Ad-Free Zone

It’s been a while since I’ve updated my blog. About 3 weeks, to be exact. Once the dust settles from some recent crises, I *promise* you’ll get more funding posts, discussions of libraryland, etc. In the meantime, I had an interesting experience today that I wanted to share and get some feedback from my readers.

Someone (for courtesy’s sake, they will remain anonymous) e-mailed me today asking whether they could pay me to put ‘relevant’ links up in one of my funding posts and pay me to do so. I’ve never gotten any requests for anything like this before (honestly, I’ve never thought I had a big enough reader base for any advertiser to bug me), but it gave me a chance to put in writing why I don’t want advertising on my blog. I wanted to share the text of our exchange here to see if any of you have had a similar experience and how you responded? A couple things to note–the person who wrote the e-mail was very nice and respectful, and I’m sure just doing his/her job, and not at all pushy which I really appreciate. Also, when I say ‘online colleges’ in my response, I am referring to certain online schools that are very aggressive about advertising, not about all online education programs (I T.A. for online courses!) So, here’s the text:

Hi Julia,

I just finished reading your post , ‘Funding Opportunities, Week of November 27’ and really enjoyed it! I would like to offer to place a few relevant links into the post that would complement your original writing. For this, you’ll be paid via PayPal. These links would direct to resources on education and topics related to the theme of your site. If this sounds at all like something you might like to be a part of kindly let me know. I will be happy to answer any concerns you may have 🙂

Thanks
_________

Hi _____,

I’m glad you enjoyed my post! I appreciate your offer, but I don’t feel like it does any services to my readers to offer resources I’ve carefully selected and then provide them with other content that serves the purpose of making money for a textbook company/online college/etc. I’ve purposefully kept my blog free of all advertising particularly because I don’t agree with the idea of compromising the quality of content of the focus of my work in the interest of money. Thanks again for the offer, but my concerns with compromising quality far outweigh any benefits I might receive from sharing other links.
Best,
Julia
******
Did I handle this well? What would you have added? What are your thoughts about the impact of advertising on the content of a site?
I am very grateful that the writer was a very friendly person, and I’m also glad I got the chance to write down a few thoughts. I’d like to expand on them at some point, but however my ideas are refined I think it’s safe to say that I’ll never compromise the content of my site or mis-direct readers for the sake of a few advertising dollars.
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8 Comments

Filed under miscellany

8 responses to “Ad-Free Zone

  1. nancy

    Hi Julia,

    I very much enjoy your posts and was excited to see your recent post land in my inbox.

    In your post you mention you carefully select the resources offered to your readers. Your commitment to bringing value really shines through.

    A couple of questions came to mind…

    – You provide thoughtful and valuable content for your readers and while this may be a passion for you without consideration for compensation, there could be an avenue for the compensation you receive to fund your research or allow you to expand your knowledge. People support families on earnings from blogs. Could posting well chosen ads further support your work?

    – I suspect your readers have come to view you as a trusted source. Are there products or solutions you value that you would feel comfortable sharing with them in the spirit of saving time and effort to track these things down on their own?

    Just questions…looking forward to future posts.

    • juliaskinner

      Thanks for your thoughts Nancy–I see how ads might work for other people, but I feel like it goes too much against my principles. Advertising is already so pervasive in our culture, and I like the idea of creating a space to share my thoughts that’s free of those coercive influences. I feel like it helps readers focus on my material and helps build rapport because I’m not trying to sell them anything. I like the idea of making money off my blog, but if I wanted to (and I might at some point) I could put up an option for readers to donate to me directly to help support my work. If most of my readers are like me, they won’t click on the ads (or if it’s embedded in a post and they get tricked into clicking it, they won’t be very pleased), so I don’t see myself making a ton of income on the ads even if that was a path I chose.
      I find the phrase “well chosen ads” interesting here, because I suspect the only ads that an ad firm would think are ‘relevant’ are going to be for schools that look at education as a business model rather than as an engagement with the student (some ad firms may be different, but based on what I’ve seen on other similar sites that’s probably what it would be). That goes against my pedagogical practices and my vision of the academy as a place that fosters critical thinking, but it’s unlikely I would have a say in what was advertised on my blog.
      If I did share products with someone, it would be more along the lines of a book review or a discussion of how I’ve used a certain kind of software or something. There are products I like and ones I don’t, and if it fits in the context and seems like something a reader might ask me, I’ll mention it, but I don’t think it’s my role as a writer to act as a salesperson for a product (or even for a particular viewpoint–I like to encourage discussion!) It’s nice that the blog promotes comments and discussion and seems to be a site people enjoy visiting, so I want to keep that spirit alive!

  2. Thought I’d chip in that I, too, received this exact same email last night. I suspect, therefore, that it’s an automated spam post trawling for relevant tags. I’m just going to ignore, but if you get a further reply I’d be interested to read it!

    • juliaskinner

      I suspect you’re right–I decided to respond more so I could have the opportunity to articulate my thoughts a bit, but I’d be very interested to read the reply too!

      • Hi there Julia,
        My name is Louis, and I’m an amateur blogger from New Zealand.
        I too received an email with similar wording. It read…

        —–
        Hi Louis,

        I just finished reading your post , ‘Whistleblowing and Bus Thoughts’ and really enjoyed it! I would like to offer to place a few relevant links into the post that would complement your original writing. For this, you’ll get paid via PayPal. These links would direct to resources on education and topics related to the theme of your site. If this sounds at all like something you might like to be a part of kindly let me know. I will be happy to answer any concerns you may have 🙂

        Thanks
        M******
        —–

        Now, I thought “Great, someone’s stumbled across my blog!” but after moving places, lost internet connections etc., I never got the chance to reply and it got lost within my inbox. But then, one month later, from a different email address…

        —–
        Hi Louis,

        I just finished reading your post , ‘Whistleblowing and Bus Thoughts’ and thoroughly enjoyed it!

        I’m marketing out a site and can pay you via PayPal for adding a few links to an old post. These links would direct readers to resources on education and topics related to the theme of your site.

        Let me know if you’re interested, I’ll be happy to answer any concerns you may have 🙂

        Thanks
        J******
        —–

        And then a quick Google search led me here.
        A little bummed out that it looks like an automated message… but there’s a lesson in there, somewhere… I hope.

        Louis

      • juliaskinner

        I agree–it’s no fun to think someone is reading your blog when it’s actually just a scheme to get ad revenue. I’d be curious what criteria they use for the e-mails or if they just have a bot crawl the web and randomly grab posts that don’t have any ads on them. I’m not sure what you’re experience was, but my post was one that didn’t have much traffic or any comments, so I’m not sure how it would have looked appealing to someone seeking exposure! I haven’t gotten any more e-mails since I replied to them, so sending a ‘thanks but no thanks’ response might be a good way to stop getting the e-mails (although it may also just be luck of the draw that I haven’t gotten any more).

  3. a reader

    Just to add, given that they are looking to insert ‘relevant links into the post’ (likely highlighting key words or phrases within your text and turning them into links) this isn’t just about simply advertising their site to your readers, but also about boosting their visibility and ranking with search engines, so they would be getting more from you than just click throughs. You are right about the risk of compromising your blog as they may well want to tweak some of your text to include their key words/phrases. I think it does also make it harder for readers to discern what is advertising and what is a genuine endorsement, unlike clearly marked ads in banners or separate boxes which I wouldn’t have a problem with any blogger hosting.

    • juliaskinner

      You bring up some good points here–I *much* prefer clearly marked ads that are separate from the content. I had thought briefly about doing those at one point, but it still made me feel a little icky so I decided against it. For a lot of people that’s a great option, though, and it doesn’t bother me at all when I see them on other blogs.
      The ‘inserting relevant links into the post’ thing got me too, for the same reason. It might be great for them, but I agree, it would make it much harder for the reader to discern what is real content and what is advertising (not to mention the rewording of text, which I hadn’t thought of!) I’m kind of curious what content they feel like would be relevant, but definitely not curious enough to find out!

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