How to cut down on ads without an ad blocker
There’s been lots of debate about ad blockers recently. Is it ethical for advertisers to stalk our every move and drain our data to serve us ads we don't want? Is it ethical for us to read free online content while blocking the ads that pay for it? Has Apple, by enabling ad blocking on iOS devices, brought about the end of advertising as we know it?
Well, not on my iPad, it hasn’t. I have a first generation iPad mini, which is too old to have the ad blocking feature enabled. Quite why I would need 32 extra bits in order for my browser to do LESS work, I have no idea. Feel free to enlighten me in the comments.
But in the meantime, how can I get rid of all those pesky ads?
Then it occurred to me: I hardly ever see any ads anyway. I scan 450 headlines each morning, and read dozens of articles every day, ad-free.
This is how I do it without an ad blocker.
1: Choose sites that are naturally low in ads
Some news sites have no obvious ads at all, like the BBC - though there are ads at work according to Ad Block Plus. Others have go for fewer, larger ads, like Quartz. When I choose to read news on websites or apps, these are the ones I turn to.
2: Use a feed reader to find articles
I rarely go direct to a news site because I get most of my news via RSS feeds. Feedly turns Quartz, the BBC, Wired, Telegraph Tech, the Guardian and dozens of other sources into one giant newspaper. Compared to scanning all the different home pages of each news site, it’s much faster, cleaner to read, and completely ad free.
3: Use a ‘read later’ service
I read some articles in Feedly itself, like headline news that wouldn't be relevant at a later date. Mostly, I save the article to Pocket to read later. Pocket fetches the articles to my iPad and stores them so I can read offline - handy for the tube. The articles in Pocket are also stripped of all the website clutter, including ads.
It’s not just about the ads
I didn’t develop this way of browsing web articles just to avoid web and mobile ads. That's just an incidental benefit. I just have so many things I want to read, and this is how I get through it all. Visiting each website or app one at a time takes way too long.
This approach will work for any site that offers an RSS feed - most do. Search in Feedly for the name of newspapers, magazines or blogs you like, and you’ll see. (I'm there, too - search for emilyobyrne.com.) If you'd like to read more, and you’re struggling to find the time, give Feedly + Pocket a try. Let me know how you get on.
Interesting articles I’ve seen on ad blocking
- Digiday Why the soft-sell approach to ad blocking doesn't work
- Copyblogger Why the Ad Blocking Panic Shouldn’t Scare Smart Publishers
- Seth Godin Ad blocking