As many of you have probably noticed, this morning I removed the majority of advertising from The Simple Dollar. This was a tough decision that I’ve been thinking about for a long time and I’ve finally reached a point where it’s clear that it’s the right move for me and for all of my readers.
What happened? Most of the ads on my site were provided by a program called Google AdSense. They provide most of the ads that you see on various sites on the web. They paid quite well and have been by far the biggest revenue provider for The Simple Dollar.
AdSense is an automated system where people bid for ad placements on sites with particular words on them. So, for example, The Simple Dollar would usually receive ads from people who bid on ad placements on pages with words like “credit” and “money” and so forth.
It sounds good, but there’s a big problem: this automated bidding system allows anyone to bid, and I don’t have much control over who does the bidding. The end result was that the site would have ads from payday loan places, credit card brokerages, shady subprime lenders, and such.
My only control over this is by maintaining a list of websites that I would block ads from, but that list can only be so long. Thus, for the last several months, I would notice an inappropriate ad on my site, add it to the filter, and then I’d have to delete another one.
This juggling act got old fast, and I would get increasingly frustrated by having sites that I personally disagreed with on my site. This morning, the straw that broke the camel’s back appeared: an ad featuring a scantily clad woman advocating a payday loan site showed up. The ad bothered me a lot – it is literally the opposite of the message that I’m trying to talk about on this site.
Thus, I made the decision to abandon all of the ads. There are basically no ads anymore – I abandoned everything that didn’t give me strong control over the content of the ads. This basically ensures that I’m not advertising stuff that bothers me from an ethical standpoint – and thus ensures I’m not effectively recommending anything unethical to you, the reader. If you look around now, the site looks quite a bit cleaner and more appealing. The site now does a much better job of reflecting my perspectives on personal finance issues and I have much better control over the small number of ads that remain.
In the end, I finally realized that the real reason I write The Simple Dollar is to help bring about positive change in people’s lives, and when the site showed ads that really conflicted with that mission, I was undercutting what I want to do here. Sure, the income was nice, but quite often I was having to make some justifications that I really didn’t like, and that hurt you, the reader.
The downside The downside to this, obviously, is that I’ve decimated my income for the site. This was extremely painful to do – it was like quitting a high paying job because of ethics and taking a much, much lower paying job.
My hope is that some of that income will be made up for by donations and that an eventual increase in traffic helped by a cleaner design will bring in other advertisers that don’t fill the site with unethical ads. Either way, this choice will dramatically reduce the overall income from The Simple Dollar for the short term, changing my plans for the coming months.
Please, let me know if you have any thoughts on this change.