Ads on blogs – great trend or utter crap?

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Cathy argues the reasons why ads aren’t an improvement in the evolution of blogging.

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Why do you blog? For hits, for comments, for notoriety, for a steady stream of virtual pats on the back? If so, then bring on the ads. It’s a win-win: You’re even more motivated to bring in visitors, because they bring dollars with them. And your advertisers are happy, because you’re the ideal vehicle for their messages. They don’t care whether you’ve connected with your readers, whether you’ve helped someone by sharing your experiences, whether you’re a damn good writer. Just bring in the eyeballs, that’s all they ask.

But if you’re like most of us—if you blog out of a need to process what’s happening around you, or hone your writing skills, or keep some kind of a grip on your memories of what your children or pets or coworkers do all day—then what’s with the “buy-it-now” business? Yeah, I get that it’s nice to pick up a few bucks for doing something that you’ve been doing for free. I get the whole “If you’re paid to do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” But who are we kidding here? If you calculate the hourly rate, wouldn’t you be better off flipping burgers? Are blog ads any more of a moneymaker than those “make millions stuffing envelopes from home” scams?

Generating enough traffic to attract ads means blogging often, and well enough to convert at least some curious clickers into faithful visitors. And there’s no way I can argue against that. And sure, what’s the harm in a few extra text links, or a promo in your sidebar? Ads are everywhere these days, from eggs to airport luggage carousels; most of us are pretty savvy at tuning them out. No one’s forcing your readers to click. (Although you will have to find extra time to manage your advertising, lest you let slip an ad that you or your readers find insulting or offensive; make sure you factor that in to your net profit.)

But let’s forget the reader and focus on the writer. Because once you’ve taken that step, once you’ve crossed that line into commercialism, what you post is going to change. You will never again write without thinking “I wonder if this will be a popular entry… Is this going to turn off any of my readers? Maybe I should change the title or delete this paragraph or…”

And also: “I haven’t posted yet today. Gotta get something up or my stats will drop. There’s nothing I feel like writing about… I have to come up with something… What am I going to do?” And suddenly your fun hobby, your therapeutic outlet, your means of connecting with like and unlike minds around the world—suddenly it’s just another job.

Guest blogger Mayberry Mom lives, writes, and works from the wholesome Midwest. She’s “just jeluss” of blogs that actually have enough traffic to run ads.

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It’s Blog Exchange day! While Cathy hangs out on my blog today, I’m taking up residence over at hers, so be sure to drop by Mayberry Mom to see what my stance is on blog advertisements (go on, guess!), and while you’re there be sure to stay awhile and read what else is on Cathy’s mind! When you’re done, check out all the other participants in the Blog Exchange, then email Kristen if you’re interested in taking part next month – you never know what topic will pop up from one month to the next!

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11 thoughts on “Ads on blogs – great trend or utter crap?

  1. TB

    Yeah, I’m with you. I don’t have enough traffic to run ads and it seems in my case the only reason it would make sense to do so would be to pay for additional bandwidth.
    I like your last two paragraphs a lot. But again, it’s not really an issue for me and my lil ol blog.

  2. mothergoosemouse

    I can go either way on this one. I participate in BlogHerAds because I was invited and was honored by the invitation. I’ve found that it has increased my traffic, thanks to the “More from BlogHer” post links at the bottom of the ads. Likewise, it has introduced me to new bloggers too.

    But no – there’s no way I can pay the bills with my revenue. And from listening to Heather Armstrong speak at BlogHer, I’m not sure I’d want to. More stress than fun, it seems.

  3. Kristen

    As someone who has ads and makes a little money from them, I will say that it doesn’t guide what or how I write. I have actually been writing less often and I find that I’m a bit more relaxed, although I still check my sitemeter, etc.

    I do think that it could negatively affect peoples’ writing – and therefore it’s a personal choice.

  4. Her Bad Mother

    As someone who’d like to consider herself a ‘writer,’ I’m always at least somewhat concerned with how my posts are received – I’m always conscious of having an audience, for better or for worse (for better, i think – if you read my private diary spew, you’d be appalled). Ads won’t change that. But that’s certainly not true for everybody – I think that it might be easy to get caught up in the desire for more traffic. But that can also happen without ads. So I think that it really depends on the person.

    Wow, was that unclear or what?

  5. Richard L Walker

    I mostly feel like a dolt. I had no idea there were ads located here. That alone should put them in perspective since they are not intrusive.

  6. Todd Tyrtle

    Mostly I can’t stand ads in blogs and podcasts. I find both media very informal and friendly which makes the ads that much more jarring. I’ve said before that ads in that context feel somewhat like someone inviting me over to to their house for tea and then pitching amway. Okay – maybe not that bad as there is a lot of good “conversation” to be had in the context of the blogs I read.

    I’m just something of a youngish grumpy old man when it comes to things like this on the net. After all, I remember the first time I saw banner ads (and so many were outraged and saying it would never last) and I remember when spam first started. So the more pervasive ads become the grumpier I can get.

    Of course these days it doesn’t bother me much since I use browser plugins that remove nearly all of them. Put me on a library computer for a half an hour, though, and I find it extremely jarring.

  7. Binkytown

    To be honest, I don’t pay any attention to the ones I see on blogs I frequent. I’m just not interested. I go right to the good stuff. I have nothing against others using them, but I won’t be having ads- it might be nice, but that’s not why I started doing this and not what I find interesting about blogs.

  8. Binky

    I wish I had enough readers to merit ads. I’ve got no problem with the idea of bringing home a little bloggy bacon. Sadly, advertisers aren’t likely to be clamoring for the attentions of my four readers 🙁

  9. Debbie Ridpath Ohi

    I understand the sentiment behind this post, but I don’t agree that a “commercial” blog has to change the content. I’ve written Blatherings for a number of years and only recently started experimenting with Google Adsense. My enjoyment of Blatherings has not altered a whit, nor do I ever feel pressured to change my writing style or content. As for writing for an audience…that’s ALWAYS been part of the reason I blog. Not the primary reason, but the public forum aspect has always been part of it…else I’d be keeping a private journal for just myself.

    My real passion is in fiction writing, but I don’t yet earn enough money to justify writing novels fulltime. Every little bit of money I can earn from my blogs gives me more of a cushion I can use to spend more time on my novel writing. I blogged before it earned me any income. I will continue blogging even if Google Ads shuts down. The nature and enjoyment of my blogging doesn’t change. The amount of money I earn from my blogging has paid for a subscription to Publisher’s Weekly, some writers’ organizations, and some online services which help my freelance writing career.

    I try to place ads in as unobtrusive a way as possible while still enabling me to make some income from them. I never pressure my readers to look at the ads or click on them.

    I have nothing against those who abhor sites with ads but as a freelance writer always looking for ways to support myself through my writing, I find the Google Adsense program helpful. My attitude is: why not be paid for something I would do -anyway-?

    Debbie

  10. Nancy

    I’m with you on this one, Mayberry. Not an enemy of the ads, but I do think they would change the nature of the blog — maybe not how I write, but the self-imposed pressure I might feel to write at a certain frequency and to pull in an audience.

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