material you want to read. Is that what you really want?

THE FINAL WORD

The Tech Night Owl Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible, Inc.

Publisher/Editor: Gene Steinberg
Managing Editor: Grayson Steinberg
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