For those of you who actually come to my site and read my popular Intuitive Life Business Blog, you are quite familiar with the ubiquitious Google AdSense block that has been a feature of the layout and design for years. It has paid off, approx $300/month or so, but after talking with many smart bloggers at Blogworld Expo in Vegas, I came to the conclusion that the small revenue stream was not worth the cost.
What cost? Well, let’s talk about that for a sec…
(see, I still write with the intent of bringing you to the site, though since I no longer have any adverts, it’s less important. Give me time, I’ll need to break some habits here!)
The main cost of having advertising can be demonstrated by Consumer Reports, where they recognize that it’s darn hard to be impartial and have credibility when you have advertising from the very companies you’re writing about. How can you say bad things about a Toyota, for example, if you’re simultaneously accepting pay from the corporation for that new advert on the back cover of the magazine?
AdSense makes the buying and selling of advertisements much more abstract, of course, since I don’t know what ads you would see when you loaded a page that contains an ad block: it’s certainly not exactly the same as I see when I view the page, though. Nonetheless, can you talk about business and have business adverts, while remaining credible?
Certainly publications like BusinessWeek think so, but then again, that publication recently shot itself in the foot with a ghastly redesign and it was only last week I cancelled (yes, cancelled!) my print subscription. Maybe the tension between adverts and unbiased content is tougher than it appears?
Those of you that know my background are aware that I was Reviews Editor at the long-defunct Advanced Systems Magazine, an IDG publication. I spent a fair amount of time with the ad sales guys – they were great party types! – but I was always aware of the tension between them selling adverts so we could get paid versus our side writing critical, unbiased reviews. The secret truth? While we strove to be unbiased, the selection criteria for which of the many hardware and software products we had would get reviewed was unquestionably influenced by which companies were enthusiastic advertisers and which wouldn’t give us the time of day.
I hung out with the people at the Macworld test lab too (we were in the same building) and my impression was that they had a similar challenge and addressed it in a similar fashion too. You can test this: pick up any random computer magazine and see if, over the course of a few months, they tend to review more products from companies that advertise or companies that keep a lower profile?
Okay, before I sound too idealistic about advertising and bias, I should also say that many times I have wanted to blog about something interesting in the business or tech world but have skipped it because my layout required that I always write at least a few paragraphs of content so that the text flowed around the advertisement block. I know, stupid reason, but sometimes, uh, function follows form?
Anyway, sound off: I now have an advertising-free business blog here and am definitely planning on adding more snippets and shorter entries, not focusing exclusively on the novels I write (like this one, oy!) Is this a good move?