back to article It's time for a discussion about malvertising

I don't know that I can afford to read the news anymore. As a columnist for several tech magazines I find this somewhat ironic, but my occupation makes the truth of it no less real. Technology can solve this problem for me, but politics probably won't allow it. News can be consumed in a few different ways. The first through …

  1. Anonymous Coward

    "I can't pay $12/month for every one of them"

    And why would you ?

    They're all basically just copying each others articles anyway !

    1. fung0

      Re: "I can't pay $12/month for every one of them"

      A far better solution than Blendie would be Flattr, or Flattr Plus, which allow users to set their own total budget, which is then split automatically among the sites they use most. The existing Flattr (co-founded by one of the creators of the Pirate Bay) lets readers use a button on each participating site, in order to allocate funds. Flattr Plus is in development, a partnership with Adblock Plus, and allocates funds automatically (using analysis performed on the user's system).

      The nicest thing about Flattr is that 90% of the money goes to the site, the remaining 10% combining Flattr's profit and any fees to payment processors. The 30% 'Apple tax' rate is far too high for this sort of service. Apple operates a store, whereas here we're talking about simply doing a bit of back-end accounting for sites run by independent content providers.

      Flattr FAQ

      Flattr Plus

      There are obvious concerns with privacy, but I think Flattr may have the commitment to do it as well as it needs. Better yet, if this type of model catches on, I can't see any reason there couldn't be many overlapping monetization schemes operating simultaneously, offering different degrees of privacy - and, perhaps, setting different types of profit-sharing.

      If nothing else, even moderate success of alternative monetization schemes - including Flattr, Blendie, Patreon, or whatever - would create a strong restraint on the activities of Web advertisers.

  2. DailyLlama
    Thumb Up

    "Just look at how many newspapers and magazines are folding every year"


  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    If The Register said "pony up" I would do so.

    1. Bronek Kozicki

      Re: Agreed

      +1 (I think upvote is not explicit enough)

      and I would pay premium to have it delivered to my Kindle over nigh, like other subscriptions I have. But even without this, I would pay to read El Reg on the web

      1. Terry Cloth

        Actually, I asked them about it

        A couple (or more?) of years ago, I mailed El Reg to ask how I could help out by paying, and was told ``Thanks for the offer, but we're good''.

    2. Brian Allan 1

      Re: Agreed

      Depends on the rate...

      1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: Agreed

        Perhaps they need a "donate" button.

    3. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  4. nijam Silver badge

    Leaving aside the question of malware, there has to be some concern over how reporting can ever be impartial when funded from commercial sources. The UK is lucky enough to have the BBC which is relatively unbiased (given that all politician claim it's biased against them). OTOH, many US TV stations are notoriously averse to reporting anything that might upset their sponsors.

    1. asdf

      >many US TV stations

      That's your first mistake TV (perhaps PBS aside) hasn't been a good place to get unbiased news since Bush was the president, George Herbert and even then it was questionable.

      1. td97402


        The Koch brothers now have seats on the PBS board. Their influence is already being felt.

      2. Gritzwally Philbin

        Ahhh. PBS is the worst. They've gotten big funding dollars from some of the worst corporate concerns for EVER. I gave up on their news reporting a long time ago.

    2. td97402

      Speaking of the BBC...

      Don't they get their from an annual TV license fee on every TV set? Along those lines, what if we had a mechanism where we charge ISPs for the content they download for their users that they have to pay to content providers?

      Something along the lines of 25 cents per gigabyte or something. Every registered content provider would get a slice of the coin based on how much content they provide to the ISP's customers. Probably your NetFlixes and Hulus would continue to charge on their own for their premium media content but regular web publishers could dispense with most of their crappy advertising and other sketchy content.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Speaking of the BBC...

        Pay per gigabyte? If that isn't a recipe for exponential page bloat I don't know what is. Not to mention the considerable amount of the web that isn't even trying to seek revenue - pay for that too?

  5. Andrew Commons

    A discussion has already occured

    On May 15 2014 According to a US Senate investigation, the current state of online advertising endangers the security and privacy of users. You can get the report via this page:

    It highlights the problems with the ad networks and the degree to which they are being abused. Unfortunately not much more seems to have come of it.

    I have been confronted with an alert from a news web site demanding I turn off my ad blocker along with an alert from my AV software saying it blocked malicious content far too many times to consider dropping my shields.

    My solution is to visit diverse news outlets that are reasonably trustworthy along with reliable free sites. In general the free sites are far better quality and actually contain news rather than click bait dressed up as news.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: A discussion has already occured

      "Unfortunately not much more seems to have come of it."

      Not much needs to come of it. We're capable of taking action individually without waiting for any govt. to act. In any case I presume that if any action came of a Senate investigation it would only apply in the US (no matter how they seem to believe they can legislate world wide) so for the rest of us it's even more important that we don't have to depend on them.

  6. LDS Silver badge

    We can't tell them how much they should be paid..

    ... because running a true news organization has costs. Investigative journalism, broad coverage around the world are expensive. A "classic" newspaper here is costs you about 300-500 euro per year (if bought daily, no subscription). Could they sustain their organization with 50/100 per year per reader? What the number of paying readers for the break even point? Is it feasible?

    Unluckily, even those asking you for a subscription are so eager to make money their sites are full of clickbaits. Which in turn makes them even less appealing to pay a subscription for, it that is the average quality. But no one dares to chance the approach, because they are continuously told on-line ads will make you rich - no one tell them the truth that only those who control online advertisement (Google and a few others) make money. All the others just lose. No one dares to call "the king is naked", though.

    1. Bronek Kozicki

      Re: We can't tell them how much they should be paid..

      The figure which Trevor suggested was per month. I feel it bit too generous, as I currently pay roughly ~10GBP for each of my subscriptions/month . Anyway it very much depends how many subscribers the publication will have.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: We can't tell them how much they should be paid..

      "because they are continuously told on-line ads will make you rich"

      The only thing the advertising industry sells successfully is advertising.

    3. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Re: We can't tell them how much they should be paid..

      I was actually talking about being willing to pay that per month. $100/month for proper, no-holds-barred investigative journalism? Sign me up. SIGN ME THE FNORD UP.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: We can't tell them how much they should be paid..

        >$100/month for proper, no-holds-barred investigative journalism? Sign me up. SIGN ME THE FNORD UP.

        The problem is those that really need to be investigated usually have the ability to make those investigating disappear one way or another.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    free article limits are so simplistic...

    For example the just hits you with a cookie. When you hit your free article limit (if by then you still reading the telegraph), just clear the telegraph cookie, refresh and voila... works the same on many other sites too...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: free article limits are so simplistic...

      Or just read in "private mode" so cookies don't persist. But it's still a bit unfair...

  8. Quentin Finknottle Again

    One weird trick... could try is browsing in a VM. Many malware suites can detect that and not activate (so security researchers can't analyse them). Plus, if you do get zapped, you just go back to the last snapshot.

    1. asdf

      Re: One weird trick...

      Its not weird its pretty much a necessity security wise IMHO (at the minimum the browser in a separate userspace container). Plus its a quick way to have a browser always on tor.

    2. fung0

      Re: One weird trick...

      I expect that all online activities will need to run in VMs pretty soon. But I'm also hearing about attacks that can actually break out of today's more common VM prisons. Doesn't look like there's going to be any easy exit from this arms race.

    3. Bill Stewart

      Re: One weird trick...

      Browsing from a VM also has the advantage that I can set the browser security features the way I want to (within Linux's capabilities), unlike the browsers on my work computer which are managed by the IT department (e.g. don't permit private-mode browsing, etc.)

  9. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "Baby Boomers keep dying of old age and Millennials use ad blockers."

    I find the first part of this deeply worrying. I'm slightly too old to be a Boomer so the thought that people younger then me are dying of old age.... Just no!

    Nevertheless my advanced years are no reason not to use an adblocker.

    The problem, and its potential solution, must lie with the publishers coming to understand their audience. They need to realise that it's the nature of the adverts which causes blockers to be used, not the ads themselves. Apart from malvertising, which is sufficient reason in itself, we have annoying animations, booming sound and all manner of other offensiveness, including tracking.

    The publishers need to take control and ban any form of active ad: no sound, no Flash, no JS or other coding. Just embed them in the page then they won't get blocked and not so many that they become such an annoyance that readers just avoid the site altogether. Embedded ads, of course, can be tuned to the content of the page which itself is an indication of what the reader's interested in so no need to track.

    I don't think there's a great deal of time for the publishers to turn round on this. At some point the advertisers - the real advertisers, those with a product to sell - will realise that because they've been driven to use adblockers others will also be using them, their ads aren't going to get through so there's no point in wasting money on the snake-oil salesmen advertising industry.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "there's no point in wasting money on the [...] advertising industry."

      As advertising can be classed as a business expense it's tax-deductable, so the effective cost to someone wanting to advertise a product is considerably less than the price they pay to the advertising agencies. This is the underlying reason that there's so much advertising.

      It also means that advertising is effectively subsidised by the relevant tax-collecting government.

      TBH, I can't see many governments complaining about a reduction in unbiased and investigative journalism.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "As advertising can be classed as a business expense it's tax-deductable, so the effective cost to someone wanting to advertise a product is considerably less than the price they pay to the advertising agencies."

        Money spent to alienate potential customers is still money spent. It comes off the pre-tax profits. Let me translate that into business-speak: it comes off the profits. The govt. take on profits is a separate matter.

    2. Down not across Silver badge

      The publishers need to take control and ban any form of active ad: no sound, no Flash, no JS or other coding. Just embed them in the page then they won't get blocked and not so many that they become such an annoyance that readers just avoid the site altogether.


      The appearance of an ad (or few) on a page is not the issue. It is the form the ads take, and the security implications due to the active nature of the ads.

    3. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      @Doctor Syntax - KISS principle works here, simple static ads are not worth blocking or worry about the bandwidth they use.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "KISS principle works here, simple static ads are not worth blocking or worry about the bandwidth they use."

        I'm not sure of the exact point.

        Embedded ads aren't going to be blocked anyway if they're coming from the publisher's server (although it's possible to block them if the publisher uses a different server than that used for the page content). As soon as the publisher hands matters over to a separate network they've lost control. Even if some advertiser tries to send simple static ads over that network they'll get blocked by ad blockers because, on the KISS principle, it's not worth the effort of differentiating them from the problem ads so as to not block them.

  10. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "The ad networks see no percentage in ensuring clean ads"

    And soon they will see next to no percentage regardless.

    Someday someone will come up with the concept of Trusted Ads, and that one will take the market.

    Then we will be able to turn off our adblockers.

    But not before.

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Re: "The ad networks see no percentage in ensuring clean ads"

      The problem with a market-driven approach is that, inevitably - and probably quite quickly - the "trusted ads" network will become a monopoly. Shortly thereafter they'll expand what they offer. Moving ads. Video ads. Scripts. The next thing you know we're right back at malvertising, except that there is now only one advertising provider and they hold all the cards.

      So long as there is a percentage in using malware-like techniques to advertise at you, they will build a system to do so, and we will pay the price. The only secure alternative is to forgo those kinds of ads. That means NOT using a mainstream ad network...or using subscriptions/pay-per-view.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: "The ad networks see no percentage in ensuring clean ads"

        "Shortly thereafter they'll expand what they offer."

        Yup. That's why I wrote "trustable" in my comment. As for us all paying the price - no we won't because we'll not trust them enough in the first place to turn off the blockers. The advertising industry has done irreparable harm to its business model. It's time for the publishers to get out and work out their own salvation.

        1. Swarthy Silver badge

          Re: "The ad networks see no percentage in ensuring clean ads"

          And then they will change the name to Alphabet....


    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: "The ad networks see no percentage in ensuring clean ads"

      "someone will come up with the concept of Trusted Ads...Then we will be able to turn off our adblockers."

      Only if the ads are actually trusted by users, let alone trustable. I think the idea of advertising networks is now so broken than nobody's going to bother turning off blockers to find out.

      Maybe a couple of years ago that was a possibility. The advertising industry has spent too long crapping in its nest so now, from the users' PoV, they've all got some sticking to them.

    3. fung0

      Re: "The ad networks see no percentage in ensuring clean ads"

      Pascal Monett: "Someday someone will come up with the concept of Trusted Ads, and that one will take the market."

      Ad Block Plus has had a 'Trusted Ads' system for some years, under that very name. It's referred to by the ad industry as "extortion," and by disgruntled users as a "sell-out."

      The truth lies somewhere between. It's a worthwhile move, but only a very early one. When the number of Web surfers using ad blockers rises from its current 10-30% to, say, 50-70%, the ad industry will shit a brick and suddenly fall all over itself to clean up its act. Until then, it has minimal incentive to police the vast amount of content it serves every nanosecond, through a system that includes dozens of companies.

      Check this 'infographic' - if you haven't seen it before, it will scare the pants off you. It shows what happens every single time someone looks at a Web ad:


      That's a big industry, and it's not going to change its ways just because a few people complain.

  11. bozoid

    I'm willing to turn off my adblocker and be served all the ads on good sites (e.g., Wired), because I value those sites. Unfortunately, most of those sites aren't satisfied with ad revenue, because they get a significant amount of revenue from trackers. I DON'T want to be tracked by their stinking affiliates.

    So I can whitelist Wired (or many others) in AdBlock Plus, but I still can't view their sites -- they see Ghostery, they be hatin'.

    1. asdf

      >- they see Ghostery, they be hatin'.

      Maybe try Privacy Badger. It's not was extensive as Ghostery but also does a decent job of preventing trackers. It and also HTTPS Everywhere both from the EFF (non-profit online privacy champion) are the two addons I install always on every browser (as well as NoScript for FF derivatives).

  12. James Wilson

    I don't block ads

    I get it, there have to be ads to pay for the content, unless I have a subscription. Personally I don't even mind tracking, I'd rather have ads that are tailored to things I might want rather than being completely inappropriate. However I do block scripts, they aren't needed to show me an ad and it's far too dangerous.

    1. asdf

      Re: I don't block ads

      > However I do block scripts, they shouldn't be needed on most websites

      FIFY. If only it was true.

    2. fung0

      Re: I don't block ads

      I agree about scripts - there's no way I'm giving some unknown organization out in cyberspace permission to run software programs on my system. Calling them 'scripts' may sound nice and friendly, but they can still forget it.

      But the fundamental problem with ads is that 99% of sites don't want to deal with them. They just sign up for a service, and the money comes rolling in. They don't see the ads, and in fact can't check them even if they wanted to - because they're 'personalized,' no two people will see the same ones.

      The change has to come at the ad-industry level. And they won't change until they get scared that the goose is about to stop laying those platinum eggs.

  13. raoool

    'I don't know whether or not I'm alone on this'

    You're not. Lots of us miss actual journalism and understand you get what you pay for. Maybe someday they'll be someone worth paying again.

  14. Brian Allan 1

    There is far too much free "news" to pay anything for a subscription to a news service!

  15. vir

    Monocle, while not exactly a name you would associate with hard-hitting investigative journalism, does a very good job of incorporating advertisements into their publication. It looks as though they spend quite a bit of time and creative effort working alongside their sponsors to ensure that the tone and style of the ads blend into the rest of the publication. Obviously, this approach wouldn't translate directly over to internet sites, but surely big sites could have someone from their staff at least look over the ads that will show up on their readers' screens?

    1. asdf

      Not a big Yahoo fan but the rare times I have used them I have noticed they integrate their ads as well into the page.

  16. MalIlluminated

    Thank you for your honesty

    I would, at least, pay for what you write.

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Re: Thank you for your honesty

      Why thank you!

  17. Gene Cash Silver badge


    The web comic community already hit this problem a while ago, although they didn't become assholes using paywalls.

    I luvs my webcomix, but there's only so many joke t-shirts and mugs you can buy, so they came up with Patreon.

    There's various levels of once-a-month payment ($1/$5/$10/$50/$100) and the usual pledge auto-renews, and you can also do one-time donations.

    You get things like announcements of the artist streaming his drawing the next comic or such. Some of them are as simple as badges associated with forum posts. Or maybe a sexy sketch of a character.

    Also, some folk do goals like "if I get $1,000/mo of Patreon pledges this month, I'll do that side story you guys want..."

    I don't see El Reg doing things like that, but there's the possibility that the cheap level of Patreon (or whatever) lets you post comments, but it has to be your real name. If you pony up a higher level, you can post anon. Or there's the "I support El Reg" forum post badge. There's things you can do.

    Edit: hey, you could live-stream all the arguments with the editor! Woo!

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Patreon

      "Edit: hey, you could live-stream all the arguments with the editor!"

      Forget the arguments. They could live-stream their office's innovative approach to making tea.

      1. Swarthy Silver badge

        Re: Patreon

        Forget the arguments. They could live-stream their office's innovative approach to making tea.

        I think that would be a bit too traumatic - even for the Web.

  18. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Thank you

    And thanks, El Reg, for a very serious, honest, straightforward, adult article on a very touchy and controversial subject, without clickbait, hyperbole, name-calling, or crying & tears. Very refreshing!

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Re: Thank you

      Hmm. I don't think I've ever been accused of being an adult before...

      1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

        Re: Thank you

        Trevor, you hit a couple of sore points for users; subscriptions add up fast and ad malware is serious problem. There only so much money one can spend on subscriptions especially when one is not a regular reader. News sites must also realize that subscriptions include sites such as Netflix, Office365, etc. Money spent on those sites is money one can not spend on a news site. This is probably a solvable problem with some creativity such as services like Blendle. The more difficult problem is the ad malware which means most users should be using ad-blockers to protect their kit.

        Also, you noted that older people are more likely to still subscribe to a fishwrap than younger people. This generational shift in habits means news organizations need to change how they get paid. But most news organizations seem to be run by technical illiterates who refuse to change because these methods worked in 1920. Even dinosaurs were smart enough to evolve into birds.

  19. Mark 85 Silver badge


    Perhaps the publishers (site owners, etc.) need to push back on the advertising networks. There's a reason folks us adblockers and scriptblockers. There's a reason for readers not clicking on ads. It's not about "relevancy" or any of those other buzzwords... It's fear and annoyance. Fear of the cyber crim and malware. And annoyance by intrusive ads that take over the whole screen. Then there's ones that when you manage to get rid of it, another takes it's place until you finally click out of the site you went to read.

    We users are mad as hell.. maybe the publishers need to get mad as hell. The advertisers seem to see themselves as the victims here and not the cause and that's just plain BS.

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Re: Pushback

      To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure more than a handful of publishers around the world have the financial reserves to push back. Everyone's running at the knife's edge. The advertisers hold all the cards.

      The publishing industry, I think, waited too long. They've lost their power.

      That's why a startup like Blendle is needed. To give the publishers an alternative. So that they can say "Microsoft, if you don't treat us right, we can and will use Apple!" Or something. The metaphor and mixing and understanding...

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Pushback

        "To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure more than a handful of publishers around the world have the financial reserves to push back."

        I think you should look at this from the other direction. As adblock use grows to become universal do any publishers have the financial reserves to stick with the sinking ship?

        1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

          Re: Pushback

          Who adapts seems to be directly related to the age of the primary shareholders. People are very slow to change. They are unlikely to do anything about the oncoming asteroid until it hits. Then they'll claim "woe is me", fold the company, and retire.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Pushback

        "The publishing industry, I think, waited too long. They've lost their power."

        That's it in a nutshell, at least where publishers are concerned.

        They were far too beguiled by the apparently bottomless pit of money on offer to work out that per ad revenue was going to plummet with programmatic buying. By the time they 'got it' there was no financial wiggle room left, meaning no leverage with the adtech leeches. After which its all downhill, with little choice to pursue revenue with more ad stuffed pages, more intrusive formats and even more tracking, which is exactly where Adblock use heads north fast and things go from very bad to much much worse.

        Adblocking will eventually kill the worst excesses of adtech, but anything worthwhile that emerges from the wreckage will be too late for most top flight publishers.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Pushback

      "The advertisers seem to see themselves as the victims here"

      I'm sure they are. That's the advertisers as in people with a product to sell.

      It's the advertising industry that's the problem. They're selling advertising channels to the advertisers and then implementing them in a way that harms everyone. It may only be a few individuals in the industry who have spent the last few years crapping in the nest but it means that there's enough shit around to stick to everyone, advertisers included - and that was even before malvertising came along.

  20. ecofeco Silver badge

    Seems simple enough

    In general common law, anyone who is negligent in their action leading to harm another is usually held liable in some way to the victim.

    Websites that are not vetting their ads for malware (the delivery and presenting of the ad is the "Action"), along with the delivery aggregators and the like, should be held liable as well for the negligence.... by the victim. It's not like there are not tools to do so.

    That we have no such protection is criminal in itself.

  21. drexciya

    There's still proper investigative journalism out there

    There are some sites which are really adding value without copying existing content; (Follow The Money) is doing some pretty good investigative journalism in The Netherlands, which makes it (to me at least) worthy of support.

    I support a number of sites (and podcasts) that I find really worth it, but indeed one cannot support each and every site. And ad blockers (I use NoScript) are indeed a necessity; it's unfortunate that site owners just don't understand that simple fact.

    I just wish more people would stop being freetards; content isn't supposed to be free; if you really think it adds value, you should give something back. Probably I'm too old school; I still buy records for example, and I've bought a lot of games on GOG.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: There's still proper investigative journalism out there

      "I just wish more people would stop being freetards; content isn't supposed to be free"

      Free as in beer isn't the issue. It's free as in free from annoyance at best and malware at worst that's the issue.

    2. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: There's still proper investigative journalism out there

      The issue is not avoiding ads but avoiding malware from ads. The problem for any user is they can not tell the difference until it's too late. Thus, ad-blockers are used to stop all ads which is a brutal and tends towards overkill. If one can trust the ads and they are well behaved (no pop-ups, no autoplay, do not take over the screen, no false claims of infection, etc) then ad-blockers are unnecessary. But that is not the case.

      The real villain is the users who protecting their kit but the advertising firms for allowing malware and user abuse to occur in the first place. Personally I do not like running any more background stuff than necessary because each additional process adds to the work the computer has to do. So I run an ad-blocker out of necessity to protect my kit not because of existential hatred of ads.

  22. Hstubbe

    yet another startup

    So the answer to untrustworthy us based data-guzzling ad companies is more us-based money-collecting data-guzzling start-ups with shady business models? No thanks, i'll just keep using the safety of my ad-blocker.

    1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: yet another startup

      The issue is how to pay for the staff if ads are not a reliable source of income. Subscriptions appear to be the way to go but they add up. People can only afford to spend so much on all subscriptions, a point made in the post. The suggestion is not the specific service but the idea of one point of contact that allows one to subscribe to x sites for one lower monthly subscription than all individually.

      The post is to open up a dialogue about the situation recognizing both the sites and users are often losers with the current ad based model.

  23. Dr.Flay

    The answer is simple, but will never happen.

    Make all sites liable for the advertising they carry.

    When they respond "but we cannot be responsible for 3rd party delivered ads", they should be told "and that is the problem that led us here, you are not being responsible".

    At the point companies and sites are held liable for advertising content, they will start picking it by hand and actually know about it.

    At that point it moves in-house and you can wave goodbye to endless middleware providers of malvertising.

    For malvertising to exist would require that you hack the actual site, so at that stage malvertising is a moot point. is a good example. It cannot supply 3rd party malvertising, because its ads are validated first and done in-house.

    Any site that says it specifically chooses every ad displayed, I will trust to show me ads.

    Sites that have no idea what they are showing, I will not trust.

  24. Czrly

    Solution: Humble Journalism Bundle

    The solution is really simple: a single subscription service that gives you premium access to any allied news source. Whenever you read an article on any of those news sources, you can allocate a number of points. At the end of the month, your subscription is divided amongst the sources according to the points allocated. Think of the money distribution sliders at the bottom of the Humble Bundle order form.

    The problem would be that the news sources would all be too insecure to ally with the scheme, fearing that their content wouldn't get people's points.

    Also, it would be very necessary to make sure that it remained independent of Medium-like algorithms that favour attention-grabbing clickbait instead of real content.

    But it would allow skint people like me to join the party and support great journalism (can't even imagine affording $100 dollars a month for one news source...) and it would solve the biggest problem with premium content: you can't explore because you can only read what you've bought.

  25. quxinot Silver badge

    I'm perhaps too young to remember, but when did news outlets in any form report unbiased news? It does seem like the clickbait and shock headlines have gotten more frequent, but that could be just that as I've aged, I've gotten better at recognizing it, perhaps?

    As for adblocking, it will always be necessary--at least until the entire system shifts to a very hardened model that makes an ad-slinging company fold when they are found to be serving crapware. When "someone hacked us and inserted malicious content" means that they lose accounts and go away, I'll start considering unblocking ads at the multiple levels that I do now.

    Actually, no. I probably won't. Once ads are presented in a secure, non-irritating way, and provide helpful or useful ideas and products to me. If you consider the ridiculousness of most ads you get after making a purchase on say, Amazon, for a moment: I now have bought a microwave. I do not need another, as I did not start a business reselling microwaves, nor are they the sort of thing I purchase in bulk. And yet one of the largest online retailers can't expend the energy to make targetted ads more likely to be....well... targetted? I suspect they take the security of their ad content as seriously, or with a comparable incompetence.

    As for the news outlets, with their shocking, clickbait, anger-inducing content.... That's the point. That works. A well-written article about how gravity works is likely to get glossed over. A heavily biased report about a sporting event is going to cause controversy and get people wound up--and that leads to more sharing of the article, more discussions started at the water cooler, facebook links, and so on.

    Twitter, Facebook, and so forth. There's your new media, for better or worse, because it makes money. Is there a better answer? You bet! Will it make more money? Betcha it won't. And that's what's going to drive the handbasket downhill.

  26. CrazyCanuck

    "I'm willing to pay $50 a month for good news. Maybe $100 if it helps bring back investigative journalism. But for that kind of money I want diversity of opinion, thought, geographic coverage…I want news. Like it was in the old days when journalism was a profession to be feared." does real investigate journalism. Yes they do conspiracies however many of them turned out to be true.

  27. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

    ...The quality of the professional news outlets varies greatly, but anyone with a little experience will know which publications are more likely to produce unbiased news.....

    Er....NONE of them...?

  28. This post has been deleted by its author

  29. scubaal

    not just malware

    and even if the malware is not a significant concern for you (maybe) ad-related performance degradation definitely is. Pages taking 2 minutes to load because of all the embedded ads - then running a video that you didn't ask for and have no interest in and have to scroll all around the still loading page to turn off.

    The advertising agencies have done this themselves. No concept of 'reasonableness' in the implicit agreement with the reader to suffer an ad or two for free content.

    Even worse for many areas - remote communities, offshore islands etc - that have very poor to non-existent bandwidth. So my blocker stays on a) because it helps mitigate malware and b) because its the only way the web is even usable.

  30. Flywheel Silver badge

    Talking of malvertising...

    .. and tracking of course, I was on YouTube earlier and noticed that Privacy Badger had flagged up 302 (three hundred and two!) trackers. You really expect me to believe there needs to be this many?!

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