Blog ads

A few days ago my excellent blog host, Jacques Chester, asked if I was prepared to be a guinea pig for blog text advertising. Functions like Google’s AdSense must be one of the few blogging things he hasn’ t tried.

I wasn’t keen on the idea, but said I would see what other people thought. My case against:

* Though it might seem strange given how boring the appearance of my old blog was, now that I have one that looks nice I have an aesthetic objection to the added clutter of ads. At least in Catallaxy’s case the ads are also pushing down the screen more relevant things such as the subject areas and the blogroll.

* I don’t really believe that the ads would be of any interest to my readers – partly due to flaws in Google’s technology. As I write, Catallaxy is promoting a Bob Dylan concert in Paris, Jeep Cherokees, and home sales in the Victorian town of Cherokee. The Dylan ad was the result of this post on Dylan meeting the Pope; the Cherokee ads were triggered by this post of Jason’s on the Native American Cherokees. Clearly this system is not going to put the human judgment found in advertising agencies out of business just yet. Parkos’s comments are baffling enough without readers having to wonder over the ads as well.

* Advertising is necessary to keep most forms of media free or cheap to consumers, but that doesn’t apply to blogs nearly as much, and not at all to this blog. The upkeep costs are minimal. Jacques won’t even take up my offer to cover the money that is being spent.

* Blogging is a hobby, and I would really rather not mix hobbies and commerce.

As Jacques would still like to know more about blog advertising, perhaps a commenter with experience of it can fill him in?

13 Responses to “Blog ads

  • 1
    Jacques Chester
    March 14th, 2007 20:06

    To add to Andrew’s remarks, part of my goal is to gauge the claims made by some of the text ad services.

    This is because Club Troppo is already starting outstrip the Dreamhost plan Ken bought for it. Not in bandwidth or disk space, but in terms of database load. Text advertising might be able to pay for a move to a VPS or similar.

  • 2
    JohnZ
    March 14th, 2007 21:40

    Jacques,

    You’re not the first blog admin to comment about excessive database load.

    It’s always struck me as strange – a blog is static content until a new post or comment is added.

    This happens at most a few hundred times a day, so surely well designed blogging software could maintain a cache and serve static content to 99.5% of page views?

  • 3
    Wazza
    March 14th, 2007 21:40

    Despite many dozen visits to Catallaxy, only since reading this post have I realised that it does indeed have ads.

  • 4
    Francis Xavier Holden
    March 14th, 2007 21:51

    jacques – this isn’t the place – I dunno where is – perhaps a special blogspot – but it would be good to chat about blog issues.

    I wasn’t aware of database load issues but I must say on the surface I’m surprised. I would have thought only the last 5 or 6 posts of even the busiest blogs would be accessed and the rest would just lie there being accessed every blue moon or so.

    Are you saying the whole lot works as a dynamic DB and fires up each time the site is accessed?

  • 5
    hc
    March 15th, 2007 01:59

    I have just been approached to advertise on a particular posting page. I don’t even know how to do it even if I wanted to.

    I don’t like advertising in the media generally so I’d feel hypocritical accepting it. But if the price was right I’d probably override my aversions and take the money.

    I’ll watch this thread and hopefully learn.

  • 6
    Jacques Chester
    March 15th, 2007 09:11

    JohnZ, FXH;

    WordPress is completely dynamic in design – every page is regenerated from scratch every time it is requested. Now the main page of Troppo has around 190-200 queries worth of database work, a figure you can verify for yourself by zipping down and squinting at the footer.

    I have enabled a cache mechanism to reduce the load somewhat. If the page is unchanged WordPress will simply spit out a cached version. Even then, however, the page gets changed every time someone comments, so it doesn’t reduce load all that much.

    Before I recommend anything exciting to Ken, I’m waiting on Dreamhost to examine our database performance more closely. They’ve already moved our database to a less loaded MySQL server, and I’ve asked them to examine our database usage a bit more closely. But if they opine that it’s not unusual given our visitors and plugin loadout, we might have to move in order to improve MySQL performance.

  • 7
    Stephen Kirchner
    March 15th, 2007 09:27

    One advantage of Google Ads is that it gives a much more reliable read on actual traffic than can be had from server stats.

    I think the problem with Catallaxy is that the content is too diverse for Google Ads to make sense of it. Your content is more focused and so the Ads should be better targeted.

    One problem I did find is that ads for university essay writing services kept popping up, which I then had to suppress using the competitive ad filter. Given some of the hats you wear, this could be a problem for you. Indeed, your writing on plagiarism issues could even become a magnet for them.

  • 8
    Andrew Leigh
    March 15th, 2007 14:32

    You’re absolutely right not to take ads. Your blog has a neat, clean look about it. Keep it that way.

  • 9
    Robert
    March 15th, 2007 17:20

    First, you should look (hard) at a cache plugin. This should help limit the number of database queries.

    Second, and directed more at the substance of Andrew’s post, it is possible to set up the ads so that registered commenters don’t see them (at least while they’re logged in). Whether this is suitable depends on the blog, but I’d say it would work at Club Troppo. Essentially this means any ad revenue is generated by occasional blow-ins, while regular readers can opt out of seeing them.

  • 10
    Jacques Chester
    March 15th, 2007 18:29

    Robert;

    I’m thinking of doing some independent research on the weekend – making a local duplicate of Club Troppo and running it through a full profiling / diagnostic kit to see where the code is spending most of its time.

    But if, as I suspect, the problem is that CT is just producing too many MySQL queries, I don’t see what else can be done in the long run except to move. We’ll see how it pans out.

  • 11
    Boris
    March 15th, 2007 23:34

    Wazza: “Despite many dozen visits to Catallaxy, only since reading this post have I realised that it does indeed have ads.”

    Although I recently noticed the ads I never thought they caused the slightest distraction or annoyance of any kind. On the contrary I actually felt positive, seeing that there is a way to recover costs (in catallaxy’s case, probably not insignificant) without ANY harm to the core activity. As for the content of ads, I usually do not read ads in ANY media, so I do not care. This is advertiser’s problem.

  • 12
    Boris
    March 16th, 2007 10:24

    Andrew, I take issue with your statement that for you blogging is hobby. For me commenting on your plog is a hobby, as this is unrelated to my work. But you often blog on issues which constitute an essential part of your professional interests (eg, education policy), so it is not clear-cut. If it is hobby because you are not paid for it? I take part in editting of an international scientific journal. This work is unpaid, but it is not a hobby, but part of my professional life.

  • 13
    Andrew Norton
    March 16th, 2007 12:36

    Boris – It’s true that my hobby and my work are not as distinct as they would be if, say, my hobby was stamp collecting or bird watching. And I do occasionally write posts at work, when I am trying to clarify my thinking (as I find writing helps me think) or seeking information or commentary from others on a work-related issue. Posts I have written do also feed back into work, such as when I use a post as the basis for a newspaper article or a journalist calls me because of something I have written on the blog.

    But I think the fundamental distinction is not between work and non-work subjects, but when I do an activity and why I do it. Because I generally blog in my own time, and because I do it because I want to rather than because I am required to, I see it as a hobby.

    Of course I am also lucky that I enjoy some aspects of my jobs as much as I enjoy a range of leisure activities. This is one reason I oppose the meddlers who want to set work hours.