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The Real Cost of Mobile Ads 117

New submitter cvdwl writes: A New York Times (mildly paywalled) article and associated analysis discuss the consumer cost of mobile ads, assuming a US$0.01/MB data plan. The article provides one of the only estimates I've seen of the the real cost in time and money (and time is money) of mobile advertising. Ethics of ad-blockers aside, this highlights the hidden costs of data-heavy (often lazy and poorly developed) web-design. In a nutshell, the worst sites took 10-30s load 10-20MB, costing $0.15-0.40, over 4G due to a blizzard of video, heavy images, and occasionally just massive scripts. The best sites had high content to ad ratios, typically loading 1-3MB of content and >500kB of advertising.
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The Real Cost of Mobile Ads

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  • by The Rizz ( 1319 ) on Thursday October 01, 2015 @08:42AM (#50635019)

    typically loading 1-3MB of content and >500kB of advertising

    I'm pretty sure that should be <500kB of advertising.

    • Learn to proofread. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by cvdwl ( 642180 ) <cvdwl someplace around yahoo> on Thursday October 01, 2015 @08:54AM (#50635115)

      typically loading 1-3MB of content and >500kB of advertising

      I'm pretty sure that should be <500kB of advertising.

      Yep... mea culpa. As soon as I saw it go up, I cringed and went wildly searching for the edit function. And the sentence before that should read: ".. took 10-30s to load 10-20MB ...". Submit in haste, repent at leisure.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        To be fair a mistake like that in many places would be caught by an "editor."

    • Well, what really bothers me is that a "good" website would have 1-3MB of content. For me, a good web page is mostly text, and rarely holds more than 20K of actual content. A site with 1MB of content probably includes several colossal images, which I'm not interested in. I miss the good old days with dial-up modems. They forced web designers to rein themselves in a little bit.
      • Well, what really bothers me is that a "good" website would have 1-3MB of content. For me, a good web page is mostly text, and rarely holds more than 20K of actual content.

        Dude, you simply cannot do a decent animated kittycat gif with a 20K web page, so your analysis is obviously biased.

        • by aix tom ( 902140 )

          Well, to be fair, the decent animated kittycat is probably only 20k, but there are 80k DRM headers involved, too.

    • I'm just pleased someone knows how to put > and < symbols into a Slashdot posting.

      I was fearing that HTML entities were becoming a lost art.

  • The best sites had high content to ad ratios, typically loading 1-3MB of content and >500kB of advertising.

    I guess somebody doesn't know than > means greater than, and would make the site worse, not better.

  • In other words ... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Thursday October 01, 2015 @08:46AM (#50635043) Homepage

    We pay to be spied on via analytics, and potentially have malware delivered through badly written ad platforms, and as a result we effectively subsidize the profits of ad companies.

    At least, I assume it is, NYT is paywalled and I've blocked them in my browser entirely.

    Tell you what, let the ad companies pay for all that cellular data and see what they do. Because I assume millions and millions of dollars are used daily to deliver their "product".

    Ad blocking is about security, it's about privacy, and it's about making the best use of a metered resource.

    • The NYT is paywalled, after a certain number of free articles a month. Which I consider pretty fair.

      I'm not 100% sure why you blocked them. You oppose ad blocking, but also paywalls?

      • I got tired of seeing the password prompt, and there are other web sites which cross link to them ... since I have no intention of signing up for them or allowing them to set cookies, I've just blocked them.

        This way I know to press the back button faster.

        I don't "oppose" paywalls, in that it's their right to do it. But I don't give a damn enough to try to read their content either.

        NYT is now a non-entity for me. I'm sure they're utterly heart-broken.

        • Oh, I remember a little while ago they were pretty annoying. They fixed it a few years ago. If you haven't looked at it in a long time.

          Of course, with NoScript, ad blockers, etc. I never know what the web looks like to other people.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Until the advent of adblockers for mobile devices, browsing the Web on a mobile device was not fun.

    I've been considering a proxy-like service that allows a user to proxy through a server that strips out all the bad stuff like ads, beacons, tracking junk. I'd like to set this up and try it with my family and friends to test the viability.

    • by 0123456 ( 636235 )

      I've been considering a proxy-like service that allows a user to proxy through a server that strips out all the bad stuff like ads, beacons, tracking junk. I'd like to set this up and try it with my family and friends to test the viability.

      That's what we used to do in the bad old days before web browsers included ad blockers.

    • iOS 9 lets you run a content blocker for safari. I have ad block installed now. I still see some ads due to ad block but it is better.

    • by Z00L00K ( 682162 )

      Firefox+AdBlock Plus on Android shoots down the worst at least.

  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Thursday October 01, 2015 @08:47AM (#50635061) Homepage

    I block them all. The biggest advantage for an android phone over all others is that it's easy to blot out all ad's from all networks across all apps.

    • Wait ... how do you do that? Is this a rooted device or a normal one?

      I've got AdBlock on my tablet, but if there's a way to better block all ads I'd love to know it.

  • by Pseudonymous Powers ( 4097097 ) on Thursday October 01, 2015 @08:49AM (#50635075)

    I sometimes see those "if you like this site, please turn off your ad blocker" banners on sites that I do actually like.

    So, a few times, I have turned off the ad blocker, just to see what would happen. The results are always either, one, incredibly intrusive and distracting autoplaying videos playing at random moments, or two, the site just stops working completely because, even on a medium-performance laptop with a business-class data connection, the web browser just can't handle the gigabytes and gigabytes of advertisements that the site is trying to push over the wire.

    Maybe if there was a browser that let you opt out of loading, then autoplaying, enormous video files without plugins, I would consider it. But until then, the blocker stays on, thanks.

    • by mccalli ( 323026 ) on Thursday October 01, 2015 @09:21AM (#50635261) Homepage
      My favourite is a somewhat optimistic one that appears on my iPad when it looks at hereisthecity.com. I always read in landscap - what happens is the site appears for a second or so, then an enormous black square appears blotting out all the content and the text "Please rotate your device" inside it.

      Err...no. No I am not going to rotate my device purely in order to see some advert that;s meant to be inside this giant black square that I don't want to see in the first place. I've had that happen quite a lot on the site, and I've still got no idea what's meant to appear because I just close the site when it happens. Meh.
      • I ran across something similar recently. They did fancy transparency on the black box so you could still read the site behind it, but it strained the eyes. Then I got an idea: I hit reload and as soon as the page came up I canceled the page load. Everything worked great :)

        Not recommended as a general way of browsing, but it might help in a specific instance just to be able to read a web page.

      • by 0123456 ( 636235 )

        I forget where it was, but I got a 'Please rotate your device' black window on another site recently. I tried turning my laptop onto its side, but nothing changed.

        So many web developers are just retards.

    • by fermion ( 181285 )
      For the longest time my ad blocker was Flash block and turning off GIF animation. For mobile platforms these were not a problem.

      The advent of HTML5 video is really what is driving this revolt. There is an advertising social contract between the content provider and the reader. For example prime time TV we expect about 15 minutes of ads per hour, for non prime it may go to 20. For fashion mags most of it is ads, for Foreign Affairs there are few ads.

      When the social contract is broken, there is no one

  • by Anonymous Coward

    This underscores one of my main reasons for running some ad blockers. Even in the desktop world, not everyone has a quad-core 3GHz i7 machine with 16GB of RAM. I have an older Mac limited to 2GB (and a slower processor). Some sites I visit lock up my machine for many minutes while they try to render 23 flash video ads, 400 pages of java, and a GB of browser chrome. I've just learned to not visit some of those sites any more since they ruin my browsing experience.

    And no, I do not feel the need to spend $1500

  • by Anonymous Coward

    If other sites adopted the /. style of ads, we'd probably not be complaining that much.

    But there's something infuriating when I load up my browser, load up a news page and get the top banner, then nothing as it attempts to load every ad on the face of the net into the page. No, that's not the part that pisses me off, it's the fact that I can click "stop" to stop the page from loading and, low and behold, all of the content that couldn't load is now there, without the ads.

    Loading your BS infected ads before

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Years ago we had laws that came about from unethical ad companies that would robo dial people ten or more times a day and use up all their fax paper pushing dubious products. Basically the law stated that advertising was illegal if the receiver had to pay anything to receive it or it prevented genuine messages from getting through (by using up all the fax paper, or answering machine tape, etc.). This was years before the mobile industry really took off.

    Unfortunately in recent times those unethical ad compan

  • While trying to click on this post I accidentally hovered over a banner ad that suddenly went full screen. The new Taboola ads are the worst. They are shamefully inappropriate in an almost comical way.
  • Ethics is not at all concerned with your perceived entitlement to peoples' eyes and internet connections.

  • Every time one goes to a web site with advertisements the ADs get loaded and start to play, even when they are not on the screen, above, below or to the side. Yet YOU are paying for the kilo, megs, gigabytes that they send you, It get ridiculous with some pages, several video ads start playing, you can't see them, but you can hear their audio all trying to drown out the others, and YOU are paying your ISP for the privilege of listening to this cacophony. Another issue, you are mildly watching some ad, you g
  • Researchers have also found that in-app mobile ads have even higher costs. The press release ( here [usc.edu]) and paper (here [mei-nagappan.com]) showed that apps with these ads consume an average of 16% more energy – but up to 33% more; 48% more CPU time, resulting in noticeable slowdowns in the app’s response time; and uses around 79% more network data, costing an estimated 1.7 cents every time they’re used. For app developers there was also a cost in terms of increased maintenance effort, increased complaints, an

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