CHOICE membership

Ads for content - how do you feel about this transaction?

For people viewing media - TV, magazines, newspapers, websites, social media and forums - it should come as no surprise that the trade off to receiving content is often the requirement to then also view advertising. For outlets like CHOICE (or Netflix, for example), the other alternative is that people pay for content up front, usually via a subscription. There are examples such as Spotify or Youtube where both options are presented - you may be able to pay to remove ads or consume freely in exchange for receiving ads.

For those of us viewing content online, the nature of ad delivery has at times become quite contentious due to data privacy issues. One well-known example is Facebook, which may use your data like “location” in relation to it’s advertising services, as we highlight in a recent article. We have had some extensive existing discussions around people’s feelings generally towards to data privacy, however I thought the opportunity to discuss the issue of advertising specifically would be an interesting one for the Community, and it’s always appreciated to hear updates on everyone’s thoughts.

For example, based on a variety of research that informs my role here at CHOICE, it’s apparent to me that many people will use a combination of approaches - viewing some media for free, paying to subscribe to other formats. At CHOICE, we’re not just providing “content” or reviews and then using advertising, but also we are using a variety of tools to campaign on important consumer issues, helping provide advice directly to people experiencing problems, as evidenced by our recent investigation into Telstra’s sales practices towards the elderly. So perhaps there are other values at play - considerations on whether we feel an outlet is overall ethical or worthwhile enough to support or accept, and if not then finding an alternative or avoiding altogether?

It may be a case of personal feelings towards ads - perhaps advertising is so obtrusive, annoying and unwanted, you will either pay for ad free content or choose not to have any involvement if there’s no option to avoid. In terms of those who consume both types - paid for by ads, paid for upfront - how do align this to your privacy values, if you have them?

Further, in terms of ads you receive and privacy concerns, do you feel a targeted online ad is overly intrusive or not a concern? If yes, is it more obtrusive than an ad on the radio or TV, more obtrusive than targeted junk mail or white pages containing home addresses? Is an ad on Google search more intrusive than an ad on a website with pop-ups, and therefore is the level of intrusiveness a key factor you assess alongside privacy?

Perhaps you use a clever tool to manipulate websites or even more traditional ad attempts like mail to your home (general adblock comments over here), but if this does become the ‘norm’ doesn’t it raise a question around ongoing integrity of many of the types of content, and therefore will we not end up with a new system that leads us back here - to this content transaction? If you have a system (digital or otherwise) on how you approach these issues and wish to share it, please feel free to do so.

The intention of this post is to provoke some meaningful discussion around an experience many of us face regularly from my personal perspective, not for any other purposes or necessarily an overarching ‘view’ from the organisation that I work for. I’m sure there will be people with different ideas in terms of what’s right or wrong, acceptable and unacceptable, but please be sure to be respectful to others, even if they may think differently or make different choices to your own.

Please add your thoughts below.


I do hope that Choice is not testing the sentiment on advertising or other paid content with a view to perhaps embracing some on its platforms.
I am though very much a cynic.


No need for concern, this is not the case.


There are some sites on which I am happy to either pay a sub or whitelist in my blocker, because they provide good content and I recognise that maintaining the site is an expensive business. News sites, for example. I hate seeing advertising on sites which are clearly there only for the income derived from click-throughs or views and thus those will never be whitelisted. facebook advertising is a whole nother issue…. they have cookies planted all over the web, and its why when you visit a site outside facebook you will then see advertising for that site and others related in your feed as a “sponsored” post… approximately every 4th post is of this kind and you can’t get rid of them unless you use something like FBPurity.

In general, I don’t mind occasional advertising, but when its overdone, I do everything I can to get rid of it.


I have long accepted that “free” content comes with conditions.

For TV it is ads. Or in the case of ABC, some part of my income paying for it.
For freeware computer software, it is limited functions or limited time use.
For Internet sites, it is ads and sponsered clickbait links, or again limited function.

I am happy to pay a reasonable subscription for full, ad free access to quality content. Choice is an example of this where there is some access free, but full access requires a subscription.

However, I would never pay a subscription to get content, and then still have to suffer ads.
I dumped Foxtel as soon as they introduced ads, way back in the mid 90s. Likewise subscription based News sites like The Age, where you get a few views of articles before you need to pay. And then still have all the ads and opinion pieces of obvious bias.

Privacy on the Internet is a concern, and you do need to be ever vigilant about what details you allow on sites. Anonymous browsing helps, as does throwaway Email addresses for registrations.


I stopped going to the movies because of that. At first movie theatres only sold other movies, and then the pandora’s box opened…

Paying top dollars to see a movie, with the reward being ripped off for popcorn, and then being captive to advertisements still seems palatable to some. Especially when they pay a premium for the special seats and ‘service’.

On that basis a segment of the community has already been trained that paying for ads is no big deal, noting many are already so accepting of TV shopping channels that are nothing but ads and sales pitches with the occasional advertorial thrown in. Even subscriber cable often has to satisfy their consumers’ demands for same and show them.


My concerns about the “free” content are not about “paying” for content by being forced to endure ads but the way that the ads are targeted and represented on the internet and particularly social media. If you are viewing free to air radio or TV mostly it is obvious what is an ad or not except the cash for comment misrepresentation. People tend to accept this as unavoidable unless you are prepared to pay for ad-free services. Mostly we understand TANSTAAFL

With social media it isn’t so simple. It is much harder to detect cash for comment because of anonymity. We may be suspicious of concentrations of particularly good or bad comments about products but getting evidence of commercial motives is not easy. It can be impossible to distinguish genuine opinion from disguised advertisements.

The other matter is privacy. Over the time social media has grown to be so significant we have seen a succession of public exposures of the way that software gathers personal information and the way that it is used. The major motive for gathering and trafficking in such data is commercial although we have seen some cases where it is political. This problem has been done to death in other threads.

The inability to easily control who has access to data about us and our actions stems from the technology being so new and the clever way the creators have concealed and excused what is going on. People and their governments have not yet comes to grips with it and companies are reaping trillions from us while we stumble about wondering what to do. In years to come I hope (soon please) we will look back and wonder how we allowed wild-west operators to get away with the personal tracking that is commonplace now.


REally, the only solution at the moment is to go internet-free. I can’t. Much of the time its my only social interaction I have a few friends who are wonderful but they are of my age, with large families and commitments of which I have none, so I depend largely on social media and forums such as this. I’ve only just got into reddit, which is quite interesting… theres a bit of advertising but not a massive amount. Its easily ignored. You can subscribe if you want, or not.

So, I use blockers where I can, as well as VPNs and decent email (I no longer have a gmail account for more than youtube access, and hardly ever sign in on it anyway). Its icloud and protonmail, as well as outlook and zoho, none of which seem to generate advertising stuff. I paid for a protonmail subscription last year but will revert to free next time, as I am not using it enough to warrant the expense. The VPN is too expensive by half, but I think if I was a worker, still, I would not hesitate, its actually very good. The free version limits you to 3 servers, none of which is in Australia, still, it works well.

Overall I detest advertising as the main reason for a site’s existence, otherwise, each is “judged” on its innate value.


Ford wants to introduce in-vehicle ads.



That is just over the top unconscionable. Is nothing sacred?


Actually, I can see where this could be useful. If the technology is about scanning roadside “billboards” and presenting it with popups on car displays, then why not speed signs.
If you were not paying attention, it could warn you that you were over the limit. If in a school zone it could warn you that based on the current time and day, the limit was now 40kph.

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I am not one that focuses of advertising…in the past I have managed to block it out, switch off or make it not come to the centre of my attention. I never realised that I did this until we had a child…and the child would point out things I missed such as advertising roadside, in print or in retail stores.

I do use an advertisement blocker extension in the browser we use but find this is getting less effective over time with blocking online advertisements. I hope that it is still effective for tracking cookies and such like…the hidden scourge of the internet and advertising industry.

What I have noticed is that advertisements are becoming less passive…just appearing on the side of the screen. More advertisements are pop-ups or interactive media where one has to what some time to allow one to close the advertisement or one has no choice but to sit through the advertisement before seeing content (an example is Youtube or Freeview streaming services). Some won’t close down until one interacts with the advertisement (this is becoming common feature for some game advertising where one ‘samples’ the game before the X appears).

As time goes on I suspect that advertising will move toward the more interactive or unavoidable types to ensure that it is viewed by consumers.


Unless the ‘feature’ could be disabled by the owner that would be a show-stopper for me, I would not buy any car that did that. I suspect this is a flag that may be run up the flagpole on the off chance that may be saluted. It is bad enough when your content is ‘paid for’ by ads but hardware too?


Some EU vehicles already have features where the GPS includes sign reading cameras that pop up warnings, including reading speed signs and overriding the often old limits in old databases.

My car has the switch to turn the feature on/off but it seems the feature is not implemented for us. (The features we see in newer vehicles that do not actually apply from place to place was mentioned in another topic.)


I don’t think that’s what they have in mind!


Yes but the story was about a patent filed 5 years ago. Patents are not about what someone intends to do, but a legal method to restrict others from using the idea, or get them to pay the patentee a fee to use the idea for commercial purposes.
In the end, if car buyers want such a feature like in-car ads, it will be provided.

Our daughter’s previous Mazda used to scan speed signs and show them on the pop up LCD display.

Her new Mazda CX9 shows them as heads up displays on the windscreen.


I can’t think of anyone who would want in car ads.


There are some strange people (well to you @SueW and me anyway) who want certain things in their lives.
Who would have thought that HD video on a tiny smart phone screen was necessary? Some do.
Who would think that TV shows that are not only inturrupted by ads, but the entire content is showing ads would be good?
Ratings show that many like it.

I can think of instances where in-car ads (lets call it targetted real time infomation) would be wanted by drivers.


Unfortunately me too. Think of a real time tripadvisor recommending where to go for dinner or pushing info on accommodation for the night if you are out of your normal area. Next ‘the assistant’ will be warning about ‘strange noise detected’ and directing the driver to a sponsored ad list of repair shops.