Series: DenyConformity.com Redesign Journal
For the last few days, there have been no ads on DenyConformity.com. I suppose that isn’t really a surprise. Before about a week ago, there had never been ads on DenyConformity.com. However, this is an annoying and frustrating turn of events. I want to be serious about this website, and so far I’m pretty proud of myself (this is the ninth day of consecutive updates!). However, to be able to take this seriously, I will need to come up with some way to pay for it. I’m afraid I will have to come up with a new solution.
I was using Google AdSense, a pretty simple system to potentially monetize web content. The idea is that you put some code on your website that Google gives you, and then when people go to the site they’ll see ads that are tailored to the content on your site. It uses Google’s fancy algoribbons to pick ads that are related to the stuff on the site (at least for the most part). When visitors click on the ads, you get a very tiny cut. Through my testing process over the last few months, and the first week of the new DenyConformity.com’s life, it worked perfectly.
I have two ad locations. One is on the main timeline, at the top of the page. It’s a leaderboard size ad, which falls back to a smaller banner if the screen is smaller, and a mobile banner if the viewer is on a smartphone (or has a tiny browser window for some reason). On the post page (the page you’re reading this on), a skyscraper floats to the right side of the content. This ensures that the user has one ad on any page that contains content, and they aren’t obnoxious or in the way. With AdSense, I was getting ads for costumes, Chicago businesses, and sci-fi novels, among other things. I felt that those things were pretty accurate for the content I have here.
I figured they would have a problem with what I was doing, but since I was just bending their rules to make it work, I hoped that they could work with me and perhaps make an exception. They say the rule of thumb is, “whether you’d feel comfortable explaining what you’ve done to a website that competes with you,” and “ask, ‘Does this help my users?’” Every choice I made was specifically with my users in mind, and I am not ashamed of anything I did on this new design. However, when I started getting impressions and (a tiny amount of) clicks, they simply shut me down. My account is suspended, my ads are disabled, and all of my requests for further information or support have gone unanswered. After perusing the AdSense forums, it is my strong opinion that with what I’ve got going on, I’m not getting AdSense back.
I can’t blame them. This is a world that entire industries have popped up to take advantage of and cheat. We’re talking about a thing where you can put ads on a web page and you get money every time somebody clicks on them. I can think of about fifty different ways somebody could screw with that to get free money just off the top of my head. Basically, after years of dealing with garbage, Google isn’t messing around, and they don’t have time to deal with violators, legitimate or not.
So, fine, I can tell when I’m not wanted. Using Google AdSense was a bit of a shortcut, anyway. It was a cheap way out, and that’s not the DenyConformity way. If there’s anything that defines this website, it’s that we do things the very, very hard - and usually dumb (but at hopefully at least entertaining) way. I just need to figure out the proper DenyConformity.com approach to ads.
To be clear, I’m actually all for advertising in general. I think it serves a valuable purpose, namely to give people access to free stuff. If I can maintain this website, get paid for it, and still let people out there come here and get a laugh or two for free, I don’t see anything wrong with it. The fact is that this would be a much more expensive world - I mean absolutely anything you spend money on - if we didn’t have ads. As long as they aren’t getting in the way or making things more difficult, I'm happy to have them around. That’s why I don’t see it as a “sell out” move to try to get a little ad revenue here.
Still, I don’t want to sit here and defend my motivations for trying to monetize this project, because there’s nothing to justify. I’ve spent more time working on this website than I’ve spent on anything else in my entire life, and I know that I’ve provided a respectable amount of entertainment value to the world. The simple fact is that I deserve to be compensated for what I’ve done, and I need capital to continue working on it as I move forward. End of story.
So how can I raise that capital? Should I have annual pledge drives, like PBS? Should I quietly but regularly ask for donations from my visitors? That relies pretty heavily on my audience being pretty generous (and have plenty of disposable income). Should I get some t-shirts or other swag and sell them at reasonably marked up prices? That worked for Homestar. Should I start selling prints of the photos I’ve posted here? Should I solicit ads myself, personally finding companies to advertise directly to my tens of regular visitors? As the site’s presence grows (and I’m hoping that with my new focus on regular updates it will), that might actually become somewhat viable. Should I start a subscription service, where most of my content is behind a paywall that requires some sort of modest fee? Should I start trying to write commercially, and sell stuff I write to actual big-time publishers and websites?
The fact is, I’m going to start working on looking into all of the above. Stick around and help me try out some of these things that I should have been looking into long before now.
Thanks for your continued support!