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Salon Sans Ads, For A Price 371

Judg3 writes: "Salon.Com announced Tuesday that their readers will have a choice: Continue to read for free, dodging new, bigger CNET-style ads, or they pay $30 a year to read Salon's daily news and views, plus bonus content, in a blissfully ad-free environment." Is it worth doing something like that here? I don't read Salon enough to care, but I'd love it if a few bucks removed the ads from CNN. Slashdot's ads aren't really all that obtrusive, most of the time anyway :( If it's something people want, we could certainly consider it.
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Salon Sans Ads, For a Price

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  • we're smart enough to block them, thanks.
  • ...when Junkbuster does this for free?

    - A.P.

    * CmdrTaco is an idiot.

  • If I read it with double the ads?
  • I have been waiting for years for this to happen. The Internet is finally catching some of it's newspaper roots: you can either sell space to advertisers and have a cheap newspaper, or charge money for the newspaper and not give space to advertisers. In any case, there isn't a free lunch.
  • by rabtech ( 223758 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2001 @07:49AM (#349953) Homepage
    It is obvious that the current round of banner advertisements isn't going to hold up against bandwidth and hardware costs. Internet advertising needs time to remake itself. I imagine that /. had a better click-through rate than most sites, since the advertisements are generally geared toward the audience, something most people forgot to worry about.

    All that said though, I would still like to be able to browse without ANY advertisements at all. I think $30 is too high myself, but if Slashdot offered a membership for $10/yr, I'd gladly sign up and I think many others would as well, especially since that would help prop up the ol' budget against this recent dot-com madness.
    -- russ

    "You want people to think logically? ACK! Turn in your UID, you traitor!"
  • If sites (that I think are worth my revenue) asked me to pay a nominal fee to remove banner ads for a year, I'd go for it. Unfortunatly, I don't read Salon.


  • ..isn't that people don't want to pay for content. I think it's that said contents value is different in everyone's eyes.

    Suppose for a minute that you spent your life on one website, and it was your main source of daily happenings. Then a $30/yr price would seem fairly sweet. Suppose tho, that you only visit a website maybe twice a week. Or twice a month. The price suddenly becomes larger in your eyes.

    I would have no problem throwing tips in a jar for sites like /., Sluggy Freelance, K5 or any of the other links on my toolbar. However, I don't want that price to be dictated to me. Consider a restaraunt.. I always feel like the proprieters don't trust me whatsoever when they put the tip on the bill for me.

    Anyway, that's my CDN$0.02
  • Never charge people to read. I would be willing to pay $0.50 per month to post on Slashdot and stay active in the community, but I would never pay money to read it. That sort of thing people fully expect for free, and wouldn't pay for it. It would kill.

    And really, on this site, if even minimal payment were mandated, about four fifths of the (trolls) accounts would drop off.

    -the Pedro Picasso


  • It seems like a wash at first glance, but there is actually *no way* that they are getting $30 in advertising from existing users (I run the site in my .sig and looked into advertising a while back).

    So one can only conclude that they are looking for a new source of revenue. Given that they produce their own content, people must go there if they want to read it but will they be willing to pay in order to skip the ads? No way.

    This is nothing more than an insincere wall to protect themselves from people bitching. For everyone who writes and complains, the form letter will go out saying, 'Oh, sure we know they are annoying but we *value* you most greatly as a client and have come up with a way to remove the ads in our new subscription plan.'

    Don't believe the hype.


  • My guess is that anyone who cares enough to pay $30 probably cares enough to install Junkbuster... which works against ads on nearly all sites, for free. This slashdot page appears with a blank spot at the top on my browser, thanks to Junkbuster, and it cost me nothing more than about 15 minutes to install.
  • I know that a bunch of people will chime in about JunkBuster and various other tactics, but this seems to be a good approach. All that is required is a simple flag for a user login to view the page without banners. I can envision some potential abuse, but this can be mitigated easily enough by imposing some upper limit (say 50 pages) that can be viewed banner-free per day. The abuse I'm thinking of is sharing a login with others.

    I don't read Salon that often, but I might do this for slashdot. As I see it, this is one of the better solutions I have seen as it gives the end user more choices than to simply live with (or block) banner ads. I can see myself offering this sort of option with my site.

  • Well, blocking ads is a good solution for people with a severe distaste for them. I'll click a funny or intriguing ad in my free time...

    As far as ad removal on Slashdot, this seems to be a wonderful use of karma. Maybe karma points could be spent for ad supression or control. This would give those with maxed out karma a reason to keep active!

  • As useful as junkbuster is, it's still going to put some of our favorite websites out of business... I think this is definitely a step in the right direction. If I really enjoy a website, I want them to have enough income to stay alive, and the more options available to get them that income, the better. If I don't feel like paying them out of my own pocket, I can have ads pay them for me. This makes perfect sense. The next step, I guess, would be to combine this with micropayments. "Pay us $.50 to make ads disappear for this session|today|this week|etc."
  • So the new business model is that they'll stop annoying you for a price? They'll end up with no readers AND no revenue.

    By the way, Salon is also promising additional content for the price of admission.

  • Only problem: people motivated enough to get rid of the ads can do so for free by using a filtering proxy, some name server or /etc/hosts tweaks, firewalling rules or whatever.

    And those not motivated enough, well, they do not care enough to fill out the forms, let alone pay the subscription price.

  • For the same reason people give to National Public Radio -- they want to support content they like without forcing the stations to resort to ads.

    Not that there's anything wrong with blockers, Tivo, et al. It's just more user choice to make ad-free subs available, which is a good thing. A subscription is better than letting Amazon get a chunk through their honor program or whatever ...
  • by selectspec ( 74651 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2001 @07:57AM (#349986)
    Subscribers will get the following additional services:
    • Your personal information will be sold on the open market as soon as we go belly up!
    • Your credit card number will be accessible to any third-grader with a palm pilot.
    • We'll call you in the evening with great promotional offers
    • We'll send you lots of email so you don't feel lonely.
  • Ads suck, sure.
    But hey, you want to read the content for free, then don't block the ads!
    Folks who do this are directly contributing to the crap we're seeing now- FlashAds, BigAds, VerticalAds...
    I think this is a fine idea- I wish cable could do this. I'm already paying for cable, yet I have to suffer through ads anyway? THAT deserves a Junkbuster concept. But want free, deal with the ads. You don't want ads, pay for the content.
    By trying to have it free and ad-free, people who use such junkbuster-like software are largely responsible for the death of sites which can't survive the overhead, and will utlimately be repsonsible for the increased commercialization of the net.

    Exception- ad services which use sneaky tracking practices like doubelclick- filter them. Companies which use such web-bugs and things, I redirect those URL's to my own webserver using the hosts file. But banner sites that don't pull that crap, I happily deal with adverts to get the content for free.
  • One of the big reasons that subscription models like this encounter problems is that it's easy for multiple readers to share a single account. But I don't see any info about how they're going to prevent this.

    I predict that they're going to fall into the old cypherounks/cypherpunks login hole here.
  • I stopped reading Salon when they canned Cintra Wilson, who was an old friend of mine.

    Turning off JavaScript gets rid of most of the crap. I normally run with JavaScript turned off. I turn it on only for sites that actually do something useful with it. JavaScript really needs more permissions than just "on" and "off".

    Browsers need the ability to disable obnoxious behavior (window opening, Flash, etc.) on a per-domain basis via a right click menu. Maybe a "Mozilla - the browser that puts YOU back in control" promotion...

  • remember when they were subsidized by 'donations'? I've only been reading /. for about 8 months but I would pay $30/yr.

    OTOH I don't think the exlcusive content thing could work here. The only real writer is JKatz and even thats debatable. I'm not trying to bash him (this time) but you can't have an exclusive section based around one guy's writing in a user submitted news site.
  • by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2001 @08:00AM (#350003)
    Despite the general sleaziness of the concept, (kind of a shakedown if you think about it from a certain perspective) I suspect that a lot of people might lay out the bucks for no-ad TV. I'm going to be curious how successful it will be. I know I use the ISP I do, in part because it's a no-ad service. I suspect a lot of other folks do the same thing. I'd probably pony up a few extra bucks to get TV without ads too.

    Will probably never happen of course, since they would probably make more money from the ads. it's nice to dream though...

  • I wonder how they hope to carry out this plan. Are they going to have usernames and passwords, screen by IP, OS, browser or what?

    If it is by username and passwords then they also better make it so you can only be logged into one computer, because $30.00 shared between 30 of my friends is pretty cheap.

    This is one of the biggest problems in the information age. When you don't actually make products that you can sell, it is hard to have your advertising be able to carry your business.

    And I'm sure they would need my email address to start this process, so then they can track what stories I read while logged in and send me special email offers that they consider "helpful." Like my favorite on how I can add 4 inches to my... well you get it.


  • The funny thing is that most of Slashdot's ads are actually just as entertaining as the rest of the content.
  • This sort of ties in with that story from the other week about the Advertising council (?) proposing more varied and unusual ad types.

    As long as they don't wind up like that story [] in Satirewire. It is enough to make me go on a virtual shooting spree []

  • That's a great point about NPR - perhaps Slate should use that kind of spin. "Free us and yourselves from the hassle of ads, by contributing..."

    The real dangle would be if they could offer removing ads (or certain sizes of ads) from the site entirely, if certain fundraising goals are met through subscription. If $x is raised, the banners go. If $xx is raised, the big CNET-style ads go, etc.

  • I think that the main thing to consider about trying something like this on /. is the nature of the site. We have a much more community oriented feel on this site and I think people feel in the back of their heads that it's about community (whether it is or not). Offering a subscription is fine for Salon, they are obviously a money-making venture, paying writers, and making some coin.

    Whether /. is profitable or not, it doesn't feel like a for-profit venture and I think that offering subscriptions would take away from that. On the other hand, asking nicely for patronage through a paypal system or something similar allows /. to keep the non-corporate feel.

  • They can certainly make the layout of their site unfriendly to ad-filtering programs. These new ads [] are enormous. If they tweak their layout enough, they can make the pages unpleasant to read without serious re-working. I think their plan (and the $30) is a little too ambitious, though. I love Salon, but I think this is going to hurt them.
  • Eventually, people (hopefully) will produced "well formed" (X)HTML documents, all tags properly nested, all attributes quoted, all tags opened and closed, etc.

    When that is done, the "well formed" page can be read by an XML parser and transformed. This would allow people to develop XSL templates that can "eat" the offending web page and output only the parts you want. I can see someday that a smarter browser/agent will allow me to right click on a component of a web page, understand its context and let me "delete" it from the rendering. This would produce a unique XSL document that would be cached for the next time I visit the ad laden page.

    Of course this is based on someone elses well formed input, and that ain't gonna happen anytime soon.


  • by shinji ( 34318 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2001 @08:07AM (#350023)
    Who ever mod'd this up needs to think again. If sites like Salon continue to make no money they will soon go out of business then you will have no Salon to read. No ammount of blocking will get you a site that has gone out of business.

    If you like a service you should be willing to provide some revenue for them, either subscription or ads. It amazes me, people will pay for cable and magazines both of which have subscription cost and ads but expect all online e-zines to be free.
  • by Mr. Slippery ( 47854 ) <> on Wednesday March 21, 2001 @08:08AM (#350026) Homepage
    I think $30 is too high myself, but if Slashdot offered a membership for $10/yr, I'd gladly sign up and I think many others would as well,

    Hmm. And how would such an ad-free membership work?

    Username/password? 100 people could all use the same account. Heck, if I was feeling generous (or contrary) I could post my paid login for everyone to use, a la the famous cypherpunks/cypherpunks combo.

    Send a "registered" cookie to my browser? Can easily be copied by the tech-savvy; and are the tech-non-savvy supposed to buy one subscription for home, one for work?

    I just don't see how this idea would work, technically. Any ideas?

    Tom Swiss | the infamous tms |

  • Really, I can't imagine that Slashdot's ads are that bothersome. I'm pressing PgDn before I even see what the ad is, and then there's a ton of content before one is forced to view another ad. (Although Netscape tends to hang while displaying the nested tables, forcing you to look at the ad for a longer period of time.)

    PC Mag has another problem, one that's shared by most of the print computer magazines -- sales have fallen way down because people read about computers on the Internet. This has forced them to drop ad rates and cut content, and thus become thin little things that are 75% ads. (However, I would argue that even at it's peak 10 years ago, PC Magazine was 75% sales brochure content anyway.)
  • SALN [] is currently trading at about 38 cents per share and is in danger of being delisted.

    Are you sure they'll be around for one year if you pay for the ad-free version?
  • by Genom ( 3868 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2001 @08:10AM (#350033)
    The problem comes when you take the "over the top" nature of advertizing technologies when they relate to the 'net.

    First it was spam.

    Then it was banners.

    Then more spam, and more banners.

    Then (people started catching on to spammers grabbing email addresses from innocuous-looking forms) gated "valid email address" pages that send some form of "password" to your address - you use the password, they know your address is real, and put it on the "verified real-deal email addresses" list, which they then sell to spammers.

    Now - since none of that is working - places like CNet have decided that ads need to be BIGGER, and take over the content area to the point that they quite literally interrupt the browsing experience. (which of course is the point of advertizing anyway)

    This is only going to get worse. Soon the ads will be larger and more abundant than the content itself.

    Soon it'll be hard to tell what is "content" and what is an ad - pages will be designed not to display the article or content that it's audience will be looking for, but rather to "effectively" display the ads.

    People will look for options to get rid of them - and they'll start to pay micropayments, or yearly/monthly/daily/hourly fees to get HALF of the ads stripped out (but you know they're going to pass some through even to the paying crowd)

    So, people will turn to blocking software like Junkbuster -- at which point, I fully expect there to be a rash of "campaign contributions" to various elected officials, and some law making it illegal to block ads to be bought^H^H^H^H^H^Hvoted into law.

  • Because this is the first step towards a Members Only content area. Junkbuster can't get you past a login screen.

    Content sites that can't make it on ad revenue really only have once choice, and that's the porn model - free teaser content, and a subscription service to get at the rest.
  • I'll pay $30 per year, only if it means every poster to slashdot that pays will *NEVER* have their content removed just because the Co$ decides to go ballistic over someone making fun of them. :)

    I realize copyright infringement is wrong and for the uninformed, this was an attempt at hilarity.

  • Slashdot makes big use of Salon links,
    as the subsequent article shows.

  • but for college students and others who might not have that much money, an extra $20-$50 bucks a month can be quite helpful.

    'course, if you don't have much money, why would I want to advertise to you? Employ you, maybe, but try to sell you stuff? No thanks, I'll stick to selling things to people who HAVE money, thank you.
  • by VAXman ( 96870 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2001 @08:16AM (#350048)
    Dude, information wants to be free, they can't charge $30 a year for something which is free to provide. You can encode any Salon article as a number. So it's like they're charging for numbers! What a scam! We can just put the articles on Freenet and remove the ads - they won't be able to catch us that way.
  • It is my totally uninformed opinion that from the very beginning the folks at Salon have wanted to be a subscription-based service. From their format and the types of stories that they run, it is apparent to me that they have wanted to be an online magazine.

    For the most part, they have high-quality, original content worthy of a print magazine, and that kind of content doesn't come cheap. It will be interesting to see how the subscription model works for Salon.

    IIRC, Nerve has also gone the subscription path, though it has been months since I last visited nerve. Slate also started out with a subscription model and then switched to ad-supported content, 'cause nobody would subscribe.

    I'll be watching Salon to see if this model flies.
  • New media ventures that seemed to make so much sense a year ago are dropping like flies. I remember a time when I pittied tree-meat-based publications.

    Ad brokers have for some time delayed or simply refused payment to web site operators. But we small fries expect to be batted around like a ragged cat toy. But Salon?

    From the story, it sounds like Salon is heading in the "tip jar" direction. [Thanks to Amazon's Honor System Program, my wallet is $1.43 fatter. Oh, yeah.] But something tells me that making payroll is going to be tough either way.

    For now, all the little guys like me can do is shudder and post dimly-lit photos of the people I keep in my basement [] to generate hits.

  • At the risk of sounding like a zealot, I must put in my 2 cents. Free software has nothing to do with the price, but everything to do with freedom. Read what RMS says about the GPL. The synopsis is that you can charge whatever price you can for the GPL'ed software, but with the software distribution, you must give the buyer the ability to easily obtain the source, and let them modify it at will, provided that they release their modifications under GPL (emphasis mine).

    Now, I do agree that /. readers will probably revolt if /. went to a transitionary-subscription-only model, but then, that's life. I'm probably willing to pay for salon, CNN, et. al, but most likely, I won't pay as much for /. as I would for some of the others I've mentioned.

  • The problem that this concept runs into is that if I can get the same content for free as what I pay for just give or take the ad banners, I can use software to block the banners. I personally don't block slashdot's ad banners because I actually have an interest in products that get advertised here.

    If you want to offer a subscription service you have to add some value to the service to make it worth the extra money other than axing the advertisements. I don't think this would be feasible on Slashdot because of how slashdot works.


  • *shrug* Yeah, so? All's fair in love and war.

    Anyone who installs Junkbuster or sets up a packet filter on their system is pretty obviously NOT going to be paying attention to the ads, let alone supporting the companies placing them.

    In other words, as long as Junkbuster (etc.) is a voluntary and active install (as opposed to being installed as part of the browser), it's revenue neutral for the advertisers. They don't care.

    As for paying for web sites, I suspect that web-ads won't work in the long run. People don't like them, people don't read them, and people don't click on them. Sooner or later, advertisers will quit paying for them. Then we'll be faced with web sites falling into the following categories:

    1) Personal interest (amateur) sites. The cost of these will be covered by ISP fees.
    2) Vendor websites. These sites (,, are their own advertising, and support the company. By merely existing and serving product information (and often allowing the product to be bought online) they generate far more revenue than is needed to cover their costs.
    3) The sticky one: Information portals (using portal in a more general sense). News sites, /., search engines, etc. need to support themselves, and also need to provide information for free or no one will use them. Would you pay $0.001/search on Google, followed by more micropayments to check out each result until you found the useful one? Probably it'd come to about $10/month, over and above your access fees, which is not very friendly!

    Many of these portals will go out of business. Many others will be bought by profit-making companies, and advertised in a different manner. (", brought to you by Toyota!") Still others might charge for access from ISPs, so that your monthly access fee goes up by $0.50, and you get access to Google. This might actually not be a bad idea, come to think of it.

    But web-banner ads? Don't work, won't last.

  • by Mike Schiraldi ( 18296 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2001 @08:23AM (#350066) Homepage Journal
    Yeah, anyone who fast-forwards through a commercial is a communist.


  • by Tuzanor ( 125152 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2001 @08:23AM (#350068) Homepage
    it's not the ads most of us mind, its the ad companies. i block the ad companies i don't like because i am on the internet SO much (i know, i life) that i don't want any one company to know that much about me no matter how. so if the website handles the ads themselves, then they get through, if they leavee it to doubleclick or admonitor, they are not getting through,. sorry guys.
  • Yeah, I was pissed when Hearst didn't pick up Cintra Wilson in the new Chronicle. Too scary for Walnut Creek, I guess.

    As for the JavaScript issue, it pisses me off to say this, but I wouldn't expect anything soon, if ever. Users have been screaming for more fine-grained control over the JavaScript/DOM sandbox for years and years (particularly wrt, and Netscape/Mozilla and Microsoft haven't done jack to this date.

    Java has these sorts of user controls, and IE even has a dialog that allows you to manage the Java sandbox in it's 'zones' metaphor. Why not JavaScript?

    Another bitch - I have IE set to prompt to run plugins (like Flash). So, it prompts me, but doesn't give any indication if the plugin is just Flash or Acrobat, or is EvilPrivacyDestroyer 2.0. And then, just to maximize annoyance, when I push "No", it pops up another dialog telling me that I just pushed "No". Thanks a bunch, MS. (Of course, this is better than Mozilla, which offers no fine-grained plugin controls at all.)
  • Aren't the people who can afford a $30 web site subscription (for leisure reading without advertising) exactly the audience advertisers want to reach?
  • Dude, information wants to be free, they can't charge $30 a year for something which is free to provide
    I don't read Salon for the news; I read it for the opinion columns. Whereas a fair number of stories do seem to be written by someone with his[^H^Her] head up their ass, a lot of them are interesting, literate and definitely worth reading. I imagine those columnists want to be paid, so pay I will. Maybe. I certainly won't be using junkbuster or downloading them from freenet (this attitude subject to revision should they do something that really pisses me off.)
  • That's insightful? Hello? Some logic would be welcome, not just for the moderations.

    If people can block ads then the companies that sponsor Slashdot (by paying Slashtof for allowing their banners) get less visibility and they don't want to pay as much as a result. Hell, why put up ads at all and pay if nobody sees them! Slashdot can only lose money if people can block ads. So what do you propose that Slashdot gets in return. Karma? Hello? What the hell are they supposed to do with karma?
  • A lot of cable channels used to be ad-free, like MTV2 and Comedy Central. Then they figured out they could sneak ads in without people complaining too much- they're already used to it on the broadcast channels. They few exceptions are the movie networks; but you can't interrupt a feature length film with ads or people wouldn't pay the extra 20 a month when they can just go to Blockbuster.

    The point is if they can get away with ads, they will. I think part of the problem is that most shows on TV are formatted to be broken once or twice by commercial messages, and so there's no better use of the dead air that fills the shows to 30 minute intervals than targeted advertising.

    Of course, they could always do like PBS and beg and plead with you to send them money for hemp tote bags between shows. Which is better?
  • I think this is great. Perhaps a little expensive, but good none-the-less. I happen to like Salon very much, they have very good writing and the site is updated very often. It's like getting Time or Newsweek, but I get to read new stories every day.

    I think a lot of people will pay for the service, if for no other reason than to support the magazine. I, for one, will be one of those folks.

  • HBO is what you're looking for. There's never any ads during the programs. The only ads you see are between programs (as one movie leads into the next, for example), and they're always for other HBO programs... no commercials for cars, soft drinks, mutual funds, etc.

    In addition to being largely commercial-free, HBO programs are generally better (IMHO) than most of the crap you find on broadcast or regular cable TV. The monthly rates are reasonable too.

  • Does anyone read Salon anymore? I haven't heard it mentioned in months.

    I vowed to stop reading it after the Henry Hyde business (which I thought was a journalistic disgrace) but I kept going back because it was too good to miss. In the last year or so, I don't think I've even looked at it except to follow a link from Slashdot like that stupid Andrew Leonard "hacker" story. It reads like one of those godawful free "alternative" newspapers: obsequious defenses of Bill Clinton that would embarass James Carville, columnists who say "fuck" a lot and endless, tedious blathering about sex.

    Didn't they try to cut costs by getting rid of a lot of their writers? It shows.

    Unsettling MOTD at my ISP.

  • And in the meantime, people can use an HTML parser in a proxy to filter out the banners like they have done for the past 5 years.
  • Conversely, you are also saving whoever pays for the bandwidth you use money, be it your employer, college, or yourself. Not only that, but you're helping to reduce the overall amount of net traffic, increasing the QoS for all net users (admittedly by a tiny fraction, but imagine if there were *no* ads, at all)

    I don't begrudge site owners/maintainers the ability to make money from their effort, but I don't think that ads are the best way to do it. Unfortunately, once people are accustomed to getting something for free, it's very hard indeed to convince them to pay...


  • This is one week after /.'s Clay Shirky interview, in which he pointed out (again) that "In the next 6 months or so, the only professional sites that will be able to survive will either find some sort of patronage (including NPR/PBS-style subsidy from users, as Evan did when he needed servers for blogger) or get bought by a company that is willing to run a media outlet as a loss leader."

    It follows Shirky's prediction that micropayments will not fly and that sites have to go with subscription, aggregation, and subsidy to make money. Was that guy on target or what!

    The question is not whether Salon will make money from this, but whether they can make enough to survive. I think Salon has a really good combination of dynamite content and community: writing you can't find anywhere else and people you can't find anywhere else. I plan to join as soon as the option is available.

    A lot of people are referencing /. and wondering when the /. subscription service will arrive. My own two cents: I thnk /. could do well by everyone by giving subscribers pages with 15-minutes advance on stories (and 15-minute advance on the ability to post). It could include a Playbill-style list of contributors at different levels of membership (opt-in, natch). That way, in open-source style, contribution is rewarded with a stronger sense of community, a healthy ego boost, and official acknowledgement (the site is willing to "give back").

    But that's just my opinion, I could be wrong.

  • Simple, use both.

    when you login, a session cookie gets sent to your browser and all other sessions are destroyed.

    If you give your password out to a friend, then the two of you cannt browse the site at the same time without constantly logging in again. (For extra fun, the browser with the old cookie gets locked out for X minutes )

    so yes, there are ways of making password sharing a real pain in the ass

  • provided that they release their modifications under GPL

    For those in the audience, this quote is a little misleading. The GPL requires that if you distribute the modified software, you must distribute the source code for your changes. This is one of the more common misconceptions about the GPL. You can take the Linux kernel and modify it to run better on your tweaked-out custom server hardware and never show anyone your changes. Try and send it outside your organization (sales, etc.), and you'll have to give your changes only to the entity which receives the program. They, in turn, can use the code you have provided in accordance with the GPL.

    I'm not implying that the parent author didn't already know this. The sentence, however, was a bit misleading, and I wanted to clarify it.

  • Obviously a troll, but I'll respond.

    Charging is not the problem. Noone has a problem with charging. The problem comes that if I pay my $30, and then want to email the article to a friend. If I can't do that, it's bad, if I can, it's good. Information wants to be free, as in, have freedom, not as in "not paid for".
  • Dude, information wants to be free

    I think this is the first time I've seen this phrase in post that wasn't using it in the context of criticizing the people who espouse it. I was almost starting to think it was made up by the critics. I guess people really do say it.

  • by goliard ( 46585 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2001 @08:46AM (#350110)

    How does this work? That's easy. My current client is a famous research company which sells it's reports on a subscription basis (for big, big bucks) and delivers primarily via the web these days. And they're wildly successful (as in "in the black") doing this.

    The thing that you're missing is that Salon's subscription service will also have subscriber-only content. Which is important. And makes it much more what my client does.

    Simply put, it is in the best interests of subscribers not to share proprietary info with all their friends. It's a tragedy-of-the-commons situation simple enough even your average luser gets it. Subscribers want to continue receiving very high quality content. They know that if that content isn't profitable it goes away.

    Here's the big crucial clue everyone has missed so far: there is a difference between buying a virtual good -- like an e-book -- and subscribing to a a virtual service.

    If you can rip off an e-book, and yeah, more or less you come out ahead. You got what you want. Authors rant about how if you don't pay for the one you want now, they won't be able to afford to make the next one. But, as everyone knows, that's a crap shoot. Just because an author wrote a book you liked doesn't mean you will necessarily care about the next book. Authors too numerous to mention have let their readers down on sequels. So the market is not terribly responsive to their pleas.

    But a subscription is a relationship. You front your money with the belief that you will regularly get high quality content. If you don't think you will get sufficiently good content over the life of your subscription, you don't subscribe. And because it is a relationship, the other side can pull the plug if you cheat. But even more importantly, it is in your best interest to make sure that the company fulfilling the other end of your subscription-contract is still around to do so!

    If you deprive the company with whom you have a subscription-contract of paying customers, they are going to stiff you the content you expect to get. Real simple.

    Unlike with stand-alone good, in a subscription model, the seller has hostages.

    Sure, there will be people who rip off a small number of articles. At my afforementioned client corp., they chalk such things up to good publicity, and just don't sweat it.

    As far as security goes, the answer is to not have rigorous security. Tell people what the rules are, and if them break them, kill their accounts, no refund. If one name/password pair were to show massive simultaneous usage to multiple diverse IPs, don't you think they'd pull the plug?

  • if there were some additional value added (e.g. throw in a ThinkGeek t-shirt of my choice and 100 licensed MP3s from Rob's favorite techno musicians). Try it, you might be surprised at how many fans fork over the cash.
  • I read an article in last month's "Worth" magazine about the two biggest players in the RSN satellite radio business, and this sounds exactly like their approach: charge people a monthly fee for 100 stations of specific-format, ad-free content (i.e., jazz or country or NPR or ag reports), or let 'em listen to the free stations (which are, alarmingly, all the same anyway). They expect to charge about $10/mo. Incidentally, the idea of making the player useable outside the car is only just catching on with providers -- that is, making the decoder a unit that could be pulled from your dashbord and then plugged into your home stereo.
  • incorrect. I run a website and I'd rather have people who are NOT going to click ads not view them, as it wrecks click through ratios even more than they already are. If you aren't interested enough in ads to go to the point of installing blocking software, you obviously aren't going to click, so it's no skin off my back.
  • Sure, there will be lots of ways to get around the system (either screening out ads or sharing a premium login). These methods only have one problem -- they only work as long as Salon keeps publishing.

    With Napster, it's harder to see why you should pay for the music because you're pretty sure the musicians and record labels will do just fine no matter what. This is different 'cause you know Salon is probably hanging on by their fingernails. If this model doesn't work then you lose the content, period.

    Personally, I'll pay. I enjoy the writing (despite its flaws) and would hate to see it go away. Frankly, I'd rather be paying for content directly than be at the whims of advertisers, not that this solves that problem.

    I still have an irrational hope that a working micropayment scheme will be here Real Soon Now...

  • Yeah, you could. But your magazine sits there for 30 days never changing, eventually winding up in the trash. Hooray for dead trees.

    Online magazines provide more content at a greater rate than just about any periodical outside of newspapers.

  • Simply put, it is in the best interests of subscribers not to share [too much] proprietary info with all their friends... there will be people who rip off a small number of articles... they chalk such things up to good publicity, and just don't sweat it.

    Having been a subscriber/ripper-off of a service much like this (maybe the same one?) I agree that this can work. Letting people rip off a few articles will actually encourage subscriptions.

    It's much like the tolerance of software piracy by Adobe, because they know that it's more important for Photoshop to be the standard than for them to sell every last copy. Works for me!

  • I use adsubtract [] on my windows box. Not only does it block the ad server requests, it blocks the cookies as well.

  • by jheinen ( 82399 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2001 @08:56AM (#350130) Homepage
    Everyone keeps talking about how, if they want to surf ad-free, they can just use Junkbuster. That's not the point. The point is supporting the sites which you value and want to see continue. Slashdot is a resource that I use constantly. I enjoy reading things here, and I would be willing to pay a fee to continue using it. I would even be willing to pay a fee AND keep seeing the ads, since the ads on /. are not the obtrusive. My primary interest would be to ensure that /. gets enough money to keep on doing what it currently does. If the current banner ad system is more lucrative than a subscription-based service, then keep the ads. If, however, subscriptions would generate more income, then I am more than willing to pay. Well-maintained sites need to have a source of income to continue to provide service. I for one do not relish the prospect of the Internet becoming nothing more than a collection of personal blogs and fan sites run by people as part-time hobbies. For a site to rise above that noise it needs to generate some income so the maintainers can enhance the service offered.

    Rob, if you want to sell subscriptions, I will pay. I even suggest taking a look at Qpass [] to see if they might be a solution. They offer support for subscriptions.


  • Right. Throw in some physical thing, like a t-shirt (for a cheap subscription), an MP3 player (for an expensive subscription), or a Slashdot Cruiser (for a very, very expensive lifetime subscription) and the profits on the thing fund the subscription. Just like PBS.
  • by f5426 ( 144654 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2001 @08:59AM (#350134)
    ...but while many sites want to go pay-for-no-ads (salon, penisarcade, k5, for instance), one of the rare site [] that provided content I could pay for is moving into the opposite (ie: free without ad, while there was a membership fee before). (They plan innovative [] ways to finance the site).

    Note that they even understand something [] about intellectual property [] and had great internal fights [] about it...



  • by goliard ( 46585 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2001 @09:01AM (#350137)
    I would be willing to pay $0.50 per month to post on Slashdot and stay active in the community, but I would never pay money to read it.

    But Slashdot isn't Salon -- which is why I read both. I read Slashdot to participate; I read Salon to be entertained.

    Yes, Salon has discussion fora, but I find them lame. What I am willing to pay for is a really good daily magazine.

    Would I pay to post on Slashdot? No. Well, not unless CmdrTaco lifts the karma cap.

    Unfortunately, the things which make /. cool would be killed if there were barriers to entry. (Actually, I do belong to a discussion forum with barriers to entry, and it is cool in a very different way.) /. wouldn't be /. if, for instance, the scientists who are the focus of a story couldn't find out about the ruckus here and wade in to the discussion. That sort of things happens, and it can't happen when one must pay to participate.

  • Um, AllAdvantage is toast. [] As is your link.

  • They have no choice; acording to The Downside Deathwatch [], financially their backs are up against the wall.

  • The subscription fee makes sense to me. They state plainly that they need money, and to try and get some they will be offering a subscription service, along with even more overt ads for the free service. As a consistent, multi-year reader of Salon, I'm considering coughing up the dough.

    But the reason I do is because they provide information / content that I don't get elsewhere, and it's content that I value.

    What I wonder is why people would pay for ad-free service at /. or equivalent. For here, the content is wholly provided by the users. I'm not interested in paying someone else for my own content.

    So what about it? Why would you pay/not-pay for /.-esque content?
    D. Fischer
  • Consider consumer reports, they take no ads and provide a decent comparision of products. There are many cases in "old media" where advertisers have too much power and influence content. Which ultimately degrade what we are feed our brains. I haven't read Salon very much before, but I might check them out now to show support for an adless model.
  • It doesn't take very much to avoid the ads entirely. I trained myself to ignore them, but before learning to block them out mentally, you can turn off plugins, turn off activeX, and turn off "animate GIFs." These are all options in Internet Explorer 5. I've found this particularly useful for the new CNET ads. They are all flash, so if you disable plugins you don't have to watch or wait! What's even better is iCab or Opera. You can block individual ads, ad servers, and images that are a certain size.
  • > Turning off JavaScript gets rid of most of the crap. I normally run with JavaScript turned off.

    Ditto. Hell, I didn't even know Salon was running Javashit popup ads.

    When Salon went from the "one page per article" to the "break up long articles into five pages, each one or two PgDn presses long" model, the only reason I continued reading is because I could click on "Print This" and get the article in a readable format. (Yeah, idjit web dee-zyners, some of us like to scroll! Pressing the spacebar is a lot easier than mousing to a one-digit-wide URL and clicking... especially if I've got a coffee in my mousing hand!)

    Of course, I'm part of the problem. I read Salon for the content, not the ads, and I have Junkbuster blocking cookies and image-autoloading off. And while I enjoy it, it ain't worth $30 to me.

    But all they need to do to get rid of me is take away "view the whole article with one click".

  • by StoryMan ( 130421 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2001 @09:22AM (#350156)
    The interesting thing about online ads -- and a topic I've never heard anyone talk about is the problem of the "failed click-through."

    I don't usually click on the ads, but occasionally -- say, for ThinkGeek, or for another company I've actually bought stuff from -- I click an ad. But what happens next is usually the step the prevents me from *ever* clicking on it again: because of the machinations necessary to record the click in the database, set a cookie (or whatever), and then, finally, actually go to the site, I've found that oftentimes I'm greeted with a blank screen -- the database is waiting for an opening for an insert, the site for the company that plants the cookie is down, whatever.

    The result is that more often than not, when I do choose to click, I don't actually *get to the fucking place I'm wanting to give my business to*.

    And no, it's not just my connection or my browser. I've had this happen at work, at home, you name it.

    Even Slashdot is guilty of this. Occasionally, as I say, I click on the ThinkGeek ad, only to be witness to an *inordinate* delay: something is loading, something is waiting, something is not routing properly.

    It's fucked. And it pisses me off. I mean (and I say this to these companies who think that advertising the be-all and end-all of their business model) if you have the ads, make damn sure they work. Make damn sure your databases are working. Make damn sure the code is debugged.

    Don't just assume that because your "ad-rotator" was designed by Biff the Bohemian in Perl/PHP/ASP/Cold Fusion that Biff the Bohemian knows how to *guarantee* you that the ad will provide the clicker (me, goddammit) with the result that I expect.

    And, yeah, I won't even rant about absurd paradox that goes along with advertising, the advertising model, and sites that depend upon it -- that you cannot, no matter how much you cross your fingers, toes, and wish upon all the stars in the sky -- make a revenue upon a thing -- advertising -- that people simply don't like. I don't know anyone who likes ads. Even the good ads -- the odd new Webvan ads or the fucking sock puppets -- are tiresome after two viewing. (Take the Webvan ad, for example. The Dogma 95 handheld digital camera, a person in room, washed out color. "I want to take a nap but I need diapers." It works once. Maybe twice. But when you're inundated with it -- and with many others -- it ceases to function. It becomes a parody of itself. It becomes tiresome. ("Hey, man, it's 'Think Differently' not 'Think Different!'") I mean, how many 60's counter-cultural rock and rollers will sell their anthems to the fucked up new latinate-sounding companies with their goofy spellings and dumb middle-managers? Cingular? Verizon? Accenture? These are absurd names. Absurd, one, because they *sound* absurd. But absurd, two, because they sound *absurdly manufactured.* Okay, yeah, I'll agree out of work PhDs need a place to go -- and those companies that manufacture the names are as good as any place for a lazy PhD to sit and plant him or herself for a year, but, please, enough already. Enough with the wonky ads. The wonky names. The wonky revenue models. The wonky Katzian predictions of a revolution that IS NOT A FUCKING REVOLUTION.

    Enough, enough.

    Enough with the digital encryption. With the self-destructing files. With Napster. Fuck NAPSTER! It's goddamn useless now! Enough with Hilary Rosen and Jack Valenti. Enough with Bluematter and (another stupid fucking name) and their stupid encrytion. Enough with the fucking clueless middle managers who think that because they have an MBA they actually have a clue. One does not go with the other, Bri ("Hey, my name's Brian, but you can call me, Bri. I'm a middle manager!") Enough with Motorola, Lucent, 3COM, and whoever else it is this hour -- this minute -- who will declare that they won't meet revenue expectations. Enough with cable and DSL and personal firewalls and Zone Alarm and Black Ice.

    And enough with Telocity. ("You ain't seen nothing yet? How about this: we get acquired by Hughes and fire our management. Patti Hart, CEO, oh where are you can you go now that you've so royally screwed up customers so that they can't even *CANCEL* your "broadband" without still getting charged?") Enough with Bell Atlantic. Verizon. Ameritech. SBC.

    Enough with Rhythms, Covad, and Northpoint. Face it, you'll all be giving your departing CEO's millions of dollars so that their platinum parachutes can land far, far away from wherever it is your nose cone burrows itself so far underground that it's gonna take the sorry Ameritech's and Sprint's to start excavating the messes you've caused.

    Enough, enough, enough. ENOUGH!

  • > It reads like one of those godawful free "alternative" newspapers: obsequious defenses of Bill Clinton that would embarass James Carville, columnists who say "fuck" a lot and endless, tedious blathering about sex.

    Yeah. I read it because it's enjoyable - most of the time, I disagree with their editorial stance, but I figure that's a Good Thing; it never hurts to see things from the other side's point of view. I'll miss that.

    (Of course, that said, I've pretty much skipped their political commentary too, about the time of the Hyde stories. Yeah, Salon, we know you're a mouthpiece of the Democratic party. We get it. Honest. ;-)

  • Check out the icab browser for Macs at [] You can filter ads based on their pixel sizes or the server they come from, and it's user customizable so you can add your own. A great idea we'll never see from IE or NS I imagine!
  • I enjoyed the net when it was nothing but students and military people, and I think I will still enjoy it after a bunch of portals and other sites start charging, and I stop visiting them. I find very little on the Internet that I would pay for. The few things I would pay for give me some kind of return on investment. I could not imagine paying for any Internet service which does not ultimately allow me to make more money than I would have made without it. Slashdot is a possibility, but Salon, no way. I would consider worth paying fore if I were planning to be an NT/Windows 2000 guy forever.
  • If web sites offered higher bandwidth connections for a fee they would make money. If you like watching 2 hours of 160x120 movies you might be willing to pay for faster connections to a streaming video site.
  • I'd certainly prefer a normal banner ad to having to wait to load two gigantic pics on their home page, one of which is actually text.
  • Wouldn't that amount to spreading a malicious virus?
  • Absolutely. Like some others have said I'd be willing to pay for Slashdot even *with* the ads. (This is not to say I want to see them, I just believe in supporting a company whose management is obviously dedicated to preserving the top-notch content and community they've managed to build over all these years.) I'd love the opportunity to see Slashdot ad-free and know that my donation is helping support a great site.

    However I'm still a geek so I expect payment to be easy and point-and-click. I tried to donate to Penny Arcade but the Paypal system was so cumbersome for non-USA residents that I gave up in exasperation.!

  • Exactly. I think the reason most banner ads fail to draw clicks is that they're poorly targeted and poorly designed. I think there are also some problems with the who banner ad implementation.

    The average banner ad these days gives no clue about where the ad will take you or even what the ad is attempting to sell me. They're more interested in being clever and cutesy. I don't mind adverting, but I hate _bad_ advertising.

    Examples of good ads are either engaging enough to make it worth my time, or concise enough that they don't consume my time.

    Other forms of advertising have the same problem (how often have you watched a funny TV commercial, only to come away with absolutely no memory of what product was being advertised?) But other forms of advertising aren't expected to produce instantly measureable results.

    And that's the other problem. Most ads are damned annoying to use, even if you're intrigued by what they're selling. If I'm reading some interesting content I'm probably not interested in just stopping in the middle and leaping off into the void for the sake of an advertisment. I might click on it when I'm done, but there's a good chance that its rotated away by then, and I'm almost certainly not going to go randomly refreshing pages to hunt for it.

    One site I visited recently has some kind of an "ad clip" thing that lets you tage interesting banners to revisit at your convenience. This particular implementation seemed confusing and tedious to use, but I think the idea is pretty good. When I read a paper publication or record a TV show I occasionally do flip back/rewind to see certain ads. Can't do that on a banner ad. How about a list of advertisers for future reference, like many magazine have? Nope.

    I don't think any form of advertising would work well if it were done as badly as banner ads often are.


  • by Tony Shepps ( 333 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2001 @10:20AM (#350185) Homepage
    If it's simplicity you want, we'd be happy to sell you that. It's just that our research has shown time and time again that you're an early adopter, and our research has shown that early adopters will accept buggy products if you feel the company selling them to you is friendly and cool.

    Our research of your own message shows that while you claim to be tired of advertising, it works on you. In fact, you were able to name several newly-monikered companies that are looking to overhaul their stodgy old-world images. We will report back to Cingular, Verizon and Accenture that not only were early adopters already able to remember their names, but identified them in the midst of a very busy, highly technology-oriented marketplace. What better evidence of marketing success do they need!

    You were special, too, in that you not only had an acute understanding of the marketplace and economic factors contributing to it, but that you were keenly aware of the results of market conditions. You also picked up on the Slashdot/Thinkgeek connection. We will be reporting this as evidence of a deeper understanding in certain target markets of the alliances between aggregated sites of similar markets. Going forward, we will encourage corporate clients to develop communities that can be targetted and aggregated.

    We would like to thank you, too, for pointing out an underlying resentment of middle managers that we were unaware of in this target market. Heretofore, we are re-purposing those resources to better delight you. Approximately one-third of all middle managers are going to be re-titled "Customer Experience Technicians". They will be indoctrinated in new approaches to micro-markets. Another third will be re-titled "Market-based Enablers". They will have the ability to directly affect any segment of the supply chain to improve your conception of the product ordering and delivery process. The last third will be impacted by our next reduction-in-force effort.

    We determined partly through your feedback that the subtle connection between market awareness and bad business news is real. Fortunately our PR department is adept at generating bad business news by rosy forecasts that are followed by routine announcements of unmet goals. Since most of this so-called "news" is just the reaction of some investors to some information, we feel we can generate almost ridiculous amounts of awareness using this new model.

    Thank you for your participation!

  • Tips are NOT a given!

    Actually, in the U.S. they are. The Federal tax code assumes that all waiters in a restaurant receive a certain amount of tips (computed according to the restaurant's income). Any given waiter is required to pay taxes on the "correct" amount of tips they (should have) received.

    In other words, your waiter has to pay taxes on your tip, even if you don't give it to him.

  • 20-30 bucks a year and I get slashdot T-shirt, I'll byte.

    As for Salon I would suggest they make the ads nominally larger for non-payers, and charge 40 bucks and offer quarterly dead-trees/CD of popular/influential stories as part of the deal.

    This kinda thing will work for Linux, Open Source, and anything on the Internet.

    My apologies to anyone who is pissed that the net isn't cranking out a Bill Gates a minute... on second thought I retract that apology :)

  • I'm already paying for cable, yet I have to suffer through ads anyway?

    You're paying the cable company for a cable connection. The ads support the content. If cable went ad-free, every channel would likely become a premium channel.

  • Doesn't KDE's Konquerer do this? That's really the only thing about KDE I'm even remotely interested in, but it's not worth it to me to install the QT libs just for that. The BLUG guys demoed Konquerer a whole back and it looked like you could disable Java, Javascript and cookie acceptance on a site by site basis.
  • I don't mind Slashdot ads either. I don't often click on them, but I have on occaision. Even the animations are fairly unobtrusive. What I do mind are the ads with embedded cookies. Please stop this.
  • I hate online ads...except the ones on Slashdot. Most of the slashdot ads are kind of interesting. Ironic...the only website that bothers to ask my opinion on whether I should be able to pay to get rid of the ads happens to be one of the few websites with decent ads.
  • [complaint mode] Ok, this subscription mode thing is great -- for those of you who live in the US. Go ahead, pay your $30 to Salon. I might do it, too, except for one thing. That $30 is $50 for me. And $50 is a piece of change to be reckoned with in my current circumstances.

    It's the same reason why I'm not a card-carrying member of my social club, The Society for Creative Anachronism []. Milpitas, in its infinite wisdom, has decreed that there shall be no Canadian membership office (even though there's an Australian one), so we wind up paying $100 (at the current ROE) for what costs Statesians $45/year.

    And considering, as I've said before, that when you're talking about in-country monetary transactions, buying power, and cost of living, that $100 is a month's worth of groceries to me, or a month's transit pass and dinner out for two people, or a whole $hxtload of used books, or...or...or...even if it only buys people in Milpitas (or anywhere else in the USA) $45 worth of stuff. In other words, thanks to the moneymongerers, we are getting scrod.

    So I won't do it, at least not until it's fair to the consumer, regardless of exchange rate.

  • by BilldaCat ( 19181 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2001 @10:50AM (#350209) Homepage
    I admit, this is true. But advertising has gone so far down the crapper that most advertisers are not willing to pay for views, but want clicks instead (even though views build branding).

    It doesn't really matter, the whole advertising market is fucked anyway. There's been too many ad networks that have screwed over/not paid their websites that a lot of websites are going to a donation form (be it paypal, amazon, etc.), and we'll see how that turns out. It's working ok for me.. I'm not covering my hosting costs, but it's no longer breaking my wallet. And I don't have to worry about being screwed by a company such as eFront.
  • And not everyone blocks ads. Your point?


  • by jheinen ( 82399 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2001 @10:56AM (#350214) Homepage
    And what an idiot you must be for replying to my post, since as you say, this is stuff you "already know."

    Nothing is more ridiculous than a critic engaging in exactly what he is being critical of. What a dipshit.

    Well guess what Dave, your opinions are completely irrelevant. There are a LOT of people who visit /. quite frequently, and enjoy participating in the community. I am now more hopeful than ever that /. goes to a subscription-based model since it will probably keep "3 times a week" trolls like you away.

    Of course, we all know you visit /. much more than three times a week. You're a closet addict. No better than the crack head down the street. Ashamed of your addiction. Well I say come clean Dave. Admit to the world that you are like a cocaine-addicted lab rat, hitting the refresh button over and over until you're ready to collapse. You can't get enough of it, Dave. The monkey's on your back and it controls you. *I* control you. You respond to me like a finely tuned instrument. You will at first not want to respond, because you know that's what I want you to do. But you won't be able to help yourself. It will eat at you. The burning desire to flame will gnaw at your very being. It's hopeless, Dave. Flame me and I will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.


Machines that have broken down will work perfectly when the repairman arrives.