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What happens to a blog when it takes ads?


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July 21, 2005

What happens to a blog when it takes ads?

Stephen Baker

Dave Winer argues that blogs undergo a metamorphosis when they take on ads.

A blog without ads is itself an ad, interesting to a small number of people. Blogs with ads, like their print counterparts, strive to be as broad as possible, to reach as many people, and in doing so, lose their value as an ad for the author.

I would argue the opposite. For most successful publications, success comes from being targeted, not broad. They focus on a slice of the market that will appeal to advertisers. Take Forbes. They have an extremely wealthy readership, and advertisers know it. Forbes could no doubt raise its circulation with subscription promotions, but that would raise production costs and dilute the demographic. Blogs don't have the production concerns, but still, advertisers are looking at blogs to reach tiny niche audiences, not broad ones.

01:54 PM

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Tracked on July 22, 2005 12:48 PM

I'm with you, Stephen. Dave's argument doesn't make much sense to me, actually, because if you view all writing, or publishing in any media, as advertising, then you can't differentiate between doing something for yourself and doing something for others to read. Further, even if you accept his thesis, then your personal advertising would gradually evolve into attracting more people, so you'd be suffering from the same "corruption" anyway.

Posted by: Dave Taylor at July 21, 2005 03:29 PM

Dave is 100% wrong. I write smallbiztechnology.com as I LOVE SMB and tec. I just love it. I accept ads, like any other company as it's a business that I want to grow and profit from. Period. Ads don't change my love of tech.

Now if Dave is talking about a "blog" done by some nut about his cat chewing on the carpt and him and his mom are the only audience - OF COURSE he'd have to expand his coverage to include regular content about cat lovers and/or etc to get a LARGER audience to get more advertising....

Posted by: Ramon Ray at July 21, 2005 05:22 PM

Blogs running ads? no big deal. Whether a blog runs an ad or not is not going to significantly alter the editorial content of any blog worth its pixels. And at least the ads are out in the open for all to see. A bigger deal: Blogs that accept payments for blogging about products without revealing the sponsorship. The Boston Globe ran an interesting article about this practice; a link to the article, plus some additional commentary, is available here:

http://www.ckpcreative.com/lohad/?p=27

Posted by: Craig at July 22, 2005 11:17 PM

Blogs don't make good vending machines or advertising vehicles.

When I see a lot of ads, or merchandise for sale, at a blog, I immediately sense a hype atmosphere that seems out of place.

Dave Winer is right that an ad-free blog acts as an ad for the blogger, especially if that blogger is a business or marcom blogger. Ads, in these cases, can be distracting and often are irrelevant.

Blogs must minimize or eliminate irrelevance.

I also feel antagonistic to tip jars and donation pleas at blogs, though some of my favorite bloggers use them.

Glenn Reynolds need tips? For what? I thought blogs were free content. Why should I tip a blogger? A blogger should tip me for visiting the blog, not vice versa.

I will visit blogs for pay. I will post comments for food, gourmet food.

LOL

Posted by: steven streight aka vaspers the grate at July 23, 2005 04:05 PM

"Glenn Reynolds need tips? For what? I thought blogs were free content. Why should I tip a blogger? A blogger should tip me for visiting the blog, not vice versa."

Interesting point, but wrong headed. If blogs could be self-sustaining, ie, the best ones funded their own existence through dedicated reader support, we'd see continued major changes in the information landscape.

The risk to the impact blogs have had on information dissemination thus far is that the people who do it well stop because real-world considerations (ie, need for money) gets in the way.

Think of a dedicated blogger as like a journalist-entrepreneur. Journalists seek the protection of a big magazine because freelancing is tough or impossible.

If they could successfully operate on a standalone basis - sort of the free market of ideas - they might actually write on more stuff that mattered, and offer more useful opinions. :)

Posted by: Ed at July 25, 2005 06:02 PM

Blogs that take too many ads slow down their page loading, which discourages readers. Bandwidth and server capacity are not infinite, and this needs to be recognized when deciding how much to put on a page.

Posted by: David Foster at July 30, 2005 12:24 PM


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