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On-line Communities - Ads or no Ads? 92

numacra asks: "There comes a time in the life of every growing on-line community where ads start looking like a good way to support it. What does the Slashdot community think about ads on open source and security community websites? Does it bring down the quality of the website/community? Should we start putting ads up on our wargame pages? We receive around 10,000 unique hits a month and are debating whether or not ads will improve our community or ruin it." Ads and donations seem to be the easiest way to drum up money for grassroots websites, however are there other alternatives which could cover the costs?
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On-line Communities - Ads or no Ads?

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  • it'll be fine (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ceejayoz ( 567949 ) <cj@ceejayoz.com> on Saturday April 29, 2006 @08:34PM (#15230002) Homepage Journal
    Our only problem was users clicking too many Google ads in their attempts to support the site. If you provide a good, well-run community, your users likely won't mind a few tasteful ads one bit.

    Just don't use that godawful IntelliTXT shit or full-page Flash ads or whatnot. Respect your users.
    • "...your users likely won't mind a few tasteful ads one bit."

      I think that's where the key is, especially with a young family. There are quite a few sites that were a good read, but have since had to go elsewhere because of the racy ads they started to run on the site. It was really dissapointing because I wouldn't have thought that those kind of ads really reflected the content of the actual website. Too bad for them.

    • I like playing some of the flash ads, when i win, firefox blocks the popups so it's all good, though they're easy to win. Makes for about 30 seconds of heart racing excitement... every now and then.
    • Re:it'll be fine (Score:4, Interesting)

      by RemovableBait ( 885871 ) <slashdot@blockav[ ].co.uk ['oid' in gap]> on Saturday April 29, 2006 @09:32PM (#15230150) Homepage
      Our only problem was users clicking too many Google ads in their attempts to support the site.

      Out of interest, how did you combat this?

      I'm currently in a similar position. I'm getting (Adsense) click through rates of 40% and around 200 page views per day. I'm 90% certain that this is just friends and others clicking to support me, and I'm worried that Google will pull my account because of it. I just find it highly suspicious, considering my site (blockavoid.co.uk) isn't even complete!

      Any suggestions?

      • You will get your account turned off. I run a community based site and that's what happened to us...we had over 10k unique hits per month, and they were clicking on and off. Google when coming time to payout pulled the plug claiming "click fraud".
      • We told 'em to stop. Google can, and will, cancel your account without any qualms about it.

        Google Adsense is a tad scary, actually, in that a group of angry ex-users (we've had banned users occasionally threaten suicide and the like) could easily make it look like you're defrauding Google and get your account shut down.
        • I had a similar situation with one of my sites. A group of users were pissed off with some members of the site and decided that the easiest way to get back at them was to get the site booted off the AdSense program. Unfortunately this was also my personal AdSense account as well.

          They added our site to several Traffic Exchange programs. This generated significant increases in traffic. Google has a clause in their ToS that they don't like this kind of traffic (clicks on the ads or not) and my AdSense account
          • Dopping off google addwords might not be all tht bad for community web sites. Community web sites should make a carefull review of what exactly they are advertising and whether they should be promoting the products or companies that they are promoting.

            Google has become pretty much indeferrent to what or who they will market and promote in the drive for greater profits and that kind of marketing is not really appropriate for community web sites. Clicking is currently the only way to drive bad adds off a we

        • Ahh well. I took the advice of WoTG and dropped Google a note outlining my concerns and asking for some clarification on what 'click fraud' actually meant for me.

          Whether it was my note that did it, or simply the fact that it was the end of the month, I don't know. I do know that my account was disabled about 2 hours ago.

          I am going to email them, and I hope that my note of concern will stand me in good stead if it was just end of month checks. My account only had $43, so I wouldn't have seen anything this mo
      • It might be worthwhile to get ahead of the situation and drop Google a quick note and tell them to suspend your account for a while -- it's MUCH better than getting banned from Adsense. At a 40% click through rate, Google WILL notice.
      • Any suggestions?

        I think a solution here is to be unethical.

        OTOH, (most) people are stupid. It could be likely that many are more interested in the ads than your website.
  • Google Adsense (Score:4, Insightful)

    by deanj ( 519759 ) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @08:35PM (#15230009)
    Use Google Adsense.

    You can always do what "User Friendly" did too. Offer something for "premium" membership. Might be more content. Might be a t-shirt.

    If you have people that sign up for that, make sure that your message boards indicate that they're contributors to the site. It's a little thing, but it's nice to recognize the people that are actually supporting the site.

    Good luck.
  • First off... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Qzukk ( 229616 ) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @08:36PM (#15230012) Journal
    In general, Ads don't ruin anything. Whiners ruin things.

    That said, flash ads ruin websites. Especially flash ads that stretch out over text. Floating DIV ads that block your content ruin websites. Noisy ads ruin websites. Ads that cause seizures ruin websites. Sites with more ads on the screen than content have been ruined by ads.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      First off, I will make a statement.

      Then I will finish by contradicting that statement in every way I possibly can.
    • In general, Ads don't ruin anything. Whiners ruin things.
      [...Whining...]

      You're right! Whining does ruin websites!

      Seriously though, I agree.

    • I think you could simpllify that a lot by inverting the logic. How about this:

      In general, ads do ruin websites

      That said, if you're careful to ensure your ads are neither too numerous nor overly-instrusive, then you probably won't upset your community members who might otherwise complain or go elsewhere

      See? Says pretty much the same thing but doesn't sound nearly so self contradictory, and it avoids sneering at those members of your community who might disagree as to where the threshold of annoyanc

  • Adblock (Score:4, Funny)

    by stevesliva ( 648202 ) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @08:39PM (#15230020) Journal
    Provide your users with instructions on how to install Firefox and Adblock. Then none of them will mind your ads. Or see them.
    • "Provide your users with instructions on how to install Firefox and Adblock. Then none of them will mind your ads. Or see them."

      My sarcam meter is moving, but I'm not sure if it's a false positive. Were you joking, or are you just a dumbass?
    • That is a fine idea, and all, but if you are actively trying to recruit people, chances are they won't be using adblock. Therefore, your new users will be turned off by ads.

      Oh, and (I suspect you already know this and were joking) people have to actually click the ads in order for you to make money off them.

      So, yeah, relevent text ads are the name of the game.
      Perhaps it would be a good idea to go so far as to offer incentives to users who click the ads on a regular basis (IE: You click 10 ads and get one

      • Perhaps it would be a good idea to go so far as to offer incentives to users who click the ads on a regular basis (IE: You click 10 ads and get one page view ad-free).

        Great idea. "Help me commit click fraud and get my account banned and I'll give you one page view ad-free!!" You'll get far with that.
  • ...to be made by the community. Also, there's the question of which ads to show, who to allow to show ads, the quality of the ads, whether or not to have animation. Some ad has been triggering:

    Macromedia Flash Player has stopped a potentially unsafe operation.
    The following local application on your computer or network:
    h
    is trying to communicate with this Internet-enabled location:
    img-cdn.mediaplex.com

    I get this on a number of sites, but it just came up on arstechnica.
    • Thats funny. My etc/hosts defines the IP address of img-cdn.mediaplex.com as 127.0.0.1. Also, since I use the flashblock Firefox extension, I've never seen that warning message.

      In case you haven't guessed, I don't like seeing ads. One site I frequent added a Google Adsense ad in a big box taking up 25% of the window height near the top the each page. Even these ads are annoying because I now how to scroll down to see the content. Put ads like this near the bottom of the page, not the top.
    • Is the community paying for the website? If not then no it really isn't a community decision. Way to many people see "community" as a way to complain and freeload. The person paying the bills is the one that decides if they are going to put ads on the page or not. It is that simple.
      Even if the owner asks the community what they think it is still the owner of the website's decision.

      Unless it is some kind of foundation that is running the site and paying the bills then it all comes down the the owner.
      I find
  • by MobileTatsu-NJG ( 946591 ) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @08:40PM (#15230023)
    "We receive around 10,000 unique hits a month and are debating whether or not ads will improve our community or ruin it." Ads and donations seem to be the easiest way to drum up money for grassroots websites, however are there other alternatives which could cover the costs?"

    That depends on the community, really. Would they be willing to pay a subscription fee? I can tell you I have. I pay $30 a year to a web community pertaining to my career. I do this for two reasons: 1.) That forum landed me 3 seperate jobs. I figure I owe them anyway. 2.) They'll host my on-line portfolio. Admittedly, though, I haven't taken advantage of this yet. Judging from the number of listed subscribers, I'd say they're probably doing okay for themselves.

    The question is: Is your site worthy of subscription? Well, you're not asking about that, so I'm guessing probably not. (err I didn't mean that to sound rude. Sorry.) In your position, I'd look into Google's Text Ads. With any luck, you'll recoup most of the expenses regarding hosting. I'd also recommend setting up a Paypal Donate button. If you tell your users "This is how much I spend a month on hosting, and this is my donation goal", you'll probably do okay.

    I know my opinion's not going to be too popular around here. But the truth of the matter is that it costs money to run a site. You may have the means to pay for it perpetually, but suppose that dries up? Worst case scenario: You gain a few extra $$$ to keep the site going through the rough times. You're providing a service for people. It's a small thing to ask of them.
    • In my experience a "Paypal donate" button doesn't give you much revenue.

      99% of users will ignore it, and the remaining 1% tends to make a one-off payment of $5. Useful? Yes. But I've not seen enough recurring donations to offset hosting costs.

      I've had far more income from showing Google's adsense adverts, whilst annoying very few users I believe.

      (Of course it is always a bit hard to tell, and the results probably depend a lot on the type of site you run as well)

      One downside to using Paypal I found wa

      • by MobileTatsu-NJG ( 946591 ) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @10:14PM (#15230284)
        "99% of users will ignore it, and the remaining 1% tends to make a one-off payment of $5. Useful? Yes. But I've not seen enough recurring donations to offset hosting costs."

        Are we talking about just adding the butotn, or are we talking about providing a goal? I help run a site that used to do the 'donation goal' method, and actually it worked. "We need $189.23 by the end of July", and we'd consistently hit the goal. What I don't know, however, is whether or not our site was specialized enough to warrant it.
        • In my case it was just a button along with some text which said "hosting + admin isn't free". I didn't put down targets, although a few times I did detail actual running costs.

          I hadn't actually thought of putting down a monthly "total" but I guess that would be very simple to do and make it more obvious - especially if it were updated when new money came in.

  • Slow Ad Servers (Score:4, Insightful)

    by EEBaum ( 520514 ) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @08:41PM (#15230025) Homepage
    Make sure that, if the ad server is slow, your page still loads fine. Nothing pisses me off more than a half-loaded page that's stalling because of an overloaded ad server.
  • Adds don't work (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ps3udonym ( 874835 ) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @08:47PM (#15230044)
    Adds and banners don't work. Period. It has come to the point that I don't even SEE a banner when it is up, even if it is relevant to the site. One of my favorite online stores decided to put up a Specials section on their site. They promoted it by way of a banner add on the front page. I didn't even SEE it until someone pointed it out to me. The reality is that after you have spent enough time online you simply filter out the adds and garbage to focus in on the information that you came to find. Since the net went public and the Web was introduced, I belive I have clicked on exactly three adds and never spent a dime on any of the sites advertised.

    Ditch the adds. They simply don't work.
    • by Ohreally_factor ( 593551 ) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @10:01PM (#15230240) Journal
      With an attitude like that, you will never win a free iPod by clicking on the monkey.
    • It's AD. Not ADD. Because of those very simple errors I cannot read your post - it's too distracting. Please, for the love of god, fix the simple errors! If it's some insanely obscure word, no one will care, but AD? Come on.
      • Give the guy some credit. Sure, he might have made an add error, but at least he didn't try to do something really retarded like divide by 0. If he had, we might still be here trying to read his post.
    • Adds and banners don't work. Period.

      Google made over $11 billion last year, selling ads. Just because one lonely slashdot dork doesn't see ads, doesn't mean they don't work.
  • Ads are good (Score:2, Insightful)

    Ads can be very good for online communities, provided that they follow a few ideals.

    They should be relevant to the community. E.g. no "OMG CIALIS NOW" ads on a site that is not directly involved in ED and other medical topics, but a "OMG NEW MINI-ITX BOARDS" ad on a computer hardware community site would be fine, as would a "OMG NEW XYZ BRAND SOFTWARE" or similar.

    The ads should not be placed in distracting places. Keep the ad banners up at the top of the page, on the right side of the content, or on the lef
  • by stevey ( 64018 ) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @08:49PM (#15230050) Homepage

    I run a Debian community [debian-adm...ration.org] site and found that I was spending a reasonable amount of money on a dedicated host for it, (along with time too!), and so figured adding adverts was a reasonable thing to do.

    But I know that people can be very vocal on the subject of advertising, especially on community sites where the revenue goes to the "owner" rather than the "community". So the way I tried to made it more bearable was to make it optional. Albeit enabled by default.

    If you're an unregistered user you see one block of Google text adverts on each article. But if you're a registered user you can completely disable the adverts via a setting in your user options.

    That means that anybody who wishes to support the site and view potentially useful adverts can do so. And anybody who gets annoyed by adverts can hide them.

    The people who disable adverts make about 20% of the site membership. Suprisingly low I thought! (Although that could well be because people use adblocking software and have them hidden regardless of the settings?)

    If you let people choose to hide or show the adverts I think they are happier about them. There are other sites where I've seen this approach and I'll always happily view them when given a choice (so long as they aren't flash. Ugh) just the fact that the site owners care enough to make it an option makes me more inclined to view them.

    I guess it is just a nice change from having adverts appear everywhere on some sites with no ability to configure them apart from using extra software, or plugins.

    • But I know that people can be very vocal on the subject of advertising, especially on community sites where the revenue goes to the "owner" rather than the "community"

      My take on that depends on whether the community has consistently footed the bill in getting the server hosting and such. I know the site is worthless without the people that visit it, I don't see why a few ads is going to cause problems except for the whiners because hosting and bandwidth costs money, not to mention administration headaches
      • Seconded almost entirely.

        In the communities that I'm involved with most are "run" by a single person who pays the server costs, etc, and they use adverts. I'm also part of a couple of coops where the running costs are split and in those sites there are either no adverts - or the revenue is shared amongst the people who pay the costs.

        The only downside to running a co-op is that you need people to agree to pay before there actually is a community. Although you could invite new members to help join and sup

  • But I've been on some web sites where ads are double underscored to tell you it's an ad and if you mouse over it a block of text comes up, but the block never goes away. Ads are a necessary evil. Nothing in the world is free. But ads can't be obtrusive. I find magazines where an article is continued 3 pages later because of a cpl ages of ads or it's continued in the back of a magazine so you have to leaf through ads annoying. I find articles that have an ad in the middle of the text and you have to scr
  • by GoofyBoy ( 44399 ) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @08:51PM (#15230061) Journal
    After you've set up ads and paid subscriptions (for extra features!) its all about keeping them coming back;

    1. Slashvertisments. Hidden ads disgused as original content! Two birds, one stone!

    2. Obvious trolls posing as "news that you want to know." Flamewars never hurt anyone that really matters but it does drive up website hits!

    3. Dupes. Make it look like you have more content each and every day!

    4. User editable "tags" to postings. Make it look like you care about the public's opinion but, really, its your website. Trust me, no one is going to notice when you "edit" them.
  • Something Awful (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    The Something Awful forums has banner ads with two seperate price points: commercial and non-commercial. They both get the same exposure but the noncommercial ads are I think $5 and the commercial ads are $100. As a result most of the ads are publicising threads or projects the community is working on, guaranteeing relevancy.
  • A bit offtopic, but I find a certain obnoxious ad on a certain obnoxious ad-laden site amusing. It provides a button with which the user is supposed to help Bush beat Schwarzenegger at weightlifting. I always think to myself, "why would anyone click that?"
  • The internet is a great place to make money through advertising. But the people who make these advertisement should DIE. Unless they are the orignial crew behind Google AdWords, they should just DIE.

    The most appropriate death for them would be death by flashing eplieptic flash advertising which they have created.

    People use the Internet to WORK. Advertising is distracting to many people.
  • It's unpopular to say it around here, but you need to be able to pay for bandwidth costs. AdSense is a decent way to do that. As long as you put just one ad on the page in a good location that isn't flashy and annoying, who cares? Anyone who bitches can damn well pitch in a few dollars of their own money up front to pay the costs of bandwidth on such a site. Don't waste your time with people who expect you to run an expensive website on your own dime and who object to all advertising and other fundraising e
  • Google ad rates (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ankh ( 19084 ) * on Sunday April 30, 2006 @12:11AM (#15230611) Homepage
    I get about $200 to $300 per month with Google AdSense (the terms and conditions let me say that but not give you the click-through rate) from http://www.fromoldbooks.org/ [fromoldbooks.org] -- it's been rising slightly each month over the past year. Since it's an image site, there's a relatively high bandwidth use, and this does pay for the hosting.

    It's a trade-off. The Google text-only ads are not too distracting, and are relatively well targeted so they might actually be interesting. I've tried other advertising programmes, but those were best so far.

    In many ways, like you, I'd rather not have ads at all. But it needs to cover its costs, I couldn't afford to run the Web site otherwise.

    The people who say, ask the community, if it's community-run, are onto the right track. Of course, most of the people clicking on the ads will likely be visitors not part of the community, and the members will quickly learn to ignore the ads, as long as they are not too disruptive.

    Google adsense is easier than having a shopping cart that accepts credit card payments for membership, and you don't have the trust issues. But if you already accept payments over SSL, you should consider "no ad" subscriptions. You could also consider saying that anyone who has been registered more than 3 months (say), or who has more than 6 gigapoints, or posts more than 30 times a day, or however you mark More Valued Contributors, doesn't need to see ads. They are busily making pages for you that will have ads on them and bring in revenue, so that's enough. And that way you encourage participation without charging anyone.

  • Hi, PullThePlug's management team has thought about using google adsense. The Problem is adsense uses content. as you can see from our website there isnt much content. We get our 10k+ hit's a month from our wargames, downloadable levels, etc. Does anyone have any suggestions? The problem is getting the right ads on the page.. I know alot of programmers dont want to goto our wargames and see ads for CD players and DVD Players. Instead, They would be interested in things like programming magazines? (dr dobb
  • For me personally (and this'll probably be rated redundant) it doesn't matter, I make use of the AdBlock plugin for Mozilla (also available to Mozilla FireFox) which does the trick nicely (with a few good regular expressions -- there's even an added plugin that keeps a list of regular expressions for AdBlock).
    I don't see many ad's anymore (if at all) but I can imagine to some (who use different browsers or know not of AdBlock or similar plugins) it would affect them.
  • You can always do a donation system instead of ads. Now that you don't need to be a member of Paypal to make payments with Paypal, pretty much anyone with a credit card can use the Paypal system. Also, Amazon still offers their donation system.

    I've tried ads, Paypal donations, and Amazon donations. Amazon only gets people who object to Paypal. And Amazon isn't very reliable -- they're always up & running, but they don't have much of a system for passing data back and forth, or for confirming who pai
  • why does it have to be unique hits? why can't the metric be dollars or volume of bandwidth, so people can guess at the amount of money involved?

  • So you want the people viewing your site to also help support it...

    You should really try to look at it this way. You can probably categorize most people into 2 groups, the anonymous users, and your regulars. The anonymous users view your content, maybe gleam a little info from your forums, and you never hear from them. Your "Community" is what drives your site, and adds the content to the forums, and returns often. So really, your Community is already supporting your site by adding the content to draw i

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