3 July 2006
If you’re doing high quality history (or related commentary, technology, criticism, publishing) online, should you also host advertising?
I don’t think so. I believe advertising detracts in a number of ways, and doesn’t return enough to compensate.
Hawking your own book(s), by the way, doesn’t count! Nor am I knocking making money on the web for its own sake. God love Capitalism.
14 of the 38 blogs I read most often – listed at right – have one or more monetizing features on them. More then one-third. This seems like a high proportion for blogs without overt commercial purpose. Is there value here I’m missing?
Lots of history websites use these strategies, too. Some of them look like simple honey pots – sites designed specifically to drive advert revenue, some are well-meaning amateurs*, but others purport to be serious resources, yet water down their credibility with advertising.
Here’s how my thinking goes: are you online to get information or commentary out there, or are you in it for the (piddling) money? Is your viewpoint for sale? Are you writing for the eyeballs and click-throughs? Personally, I take less seriously what you’re saying if you’ve got ads on your site. I’d bet other readers feel the same.
Advertising suggests petty greed, an unattractive trait. There’s not much money in online advertising for any but the very largest sites and blogs. Even if there were, say, hundreds (!!) of dollars to be had, is that enough to offset the damage?
Advertising is intrusive. In addition to being unattractive, it is often prominent – taking vital screen space from the real content. In addition, site owners do not usually control ads delivered to them, but do imply endorsement of the products or services displayed. Advertising also requires readers click to another site – away from the content that drew them in the first place. Who is that benefitting?
So why advertise?
To get a little something back for work we would be doing anyway? Are history posters going to make enough this way to make up for the negatives?
To help pay the hosting bills? I don’t buy it. Server space is cheap. Very few people really need to run advertising to pay for the space to blog or otherwise publish online. You can blog for free (without ads) in several ways. Granted there are limitations to the free services, but sophisticated web or blog service can be had sufficent for all but the very largest among us for $US50 per year or less.
Disclaimer: my perspective is influenced by an idealistic, probably naive view about the purity of (capital H) History, and I come from the old-school Internet, Class of 1993, with traditional prejudice against crass commerce.
But enough from me. I’d like to hear your thinking on it, especially if you’re using advertising on your site or blog.
* I’m a well meaning amateur myself, by the way, but don’t believe online advertising is good for me or my work.