Saturday, May 18, 2013

Please Don't Use Ad Blockers... You'll Make The Love Hog Sad.

WARNING: This is a considerably long writing. Quite possibly the longest posting I've written in years. It's also one of the few "serious" postings I've made in a good long while.

So Lewis "Linkara" Lovhaug (that guy who claims to review bad comics but ends up just reading them to you and saying it sucks) made a video that came off as disturbing. It was a video where he spent almost six minutes talking about the "evils" of ad blocking and why people should disable them when watching his videos. There has already been a bit of discussion regarding this video, including a couple videos from Asalieri2 that were done from a biased point of view... biased by his own admission, he has said that much. And I so figure I toss in my ten cents on the matter... Yes, the expression usually goes "toss in my two cents" or "penny for your thoughts", but Canada did discontinue the penny this year, so I go with the next best thing.

Now for those of you who haven't seen the video by Lovhaug, it's on his YouTube channel. Yes, Linkara has an actual YouTube channel. A YouTube channel that he has largely abandoned to focus entirely on making content for his Blip.TV account. Now what might have inspired the creation of this video has to do with a screen pop-up that appears prior to the playing of any Blip video that sticks around for about 90 seconds before playing the video itself. You can read the screen for yourself, but basically, Blip did this as an  attempt to discourage the use of ad blockers on their video content and try to get people to watch the ads so that the videomakers can make their money and so on. Because the revenue that these people get is dependent on how many people sit through the ads - or something to that extent. You could look it up if you want more details on how that works, but that's the jist of it.

Now the Blip thing is something that only lasts ninety seconds, whereas their ads would supposedly not last as long. Here's the thing with that Blip notice; I found myself doing something while waiting for the notice to go away to watch the Blip video of choice... on the few occasions that I actually WATCH Blip videos because more often than not, the content featured on Blip either does not interest me in the slightest, or I can easily watch the same video on YouTube. Case in point; a good majority of the That Guy With The Glasses video catalogue that is featured on Blip video accounts, but posted on YouTube by fans. Which means another source of revenue that these video producers aren't getting because they didn't put it there themselves.

Some content producers DO have YouTube accounts as well as Blip accounts, such as Noah "Spoony" Antwiler, James "Cinemassacre" Rolfe, and "Angry" Joe Vargas. And these guys have Partnership status, which means they can post stuff on YouTube and make money off it... as long as people watch the ads, of course. I wonder why Lovhaug doesn't monetize the channel, but whatever...

Now I use Ad Block on Chrome. And the reason I use Ad Block on my web browsing is simple; I don't like advertisements. They're an inconvenience, and they're intrusive, and sometimes, they become an issue in regards to system performance... especially on my ancient rig. The last time I sat through a Blip TV ad, it was two minutes long, was an infomercial for some uninteresting product, and when I was given the option to skip over to the actual video, either the video player will crash my browser about a couple minutes in, more often than not, or the video will simply not play.

The funny thing about that whole ordeal was the video I had wanted to watch that prompted my decision to go with an ad blocking; the inaugural episode of James Rolfe's "Bullshit" series of videos; the first video on DVD packaging being bullshit... a video that's only a minute long. I recall having to sit through a two-minute advertisement (with the option to skip partway in) to watch a minute long video... and that player would crash and not play at all. Hence, Jimmy got his share of ad revenue but I didn't get a video to watch, especially one that's half the run time of the ad video preceding it.

Now there were a number of options I could have went with to resolve that issue that probably would not hurt the other guy - and I'm sure there're some ways that I haven't looked into or didn't care to look into. I opted for the simplest option that worked best for me; I went for an Ad Blocker. Now when I watch a Blip video, it plays just fine. When I go to a website, I'm not bombarded with dozens of fancy, flashy ad banners that would slow my system down considerably and, in some cases, perhaps even infect my system with some unseen malicious coding, which has happened to someone I know on a couple occasions and it's happened to me as well when I was browsing a well known site, whose name I don't recall.

Ad blocking does take potential profits away from the producers who rely on these ads, but they also remove certain risks and unwanted strains on a fragile rig on my end. And, even if I had a top of the line PC right now, I'd still use Ad Blocker. Not to hurt the other guy - that's not my intention even if it is the end result - but to protect myself from anything that could be perceived as potentially threatening, such as hidden malicious code in certain ad banners, which can come from anywhere) and also to minimize the strain on my machine by sparing it the effort to process extremely obnoxious and obstructive ads. If ads comprised a simple text box and even a simple static image that did not cause any strains, then I wouldn't have the need for an ad blocker.

The funny thing about the Blip video notice that lasts ninety seconds? It's probably the best kind of advertisement that could proceed a video. A simple graphic lasting a few seconds and on to the video. If those were the kind of ads that preceded a video, I wouldn't have a need for an ad blocker. But they're not, so I have an ad blocker.

There're some folks who might view this tale and cry foul over it for a variety of reasons. All I will say on the matter is that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Now... about that Linkara video... I thought it was a totally frivolous and unnecessary video to make. And it did rub me the wrong way. Not in anything that would be considered rageful or angry or "Grr! That Linkara's an e-begging scumbag of an asshole. Fuck that guy! I want that fucker's head on a stick!" or anything equally stupid. I mean, I can understand his reasoning for making a video like that to try and curb the use of ad block in regards to his content. But... Mr. Lovhaug's video announcement came off less as a humble request and more as a talking down and an attempt to guilt ad blockers.

Basically, making videos is Lovhaug's sole source of revenue. It's his only job at the moment. It's how he makes his money. It's how he pays his bills. It's how he feeds himself. Without ads, he doesn't make money. And without money, he can't make videos. And without videos he can make money off of, he might have to find some other line of work to sustain whatever lifestyle he has.

That's what I got from watching that video. And that did rub me the wrong way.

I'm not going to sit here and tell you that making web videos is not a real job. The initial gut reaction that some folks would have after watching that and hearing about Lovhaug's so-called "plight" would be "Get a real job, you fucking bum." I'm not going to do that, because like it or not, we've reached a point where someone could make a living solely through the earnings they get from producing web content, through ads and all that. It's dependent on each situation. Classic Game Room comes to mind as a group that makes its money almost entirely through its web content and some merch sales here and there. Before CGR became what it is today, Mark Bussler was producing documentaries and he seems to have abandoned that particular venture when CGR became as big as it did. The guy's at a point where he could sustain a living based on providing web content alone. And that seems to be his only focus along with managing the behind the scenes stuff with the Undertow, Overtoe, and other things. So, in this day and age, making web content on a full-time basis is as much of a so-called real job as serving slop at a school cafeteria.

At the same time, however, when someone decides that they're going to make their web venture their entire career and forgo the whole regular 9-to-5 job or whatever the case may be, then it becomes a huge undertaking and a huge risk as well. Because not only do you have to produce content on a regular basis to get the potential ad revenue that is now your sole source of income, but you also have to sell the product as well to get more people to watch. Because if people aren't watching your videos, then you're not going to make a whole lot of money, if any. That's the risk guys like Rolfe, Bussler, Walker, or Louvhaug take when they decided to focus solely on web content as their source of revenue... And for the most part, they've been fortunate that they've had the success they had with their individual ventures and are reaping the rewards. But it's like any other job; one minute, you're on a high. Next minute, you'll fumble and fall into a hole that can be hard to get out of it.

On top of that, there's an audience watching your content that might be using ad blocking software and that means a video producer doesn't get money from those views because it's all about the ads; that's the source of revenue. So now, not only do you have to sell your product to stream up interest, to get more viewers to watch your content, but you also have to convince these people to watch the advertisement videos that are needed to make their money. And you do that by providing a product that is good enough for someone to go, "Hey. I like what this guy does. I'll sit through the ads to give this guy some change because I enjoy what the guy does and I want him to keep doing what he does."

In other words, these video producers who thought they could make a quick buck making videos now have to earn those ad dollars. But then again, they always had to earn ad dollars by trying to get more people to watch the videos and sit through the ads. So why is it a big deal now? Does ad blockers take money away from producers? Sure, I'm not disputing that. There's a variety of reasons why people use ad blockers and only a small group would say "I'm blocking ads because I don't think this guy deserves a cent for the slop he put on screen."

I'll digress here for a moment; do I think Linkara's videos are worth the half cent or so in ad revenue I give him when I watch one of his videos? No, I don't think they're worth the ad revenue and I have no reason to reward him with such ad revenue. Personally, I don't care for the dragged out nature of his reading the comic, his storylines are ridiculously inane, and the acting bits are no better than what I get out of an Irate Gamer skit. I'm not a fan of what he does and that's why I DON'T watch his videos. Not even his older stuff, which I personally found to be much more enjoyable than his current offerings. Ad blocking software has nothing to do with my not rewarding his efforts to entertain the masses with ad revenue; he just didn't do a good enough job to convince me to keep watching his stuff, so I chose not to watch any more of his videos. In simpler terms, I didn't like, so I don't watch.

No doubt some people are going to assume that, after that bit, there's a bit of a malicious intent behind this posting. That I'm shitting on "poor Linkara" because I didn't like what he has to offer and now I'm going to tear into him a new one or whatever. That's not the case... in fact, all I've really said so far was that I thought this PSA of his is frivolous, unnecessary, and the video rubbed me the wrong way. Here's where I get to the point... or several of them.

Mr. Lovhaug has a rather sizable following. He should have one if he decided to make this thing his sole source of income. It is pretty safe to assume that that sizable following would be watching his videos with their ad blocking software disable because they want to support the guy... and if they can't get the ads for whatever reason, they'll probably drop a donation or buy one of his T-shirts or something to support his efforts. And there's apparently a DVD in the works that he might be selling. So you have options on how to support his efforts. If you can't get the ads or are unwilling to disable ads for whatever reason but still want to show some monetary support, go to the guy's site and you'll find out how there. There's way to help a brother out that doesn't solely rely on ad revenue. Just ask Mr. Rolfe.

While ad blocking software is something of an issue with websites and content providers, it should be noted that the percentage of ad block users is quite small. According to an October 2012 article on the Baltimore Post Examiner, only 3.5% of all Internet users in the United States use Adblock. That number no doubt is slightly higher now, but nowhere near as threatening as some would believe. That's not to say that it can't become a problem, but if there is a sudden increase in AdBlock, for better or worse, it could very well be due to videos such as this. A video aiming to discourage AdBlock use for their content, but could very easily make more people aware of AdBlock and add to that number. So if people didn't know about AdBlock and did not care about how it affects people or believe that this could make their browsing experience better, then they're going to go for it.

Contrary to many believes, the use of AdBlock is not a huge factor and did not merit Mr. Lovhaug making a video out of this. If anything, Mr. Lovhaug should be more concerned about his videos being uploaded to YouTube without his consent and those videos, by the way... he ain't get a cent from those. Not at all. Ad blocking doesn't factor into THAT in the slightest.

More than anything, however, watching Mr. Lovhaug's video didn't give me the impression that this was a humble, impassioned plea to ad blockers to give a struggling artist some love. Rather, the impression I got from watching this video was that he does this for a living, has a sizable following, and as such is entitled to demand that people disable their ad blocking software or else he'll fade into the ether, as if we should feel privileged to be graced by his body of works. That probably wasn't his intended tone, but that's the impression I got. And that rubbed me the wrong way.

Now one cannot deny that the work that Lewis Lovhaug puts into his videos - whether you like his content or not, whether you care for it or not - one cannot deny the amount of work he puts into those videos, whether it'd be scripting or dubbing  or greenscreening or whatever the case may. Putting videos together take a lot of work and a lot of effort to get to a certain standard of quality and production. And while I don't care for the content put out by Lovhaug or rather, Doug Walker is probably the best example. That guy, whether you like his stuff or not... but the guy is such a workhorse to put out that much content on a weekly basis that I can't help but admire that kind of drive and work ethic to maintain that kind of schedule. And the same could be said for Lovhaug to a certain extent.

With that having been said, however, there is a simple, undeniable and often overlooked truth when it comes to this whole web video content producing thing; Anyone can do it. Anyone. If you have a video camera and a video editing program of sorts, you can do a video and post it online for the world to see. It doesn't matter if you put out the most extravagant looking production in cyberspace or if you're just filming kittens playing with a ball of yarn on nothing more than your digital camera's video mode. If you can put it together, you can put it online. And that's been the case ever since the advent of YouTube and the online video cycle. People make videos and post them online. Some gaining popularity, others stagnating or fading into obscurity. Some folks do this as a hobby, others do this as a source of income. Some folks do videos for fun, others do this because it's their job.

Mr. Lovhaug isn't making video content such as Atop The Fourth Wall or History Of Power Rangers or whatever else there is because he's doing it for fun. He does for the money; it's his full-time job. It's how he makes his money. There's nothing wrong with that and it's possible that he enjoys doing what he does. And if that's the case, then more power to him. I honestly don't think he is having any fun with these if he has to make a video about ad blockers and how they're taking precious dollars away from, but whatever.

But does that make him entitled to special privileges? Not at all. He makes web videos. Videos with better-than-average production values by web standards, but web videos nonetheless. Web videos that he puts online for free without charge. Web videos that are preceded and also interrupted by advertisements that can and have been perceived as intrusive. As such, people use ad blockers to skip the ads and thus cut off Mr. Lovhaug from those potential ad revenues. Not because they wish to hurt the guy, but possibly because they don't want to risk the possibility of ads messing up their systems.

It sucks for the video maker that such an option exists. But that's part of the risk you take when you decided to do this on a full-time basis. That's the factor people take into consideration when they opted to pursue a career in producing web content that is offered for free for people to view. That does not mean the full-time web content producer who does this for a living gets to threaten people - forgive the choice of words, but I can't think of any other at the moment - to threaten people by saying "if you don't watch the ads, I won't make content. And if ads are causing an issue, you should resolve it on your end as long as it doesn't involve ad blocking because then that would a sign of disrespect..." or something. Sorry, but if I have to struggle to watch your web video just so you can make a couple pennies, then I'm just not going to bother.

And unfortunately, that's also an attitude a good number of people will have. That's part of the reason why people upload certain Blip video content onto YouTube; because the Blip video player is oftentimes inconvenient, doesn't work well, or whatever. So they put it on YouTube, which has a much better player and better accessibility with devices and whatever. If all you're doing is producing web video and that's your sole source of income, then it becomes your responsibility to sell that product. Even if it's free entertainment, you have to convince people that your product is worth sitting through a couple ads to make you that money.  And you do that by producing content that's going to interest them and is going to not only follow your stuff, but add you to that whitelist that enables ads.

Mr. Lovhaug made the choice to pursue this as a full-time career. That was his choice and his alone. Nobody forced a gun to his head to make this former hobby into his sole source of income. He made that decision alone. Just because he made that choice doesn't grant him automatic entitlement. Despite his level of popularity and/or notoriety, in the eyes of most, he's just another guy putting videos on the Internet. It makes him no different from some guy posting videos of his coin collection or something. He might not have the career foresight of making his coin collection hobby into a full-time career, but fuck me, I want to check out that coin collection. Never mind that other guy who whines about ad blocker because he thinks he's something special rather than trying to do what any sensible entrepreneur or artist would and try to provide a product to entice those using ad blockers to take a chance.

Because it goes back to what I said before; anyone can make web content. And if one is offering content that I cannot access or watch because it's too much of a hassle to do, I'll go look for somebody else offering similar content. And sometimes, that usually means looking up someone on YouTube that isn't making video content as a full time job, that is nothing more than a hobby, that is showing no ads and not earning a damn thing, and god fucking dammit, I might enjoy their content more than the high and mighty popular internet personality who does this as a full time job and did not offer anything that merited my bandwidth to view the video, let alone disabling an ad blocker so he could earn a penny or two.

Just because you're popular does not automatically entitle you to automatic respect. It doesn't work that way. If it did, nobody would shit on the eternal punching bags of fame such as FRED or Shane Dawson or Ray William Johnson or iJustin or whatever. Everybody would be treating those folks like fucking kings. But they're not doing so.

So people are using ad blockers and you're not getting the revenue you feel you deserve. You have a healthy following that is supporting you without question, but there's that small segment that you want to convince to sit through the ads. The only solution to this problem is simple; produce content that will attract that segment. Grow your audience, so to speak. I would think that if someone really likes what you're doing, they might take a chance and whitelist your content. Sit through all the ads you have to offer and watch your stuff. Maybe become a regular viewer, buy a T-Shirt. Attract an audience. Convince them that you're worth sitting through the ads. If you do, you'll get a bit more money. If you don't, well, you don't. You keep trying, you keep going, and you push onwards. And if you fumble, this career doesn't pan out, and you fall off the face of the Earth, you move on to something else. Nobody is going to care. Somebody else will fill the void that you left behind and the whole cycle will begin all over again.

Popular internet personality needs to go away because he lacked the funds and the drive to push his product? Pfft, who cares? There's a bunch of other guys out there that deserve a chance to shine. And given the shot and the opportunity, who knows what kind of hidden gem will be discovered and pushed to the sky?

So that was a long ramble, but I just wanted to get my thoughts out on the matter. As far as Lewis Lovhaug's video goes, I thought it was a waste. Those who support him don't use ad blockers on his stuff, those who didn't know about Adblock will probably use it and add to that growing small percentage of Adblock users, and most of all, the video sort of added to the perception of the elitist attitude that some folks perceive him to possess. I would hope that Mr. Lovhaug realizes that just because he's a full-time web content producer does not mean he should expect any sort of special entitlement or privileges because of his popularity. At the end of the day, all he really does is produce web videos. And web videos are a dime a dozen. That might be an interesting topic for a future posting.

In any case, I would like to end this by wishing Mr. Lovhaug nothing but the best in all his future endeavors and sincerely hope that he takes whatever criticisms levied towards him with an open mind. And above all else, I sincerely hope that he actually, genuinely enjoys what he does for a living... because at the end of the day, whether it's making videos or writing a blog or creating artwork online, we stick with something not because of the money or the fame or the subs, but because we genuinely enjoy what we do, whether it is a job or a hobby or whatever. If you don't enjoy what you're doing, then maybe you should seriously consider doing something else instead that might interest you more...

And that, my friends, is a shoot...


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