Blogosphere

If you don’t block ads in your browser, you’ll see two small ads at the bottom of every post on this blog. I make somewhere between $2 and $8 a week from them. That won’t let me quit my day job, but it does cover this blog’s hosting costs and pays for some of my film and processing.

I’m inserting a couple more ads into my camera reviews as I update them. I’m also inserting more ads into a few other evergreen posts. Those posts drive a lot of search traffic to my blog and I figure I might as well let them drop a few more pennies into my PayPal account.

If you block ads, I’d be grateful if you’d turn off blocking for my blog. I’d consider it a favor. I get it, ads are a scourge — but the little bit of money I make from them really does help me keep publishing this blog.

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A favor I’d like to ask of you

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Blogosphere

Frustrating experience with WordAds

This blog has been in the WordAds program for nine months now, which is why you see one or two little ads at the bottom of each of my posts. I signed up to help offset the costs of running this blog, as I explained when I joined the program.

This remains a personal blog, not a bigtime commercial enterprise. I feared that if I crammed the place with ads, or if the ads were abusive (popovers, slide-ins, videos that play automatically, and the like) it would drive you away.

wordadsWordAds promised one little static ad placement at the bottom of each post. That sounded perfect. It wouldn’t generate much income (I’ve earned about 50 bucks so far), but it would protect your experience here.

It turns out I’ve had little control over ad placements and behaviors, despite the WordAds site’s original promises to the contrary. And the ads have been buggy. It’s been frustrating and occasionally infuriating. I’m losing patience with it, and if the challenges continue I’m likely to withdraw from the program.

WordAds worked as promised for a while. There were a couple strange issues: empty ad boxes, or a database error appearing instead of an ad. I dutifully reported those bugs to WordAds Support.

And then one day a second ad appeared next to the first. I inquired of support. They explained that the program didn’t actually specify the number of ads that would appear. What? I went back to the WordAds site to check, and it had been redesigned with new copy that mentioned nothing about a single ad placement. I was sure the site had been very clear about that! I felt gaslighted.

And then a large video ad appeared below the two static-ad boxes. After processing some unhappiness over how the ad pushed the comments section so far down the page, I decided to let it ride because I figured it would increase my earnings. But soon a reader contacted me to say that the video sometimes automatically played, and while he enjoys my blog, if that continued he would reluctantly stop visiting.

That’s ad abuse, and I wasn’t going to have it. I contacted support again. The support tech explained that WordAds uses dozens of ad partners. Reading between the lines, I guessed that they just pass ads through from those partners, and don’t themselves have full control of them. The WordAds software probably limits some forms of ad abuse, but an ad partner who codes around it can get by it. The WordAds team finds out only when users complain. In the end, they were not able to fix it. They offered to manually disable those video ads on my blog, and I took them right up on it.

And then the two static ad boxes started occasionally showing video. It was strange stuff: tourist scenes from Morocco, men riding lawn mowers around a field. Text at the bottom said “your ad will play in a moment” but no ad ever played. And occasionally the audio would play for a second or two, and then silence for several minutes, and then play for a second or two again. The only way to stop it is to reload the page to get new ads. I didn’t bother to report this to support. Through writing and previewing posts, I visit my blog far more than anyone, and I see this only infrequently, so I figured you probably never saw it. And conditions you can’t reproduce at will are nearly impossible to troubleshoot. And, well, a man does grow weary of support chats.

But then a couple weeks ago a banner ad appeared at the top of my blog. This infuriated me. Not only did this go against the promises I believed had been made when I signed up for the program, the ad pushed the masthead way down the page. It looked like crap. I immediately contacted support and was clear and firm: this was unacceptable. They explained that ad placement is automatic, that they have no control over where ads appear. I explained that this didn’t even match the behavior their own Web site describes: that this particular placement was supposed to be controlled by a setting on my WordAds dashboard, and I had that setting turned off. Long story short, support manually turned off the banner ads. They do have control after all, glory be.

All I wanted was to have a quiet ad placement on my blog and make a few nickels. Instead, I got a comedy of broken expectations and time lost in support chats. My patience with this is about exhausted. What keeps me hanging on is that WordAds pays only in $100 increments, and I’m only about halfway there. But one more infuriating unexpected ad placement and I’m walking.

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Blogosphere, Photography

Blocking ads on the Internet is ethical because the business model is broken – but I hope you whitelist Down the Road anyway

I use an ad blocker in my browser, but lately I’ve been unblocking ads on the small-time sites I follow.

The old-car site Curbside Classic was first to be unblocked, when the site’s owner explained last year how ads kept the site barely afloat. It’s one of my favorite places to visit on the Internet, and I wanted to see it continue.

Clabber Girl

Hard to block this kind of ad. Nikon F2AS, 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor, Kentmere 100, 2014.

Now that I’m seeing some ads, I rather like that they’re targeted. My online shopping and some of my searches are reflected in ads all the time. It’s a whole lot better than random advertising for stuff I would never buy. People worry about how Google and the other online ad services use the information they track, but I don’t understand why. I don’t think they care about anyone’s Internet history. Nobody’s peeking. Tracking is just an electronic means to a profitable end.

But there’s still more to dislike than to like about online ads. Sites cram ads in everywhere they can, making it hard to find and follow the content. Too often, ads pop up over content (and on a phone can be hard or impossible to clear), or automatically play video. And the ad infrastructure slows sites way down and crams computers full of trackers. I consider these things to be abuses, and a tacit admission that the online advertising business model is broken. There are even well-reasoned arguments on respected sites about why blocking ads is ethical. So I block ads on most sites I visit, and I don’t feel bad about it.

Yet I do feel bad about depriving individuals and independent groups of the few cents my pageviews could bring. So as long as their sites limit the abuses, I unblock ads on them.

If you don’t block ads, you might notice that a single ad now appears after each post here on Down the Road. I signed up for WordPress’s WordAds program and was accepted. You see, I’m a small-time Internet publisher who now wants to fund his site.

Down the Road costs little to run: $64.20 per year for a couple paid WordPress.com features and for the jimgrey.net domain. My photography, which is this site’s focus, cost more than $1,100 last year, however.

I’m economizing. The bill for sending my older son to college is growing considerably this fall, and in 2017 my younger son starts college. I’m looking at a number of ways to save money to bear the college burden. If running ads here can offset the costs of running this blog in a way that limits the abuses of online advertising, I’m going to try it.

And as far as I can tell, WordAds does limit those abuses. My blog template allows exactly one ad per page. And WordAds allows no popups, video ads don’t automatically play, and my site seems to be as fast as ever. But I’m sure these ads are placing trackers on your computer. You can’t have it all.

Because ad rates fluctuate and you can’t predict who’s blocking ads, the WordAds people are cagey about how much this will pay. But I found a couple sites that run WordAds and have divulged their payouts, and used that info to do some quick and dirty calculations. It leads me to think that this should at least pay the blog’s costs, and maybe a little more. Any help I get offsetting the costs of my photography will be better than nothing.

And so I hope that if you block ads, you’ll whitelist Down the Road. But if you don’t, I’ll understand. Each of us has to draw the line somewhere.

 

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