Wednesday, July 9, 2003 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Independent Web Publishing

As John Gruber’s Daring Fireball nears its first anniversary, there’s still nothing like it on the Mac Web. And thanks to Google’s AdSense, Gruber may be able to spend more time on it in the future. AdSense manages to make everyone win: Google makes money and extends its brand, advertisers get quality visitors, small publishers get some compensation for their work, and readers get to keep reading quality sites. AdSense’s targeting is pretty good, although I’ve not yet seen an ad that I was genuinely interested in. AdSense only knows about pages, not about me, so it’s not up to the level of Amazon’s recommendations.

AdSense effectively works as a micropayment system, but instead paying with small amounts of money, you pay with small bits of your attention.

There’s no encryption. No accounts. Just eye balls and clicks. It remains to be seen whether the ad revenue will drop as people discover that they can send micropayments to their favorite sites by clicking. And I worry that bloggers may stop putting whole posts in their RSS feeds, meaning more double-clicks into Safari to see the ads. But for now, AdSense seems to be working well.

Write something controversial, and you tend to get linked to from other sources.

There’s no denying that controversy drives impressions and links. I don’t link to every good article on Daring Fireball. A mainstream journalist writes a stupid article, and Daring Fireball refutes it. The refutation is common sense, albeit well presented. That’s not too interesting unless I know people who were taken in by the original article.

This brings in readers, readers who may well disagree vehemently with your premise, but readers nonetheless. More readers equals more impressions; more impressions equals more money.…Any traffic is good traffic when you’re charging advertisers per impression.

This is true enough, but is the situation really that different for click-based advertising? Or for independents compared to corporons? The rumors sites of yesteryear were independents, yet they were clearly set up to generate ad impressions. And surely more traffic means more clicks.

Running exclusively AdSense ads keeps Daring Fireball looking clean. The ads get more attention and, presumably, more clicks. Adding more ads might be a net win in terms of revenue, and therefore good for readers as well. I like Daring Fireball’s clean design, and I like that lengthy articles are presented on a single page, but these are bonuses, not reasons to read it in the first place. I’d put up with more ads if it meant more articles (of the same quality).

I expect that some sites will begin showing AdSense ads where there were no ads before, but sites using other types of advertising will probably continue to do so. ATPM will run pop-under ads for the forseeable future because, as good as AdSense is, we can’t turn down the income that pop-unders provide. You might consider them a tax for using a free Microsoft browser, since the other major browsers have pop-up blockers. The AdSense ads look better and pay better than the skyscrapers we had been running, so that’s a win all around. For the remaining banner ads, we’ll continue to filter out the “You may already be a winner!” ads and the ones with excessive animation. These annoy everyone and probably scare people away. But the banners will stay because they help pay the bills.

1 Comment

That's a good point regarding my argument that impression-based ads lead to pandering over-hyped articles -- that can't the same argument be used for click-thru-based ads?

I have no evidence to back this up, but my suspicion is that it doesn't quite work the same way. I think most of the people who are clicking the ads at Daring Fireball, and whom I hope will continue to do so, are regular readers.

This week is an anamoly because I'm getting a lot of traffic because of an article that is about the ads themselves. But in the long run, in normal weeks, I suspect that casual visitors to Daring Fireball are much less likely to click the ads than are regular readers.

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