Coding Horror

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Blog Advertising: Yea or Nay

I've recently been approached by several different people to inquire about advertising on my blog.

It doesn't cost me anything to run this blog. I used to host it myself on my cable modem, and my employer, Vertigo Software, generously donated hosting when I outgrew the limited upstream bandwidth of a cable modem.

I do have a bit of advertising on the blog already, through my Amazon affiliate links. That seemed like a natural fit for my recommended reading list when I originally put it together. But there's never a visible advertisement. The affiliate links are indistinguishable from a normal link to a book on Amazon, which is usually quite useful.

I can understand wanting to recoup hosting costs-- if I had any-- but Scott Hanselman asks: what about the cost of your time writing all those blog entries?

Neil Young: Sponsored by Nobody

I'm not opposed to advertising. I won't pretend that I don't like money, particularly here in the United States where money is synonymous with freedom.

But advertising responsibly is difficult.

  • Stand behind the products you're indirectly selling. They should be products or services you yourself recommend. Some of the more selective blogs join targeted ad networks with products they hand-pick, such as the deck.

  • Limit the number of ads you take. Using the Ronco spray-on monetization plan and filling your page with as many types of advertising and affiliate programs as possible smacks of desperation. Even worse, it makes your website look like a tacky Nascar joke.

    Closeup of advertising decals on NASCAR vehicle

  • Realize that advertising changes the nature of your blog. The first ads you take convert your blog from a non-profit to a commercial venture. It's no longer a hobby; you're being paid to blog. It's work. And unless you're only accepting only random ads, there are also new avenues for conflicts of interest.

At least for my blog, I don't think the benefits of advertising outweigh the negatives. I like the idea that every time I write an entry, I did so purely for my own reasons, whatever they are, and not because I needed to drive ad revenue.

Written by Jeff Atwood

Indoor enthusiast. Co-founder of Stack Exchange and Discourse. Disclaimer: I have no idea what I'm talking about. Find me here: http://twitter.com/codinghorror