Thursday, August 24, 2006

Think on't (now including PASTY UPDATE)

Okay, I had an ulterior motive with the 'how much is your blog worth' thing and it wasn't to depress anyone who's found out their blog is 'worth' nuppence (but still, apologies for that).

As Patch is coming round to tell people on the Dickensian serialisation of her dissertation, big business is looking to move in on blogs. Blogger itself is owned by Google, and it's unlikely they're going to allow all those servers to hum away in their basements for no return. They're probably going to want to put adverts on blogs, and one way of doing that is to bribe bloggers with the promise of profits from click-through ads, and they'll be parading celeb-bloggers who make enough from click-throughs to retire from their day jobs and just post pictures of their cats for the rest of their contented lives. The vast majority of people however, will probably make enough money from click throughs to buy... half an Unspecified Brand Of Chocolate. At best.

Because there's limit to how many blogs you can realistically read in a day (say ten, although obviously people without proper jobs can read many more than that, hello), the vast majority of blogs are going to exist in little micro-communities, where everyone has a fair chance of knowing everyone else. And businesses love that. So there'll be lots of 'we saw your blogs and thought it was great's and they'll ask if they can put an advert on it, and that'll be lovely, but the only person who'll be doing well out of it will be them, frankly. Unless you have a think about how much your blog means to you, and whether you want an advert on it at all, and if you do, how much you're going to charge them for the privilege.

If you turn down the click-through option that will, I suspect, be coming our way very soon, there would seem to be two options: jumping ship to your own domain, which is fiddly, but less so than it used to be*, or paying an annual fee to keep your blog ad-free, which is annoying, but I suppose we've had a good ride thus far. Or the BBC or some other public service group set up a nice big field for us all to go and play in, which I suppose is always a possibility.

This isn't to say I have a massive problem with people having ads on their blogs - I don't necessarily, and when they are links to some kind of 'gateway service' (Amazon, say) it makes practical sense. But don't let them buy your soul with honeyed words, because one of the charms of blogging is spending hours and hours in the company of people who aren't actively trying to sell you anything. And it would be a shame for all that to disappear.

Anyway, I'm away from keyboard for a few days, but thought it would be interesting to see what people's thoughts were, so do please comment, even if it means your first ever delurking.

*My attorney and web specialist adds "of course even if you jump ship to your own domain, you still have to pay for that domain, and for the hosting service, so either way you're forking out cash that you aren't forking out now in the 'golden age' of blogging."

UPDATE: lots of excellent stuff in the comments below - particularly about the difference between an advert and an editorial. I have to admit that's one reason I'm very wary of having ads on the blog - I like to bang on about totally random stuff and wouldn't want anyone to think I'm doing it for cash rather than sheer enthusiasm. And yes, I think when A-Day comes, I may well shift over to my own domain.

Fantastically, the same day I made this post, I got this email:

I found your site and was wondering if you'd be interested in a link exchange with us? Our site's here: and the links page is

I couldn't find it in my heart to say no. I didn't even ask them for a free pasty, which was perhaps an opportunity missed.

Off to London in a sec - thought I'd keep this post at the top for the time being, as it's really interesting seeing what people are writing (and who's writing - hello delurkers!).


Anonymous said...

I firmly believe in a condition called ad-ignorance. After a few days of having ads down the side of my livejournal page, I soon forgot they existed, being as they are, pretty unobstrusive and not of the 'zomg free porn' flashy graphics type.

Rose said...

Advertisements on the internet irritate me greatly, especially that "swat the fly one" which stirs up a hatred previously reserved for my old deputy headmaster. However, I appreciate internet start-ups need the revenue from them.

On blogs, though... Most blogging sites are very established and are just being greedy. I'd also be much less inclined to visit a blog or click the ads if they were to clog up what I actually went there to read.

Unknown said...

I sold my LiveJournal to ad-dom because I wanted to play with more icons, and it's all right because most of the time the ads don't even show on my computer (I don't know what it looks like to others, though) and it doesn't really intrude upon what I have to say. Thankfully those ads do not have irritating music blaring out of them (at least, when they show up on my computer thet don't). So that doesn't bother me.

But if Blogspot starts wanting to plop ads on my blog... I think I might move. The fun thing about Blogspot is that I can fiddle about with the HTML and create my own lovely layouts where all the colours match. If they want to plonk a gaudy ad in the middle of it and spoil everything, I will be Very Upset.

Tim F said...

Very sound point from Love's Child about layouts. Not that my exceedingly dull black-on-white-with-a-bit-of-orange would suffer much. But there's a lot of very smart design in blogworld, and ads would create severe problems.

Re ad-ignorance; surely the advertisers, and Google/Blogger, have metrics to identify how useful each ad placing is; counting click-through rates; identifying users' behaviour elsewhere. If a blogger is ad-ignorant, and all his/her readers are equally unaware, would Blogger be able to force users to pay for ad-free blogging rights, because they have no way of paying for the blog otherwise?

JonnyB said...

Um... didn't all blogger sites used to have ads on? When Google took over they... took them off.

But you're right. The economics won't work for anyone but the advertiser, certainly on a 'mass audience' basis.

Product placement, though. That's the future.

Off now for a delicious, refreshing Pepsi-Cola.

Anonymous said...

"jumping ship to your own domain, which is fiddly, but less so than it used to be"

Ha. Been there, done that. I've never used one of the commonly-available blogs, having written my own blogging tool.

I'm a bit of a masochist for that, having also built my own car.

Also, the cost of having your own domain is a lot less than some would have you believe.

patroclus said...

jonnyb: yes, as far as I remember, in the pre-Google days you either had to have ads or pay to have Blogger Pro. Unless you had your own domain, which I used to, before roving Catalan bandits stole it from me, sigh...

Hamilton's Brain said...

I have a Google ads sidebar on my blog which earns me about a dollar a year. It's one of those cleverdumb systems where Google flits through the blog looking at all the interesting words and then finds ads to suit. So if I blogged entirely about my collection of antique lederhosen, then the adbar would feature loads of ads for antique lederhosen emporia. Trouble is, I don't blog about my collection of antique lederhosen, I blog about what a rum do the current Government's National Identity Register is. So my blog says ID cards are bad, but my adbar advertises the companies that produce them. This I let slide, because a) I doubt people would be interested in visiting the ads; and b) those ads are being paid for somewhere along the way - thus a meagre victory for the cause. And come 2023, I'll have a nice plump cheque waiting for me, which I shall probably blow on popping candy.

Anonymous said...

I see an opportunity here to get one over on the system. James, get yourself some click-through ads of a nicely unobtrusive sort, and we'll just idly click on them a few times each time we visit the Blue Cat, studiously ignoring their content. Hence the advertisers have to pay you a small fortune, but their sales remain unaffected. A small but significant victory against The Man, plus you can afford an entire moderate-sized chocolate bar from time to time.

Apparently some firms in the US have invented an application that just clicks on rivals' Google ads thousands of times a minute, hence forcing them to pay Google a fortune and driving them out of business. Heh.

Hamilton's Brain said...

Which is why, I think, Google couples their ads with their rather sexy visitor analysis software, meaning that they can track visitors who visit sites and... actually... spend money! That way the ad is only chargeable if it turns in revenue.

kaiprwcx - Greek god of physical comedy.

realdoc said...

If I know something is an ad then I can choose to ignore it. What I worry about is if they start putting all sorts of rogue bloggers out there who are actually marketing you something.
The communities that have 'organically' evolved will then be destroyed because we will all start being suspicious of each other. Sorry if I'm stating the bleeding obvious.

Anonymous said...

"jumping ship to your own domain, which is fiddly, but less so than it used to be"

Indeed - I paid $28 for my domain for a year (£15). And had I not opted for a private registration it would have been only $9 (£5). Surely that is not too much for anyone, or am I missing something?

patroclus said...

You aren't missing anything, Al, apart from possibly any additional webspace hosting fees - I think the, er, attorney's point was that getting your own domain isn't free, like using blogspot is (currently) free, so it's not a like-for-like swap. But it *is* dead cheap, yes.

I think the bone of contention in general (sorry James for hijacking your post) is not how much things are going to cost the individual blogger, but rather who is going to be making money from the labours of the individual blogger - and what proportion of that cash the individual blogger will see.

Inevitably a lot of bloggers will essentially end up as unpaid Google slaves, carrying adverts for no financial gain of their own. Like HB, they may be perfectly happy with their lot. I don't like it much, but it does give me an excuse to rant in a deeply unknowledgeable manner about Marx, which is fun.

Anonymous said...

I don't know how I feel really. I suppose, as I see it, I enjoy blogging and paying $20 a year is a bargain for that pleasure. So the only issue is if I am going to get all hot and bothered that others are making money using my blog, and that doesn't seem to make sense to me. In effect, it's like me buying a $20 pair of tennis shoes and getting upset that Nike have put their symbol on the shoes, thereby getting free advertising when I'm the one walking around all over the place getting them noticed. Well that would just be silly. Admittedly, for existing bloggers it's more like Nike coming along to my house after the purchase, rifling through my closet, past my dirty underwear and sticking their symbol on my shoes, but not so for all future bloggers. As to the concern of it messing up a blogger's desired layout/colour scheme - now that seems a legitimate concern. I paid for and worked hard to get my blog looking just the way I want it and I don't want that ruined. That's not actually the case for my bog-standard plain-looking (but new and wonderful) blog, but the principle is understandable.

Anonymous said...

You will take us all with you if/when you hope over onto your own domain?

I personally am blind to all ad's apart from funny ones.

Anonymous said...

Most bloggers already do a fair bit of advertising on their blogs by linking to good and services they found worthwhile, websites they thought were worth a few moments of your time. Good old fashioned "word of mouth" advertising done via the internet. I think this has far greater impact than the text ads which are easy to ignore and the pop-ups which my browser blocks for me. However this is not so easy to track and measure and monitor. You'd think they'd work on a way to do just that though because I, for one, have made purchasing decisions based on what I've read on someone's blog.

Anonymous said...

I do like the sound of the BBC providing us all with a lovely big field to play in- that would justify the licence fee on its own and I might forgive them spending my money on paying Ian Wright to provide 'expert analysis' on major football matches. And it would certainly be a shame if visiting blogs became like going on the London Underground, where you are constantly averting your eyes from the barrage of adverts for Blockbuster movies and whatever else.

West said...

Well, at the risk of sounding Blairite bluecat, there is always "the third way" : If we're forced into advertising in order to express ourselves, we just call their bluff and down blogs, no hits, no ad. revenue.

I'm sure Robert Wyatt would have had something to say about it all....

Anyway, aren't the economics of it that it costs next to nothing to run and we are already being fleeced via our massive broadband monthly payments. The ads are just a top up. My reasoning is that it wouldn't be happening in the first place unless there were serious money being made somewhere. Cf. Roman Abramovich, vis avis Chelsea ticket/merchandising/prize money income etc.

As The Streets said - a grand doesn't come for free....


p.s. thanks so much for the easy wrod vercification - you've simply *no* idea how much easier it makes it all when you're posting pissed...

Sean McManus said...

I think advertising is only a problem when people don't know what is an advert and what is editorial. So taking money to post in your blogs about how great a product is would be wrong. But putting a box at the side headed 'advertisement' that says 'this product is great!' would be fine. We accept it in newspapers, magazines, TV and so on. The difference is that online we still need to take care to avoid confusing people because the rules aren't as well established or as well known as they are in print media. You can't tell at a glance whether something's an advert or a navigation button sometimes.

Adverts that get clicks through deception (eg looking like error messages or splat a monkey to win an ipod) are evil, as they would be in print.

The great thing about Google ads is that they introduce a separation between content and advertising. Because it's all automated, advertisers can't exert influence over the content because they don't know where their ads will end up or when. There are features now to advertise on a particular site using Adwords, but site owners can disable that.

Regarding making money, it's true that Google gets lots of free ad views. But Google is only paid when people click on the ads too. If you're only making a dollar, Google's not raking it in. Okay, so it's making more than you, but if you run the sums and make some reasonable guesses about how much people are paying per click, your website is not massively profitable to Google. Until Google came along, the model was that ad networks would only work with massively successful sites. Google has made lots of medium-trafficked sites profitable for the first time and made online advertising viable in niche sectors.

Oh, and as an aside I think everyone should have their own domain name. You don't need to set up your own hosting - you can point it to blogspot if you like. But you risk losing your entire blog and incoming traffic (=online friends) if you don't own your domain name. If blogspot goes down, you can redirect your domain name to somewhere else if people are going there first. If they're going straight to blogspot, you've got no control over your traffic at all. Anyone who remembers will know what happened when that site was sold - thousands of musicians lost their websites and fanbases overnight. Bloggers using free services are similarly exposed now. A domain name costs about £10 for two years. It really is a no-brainer. If you don't know where to start, I've used and found them fine, but loads of companies advertise in the back of .net.

Anonymous said...

Tremendous on the pasties. Does that mean that I can get a link to my new blog too if I start selling Cumberland Pies on my site at
I'll even do Chicken & Mushroom Pies if it helps :) But I'll settle for a couple of stragglers taking a peek if I must.

ScroobiousScrivener said...

The idea of ads becoming the default really does bother me. True, you can ignore them, and most people do. True, you can avoid the problem by paying for your own domain and hosting etc (and I keep meaning to get around to that). But I don't like it for this much reasons (plus, I just don't, okay?):

1) What you said. It is a rare pleasure to have an ad-free space. I don't object to bloggers choosing to have ads, if they want to, and if Dooce for instance can rake in sufficient dosh to actually Live Off Blogging, well, that is very cool for her. But ad-free is *nice*, and as someone who really hates ads generally, I would hate to have my own space co-opted by ads. It's not like I have more than 5 readers anyway, so no one would benefit. It would just be Really Annoying.

2) This part is a bit more complicated: I think ads would make blogging less democratic. No no, I'm not going to make any stupid claims about the A-listers hogging the party; yes, quality of content is what matters; but having said that: I do think there are certain visual cues that affect the way readers judge blog quality/importance. I have posted before on the ignominious question of "where the women bloggers are", and I think part of the answer to that is "HELLOOOOO? We are right here but you don't think we count because we don't look cool enough!" I think that blogs have a better chance of being taken seriously if they are independently hosted and designed in a non-standard template. I think that those two factors work against a lot of women bloggers, who are by and large less likely to spend ages fiddling about with learning web design etc.

But the other point is, £15 a year (or whatever) is indeed "dirt cheap" - over here. In a lot of the world (eg South Africa, Iraq, India...) it's enough cash to give a wouldbe blogger pause.

So what I see happening is this: a majority of female and third-world bloggers will accept the advertising. Their blogs, crowded with ads, will be increasingly overlooked - because that format will be associated with "casual", "non-serious" bloggerdom (teenagers talking to their mates, and so on). Loss of blogging democracy.

Which maybe doesn't matter. It's only blogging after all. But I'm not enormously excited to think that the dominant voice of the interweb will be, ever more so, that of the Western male.

ScroobiousScrivener said...

PS. Went on a bit long there. Sorry.

Twit said...

Not about ads:

Delurking indeed. Okay, I'll take the bait but just to say this: For whatever part you played in the creation of Green Wing, you have my sincerest thanks. I felt the second series went off the boil slightly but it was still compulsive viewing. So-many aspects of that show were truly inspired/innovative.. blah.. etc.. -You'll have heard it all before so I'll stop there.

Smack the Pony was pretty impressive too, although little of it actually comes to mind now, apart from the band spoofs & the dating agency videos.

Anyway, it's a good thing you didn't write any Alan Partridge material or I'd have to track you down & suck you off bigtime! -Armando Iannucci is utterly sick of me (I jest).

So there you have it Mr. Henry, just a wee pat on the head for you (like you needed it, you smug fuck!)


& back into the shadows I go.

patroclus said...

Scroob: I'm so not sure about the whole design aspect. I mean, if you look at James's blog here, it's a standard blogspot template and URL and yet it's never out of the Guardian and the Times and whatnot. And people do seem to take notice of female bloggers, but mainly when they write about sex, or get sacked. I suppose the exception is Anna Little Red Boat, who's got a proper design *and* a Guardian column, and I've never *seen* her write about sex, but then I haven't looked at it very often (sorry Anna).

Although I loathe the whole idea that a blog has to be validated by another medium in order to be considered 'good'. A lot of people *read* women's blogs, and comment on them, and talk about them (and in the case of Bob Swipe, go on massive one-person missions to big up their favourite female blogger) and link to them, which is surely what it's all about?

Re. ads - ads are one thing, but I'm particularly looking forward to the day when we get told what we can and can't say. Once we're all working for Google and owned by advertisers I have a feeling we won't be able to swear with quite the liberal abandon that we're allowed to at the moment, for example. Actually (going back a couple of posts) I think that BlogBurst had some nebulous rules on what you were and weren't allowed to write, and that's the beginning of the end as far as I'm concerned.

James Henry said...

Shit bollocks fanny.

Just thought I'd get some swearing in while I can.

Thank you for your kind words Twit.

Word verif "mfvmy": what proper swearing sounds like when you're being MUFFLED BY THE MAN. I hate The Man.

Anonymous said...

^5 twit. I'm in New Zealand and I think Green Wing is fantastic. Well done James and crew. There is a cult following down here and some of us have even had previews of Season 2. Lord knows when we will see it in it's entirety. It'll probably be shunted to the late night slot alongside Trailer Park Boys. (Only because of the shit, bollocks and rubbish vaginas stuff)

p.s. Do they really still make pastys somewhere?

Spinsterella said...


i don't want ads and I don't want to have to pay.

I just want to be able to keep on blogging away quietly and anonymously one mmy bog-standard template, forever.

Jools said...

I can't really ad(d) (get it?) anything more than what's already been said and far more eloquently than I could've put it, but I'm bleedin oblivious to ads on blogs, but then I'm bleedin oblivious to most things around me.
James - is this a swearing post too? If so I give you: arsetitwank (well not you obviously, I meant the masses on the whole - oh dear this post really isn't going the way I intended and I don't even have the excuse of booze) - sorry everyone!

JonnyB said...

I am worried about these roving Catalan bandits, yes I am.

I think I can sum my ad-attitude up thus:

a) I don't have ads (very often) because, speaking wankitywankly, I have a certain visual branding thing that suits me nicely, and the money on offer to run advertising isn't enough to make me compromise on this;

(that's what I've said when people have asked, anyway)

b) However, if any readers should begrudge me the 5p per quarter I might earn from the above should I change my mind, then they can piss off and read some other source of free entertainment.

(that's what I've said when people have used the 'all advertising is evil' argument).

James Henry said...

JB made me pay him a pound to read that.

Anonymous said...

Not much to say about ads on blogs except that I'm happy if my favorite bloggers can earn some money for their musings -- more power to them! My eyes have ad filters on them and I tend to ignore the content...unless they're getting to me subliminally. Hm.

But I really am commenting to respond to your musing that you can realistically only read about ten blogs and still have a job. Have you heard of blog readers? I follow more than 400 blogs, thanks to a wonderful website called Bloglines (no, I don't work for them). Of course, I don't read every word of all these blogs. I do a lot of skimming, but basically all the content is delivered to my browser instead of me having to go to each website. I miss out on a lot of the ads too. Win-win! And I am employed full time. I don't have much of a social life, but that's a whole different matter. -M

cello said...

Gosh, so much thought-provoking stuff.

Ad-ignorance first. Sorry to have to tell you this but there is no such thing. In fact, low-involvement processing - the unconscious and subliminal absorption of brand heuristics, written about so interestingly by Robert Heath - is even more influential than ads that engage you consciously, because it bypasses the reasoning part of your brain which might otherwise reject the ad.

In Google-world, they only understand click-through, and hence only charge on that basis, so lots of advertisers are getting brand consideration for free. Others are cleverer than that.

The point about whether to carry ads or not is not really about who gets the money. As a blogger you are free to take the deal on offer or not. But if you do, you are turned from being the publisher into just a very poorly-paid writer, one essential of publishing being having control over which ads you carry. There must be ad deals which give you that control, and everyone has brands they feel OK about, even if that's only The Guardian, the BBC, Oxfam, Lego and The Pasty Shop in James's case. Be choosy.

And as for commerce censoring bad language on the internet, there seemed to be plenty of advertisers happy to appear within Green Wing, cock-spanking and all.

I am fairly sure that the BBC does have ambitions to do both a MySpace and a Blogger equivalent, but they are subject to tough scrutiny on the market impact that they would have on commercial rivals.

Anonymous said...

I have a Live Journal and a MySpace. For my Live Journal (my ranty blog where I talk mostly about what I have had for lunch: it's a riot a minute) I decided not to go for the free option of photos because I don't want adverts. I want a clean quiet space that isn't bombarded however subtley with commerce (yes subtle bombardment isn't an oxymoron, think stealth fighter, or the gradual realisation you can't fit into the nice polkadot dress from three summers ago, um).

On my MySpace (where I think before I write, and occasionally note what I had for breakfast) the adverts drive me tonto. There are flashy sexist ones and everywhere it says you can programme in html but YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO BAN THE ADVERTS (they shout this). It's horrid, but I use it because it's useful.

A final note about cost of domains - I'm currently working in Lithuania on a local wage, £15 is too much to consider even for here. Although I'm in the lucky position of having a unique name in the history of the world, so I'm pretty sure that by the time I can afford one the domain name will still be available.

Anonymous said...

Read this on the Guardian - for a real shock:,,1859785,00.html

patroclus said...

Or try this, from the New Statesman.

James Henry said...

Re: 'ad-ignorance'. I think FI was referring specifically to the ads that appear from Google Ads, which are all in the same font, with no pictures, and are very easy to ignore. I agree that most ads have a visual component designed to worm straight into your subconscious and make you ascribe some kind of positive 'brand value' to say, fizzy brown water, but Google Ads are currently very easy to ignore: just a section of the blog you don't bother looking at. Eventually of course, Google Ads will get wise to this...

Liz said...


I've wrestled with the advertising thingbob and ended up using one small text-only Google one. Given that it's a food blog, the ads are always food-specific, and if something objectionable turns up (like the vegetarians campaigning agains foie gras that I found decorating the top of the page one day), I blacklist it. It covers my hosting fees, but I'll admit I have been considering dropping it altogether as being more trouble than it's worth.

I also use Amazon affiliate marketing, but only where I mention a book - and books definitely don't get flagged up on my blog just in order that I can suckle at the dripping teat of Amazon. Although it is a very lovely teat. I figure I might as well; I used to link to books on Amazon without being an affiliate, and it struck me one day that this was exceedingly daft. A few gourmet food companies have asked me to do affiliate nonsense with them and I've turned them down, 'cos if I can't taste their food I'm certainly not going to be recommending it to people.

All the same, I feel like a Le Creuset whore now, and am full of awe at the purity of your own ad-free-ness.