Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Wondering About Ads

So I've been thinking a little bit about experimenting with ads on the blog. I've been approached quite a few times over the last couple of years with offers to advertise and have always said no (for all the obvious reasons). The reason I'm thinking about it now is not to make money but rather just to see how it all works. I just finished reading Free by Chris Anderson (worth your time, btw, and free audio download at that link) and am feeling the need to understand a little bit better how this actually works. I figure the best way for me to understand it better is to actually experiment with it, and this blog is the natural place to do it.

So, if I do this, I was thinking of using Google AdSense and Amazon Affiliates. Those seem relatively safe, easy and tame, and Amazon Affiliates is something I've been trying to talk my school district into allowing us to put on our school web page (no luck in convincing them so far), so this would be a good way to see how it works. I would donate all proceeds from the advertising to my school, so that would hopefully alleviate some concerns. (Note: If it turns out I can make hundreds of thousands of dollars from this, all bets are off and I reserve the right to pocket all the money and retire. If, however, it turns out I make $23.80 a year from this as I suspect, then I'm good with the donation thing.)

So, I'd like to hear your thoughts on the subject. It still doesn't quite feel right to me, but I can't really articulate why. Would it bother you to see AdSense or Amazon Affiliate ads on the sidebar? Do you think it "cheapens" the blog? Do you think people might assume it "taints" what I write? Is there some other reasons it's a bad idea? Or a good idea?


  1. Of course you should use ads. Why not? Especially since you're planning to donate the money. I'm using Amazon affiliates on my library website. To avoid "cheapening" the blog, you should use whatever controls are available. For example, with Amazon, I don't use the option where they can pick items which they think my readers are interested in based on what I've written about.

    The reason you give of trying it so you can learn about it is a standard techie response to anything. That's why I've tried most Web 2.0 tools--for example, "I'll just sign up for Delicious to see what it's all about"--and next thing you know, I have over 6000 bookmarks. Since a lot of your readers are technophiles, we probably subscribe in a reader anyway, so we wouldn't see the ads unless we chose to comment.

  2. @Jude - That's interesting that you choose not to target the ads. If your readers have to see ads, don't you think it would make more sense to see ads they might be interested in? Chris Anderson makes that point in his book and talks about how that's the opposite of his print publication rules (separating it for journalistic integrity).

    And, yes, I know most of the folks that read the blog do it in an aggregator, although I know some Gogole AdSense can also come through into the aggregator.

  3. I don't really think of Amazon Affiliate links as ads. The way I use them, I am talking about books I actually am reading/recommending. They don't generate a huge amount for me, but I do get about $20 in Amazon gift certificates each month. If you read a lot, they're worth it.

    On the other hand, unless you can control ads on Google AdSense, you might want to think about it some more. If your gut is telling you not to, you might want to figure out what your reservations are before you proceed. Ads are a decision every blogger has to make for him/herself, I suppose.

  4. I say, "go for it." I read Anderson's book this past summer (downloaded it to my iPhone for Free) and it was an excellent introduction to the economy of "free." Give it a shot here at the Fischbowl...you can always turn it off later, but I'd imagine it will turn into quite a learning experience for you. Good luck!

  5. I would also be grateful to hear you process your thoughts and reactions as your use of ads unfolds. It could be a great resource/learning tool to provide an ongoing window into your experience.

  6. Good Lord, no.

    The page is yours, your words, your thoughts.

    I enjoy wandering around spaces that aren't sniffing out my last 37 cookies.

    Ads are distracting--they're meant to be. Cage it in subtle velvet bars, donate the money to whatever fund, the issue gets down to control.

    You're ceding control for a bit of cash. Sometimes that makes sense. It's what we do when we work.

    It's your site, and I've enjoyed it--seeing an ad would be like having a friend go Amway on me.

  7. As a long time user of Adblock Plus, it wouldn't really make much of a difference to me.

    I, like doyle, am also not a fan of advertising that places tracking cookies. The controls Jude has opted to use sound good to me, but I guess I wouldn't have much of a problem with ads served based on the content of the blog itself.

  8. Go for it...Ads drive the net and are easily ignored if you want to ignore them. Money, however, whether donated, reinvested, or smuggled away to Maui, makes the world go round.

    I've given serious thought to selling ads on our district site to local businesses, but I know that we'd hit some resistance. I'll be exploring this in 2010. My point? Adding them to a semi-personal blog carries far less baggage.

    Much rather see them directed, though - I'd rather see something relevant than Viagra (although Viagra ads pay my bills over on my ZDNet blog :) ).

    Chris Dawson

  9. I also recommend Free. But ads on a professional blog? Jeff Jarvis does it - for income - but I would not use it on my blogs I consider linked to or serving the students of the University.

  10. @John Hadley Strange – While I generally want to agree, I’m not sure I’ve got a great argument against it. Would these ads detract from the content of the blog in some way? If we assume that the ads wouldn’t change what I write, do the mere presence of ads detract? I’m not sure.

    And, since in this case any revenue generated would actually go to support students at my school, one might be able to make the argument I’m doing them a disservice by not running ads. (It’s a stretch, but in these lean budget times . . .)

  11. I don't understand how advertising gives away control any more than working for another person does.

    It would make no difference to my enjoyment of your writing whatsoever. I read your blog in a feed:-)