To ad or not to ad, that is the question
February 19, 2015 12:54 PM   Subscribe

Do you know of any articles, case studies or research on how to decide, in practical terms, to go ad-free and just take donations (or use other monetization strategies)? I am also interested in articles, case studies, and other data on best practices for a) getting more donations and b) asking people to whitelist my sites on their adblocking software.

A recent conversation reminded me that many people who visit my websites and value the content are using adblocking software. So I am interested in either posting a polite request on my sites to please whitelist me on their software or possibly taking the plunge and just removing the ads and focusing on other monetization strategies. The most immediate and obvious alternative for me is trying to improve donation performance (which has tended to do a bit better than ads anyway, though neither is a large source of income). I am also willing to pursue merchandising, I just feel a lot more lost in that area and I feel like there is more of a learning curve. But if you have articles, research, or other info on how to do that well, I am interested.

I would be especially interested in seeing any articles that said, basically, "we chose to remove ads from the site and go with X other strategy and we are seeing better income now than with ads -- based on blah and yadda, we have reason to believe that going ad-free improved our reputation and that helped improve our bottom line."

I am interested in, for example, a serious analysis of Wikipedia's ad-free monetization strategy or feedback that indicates "if you are doing certain kinds of work, studies show that your audience has more faith in you and is more willing to open their wallets and donate if there are no ads." I know, for example, that Hyperbole and a Half is entirely supported by merchandising and some game (the name escapes me) is entirely supported by donations. But I don't know anything really meaty about the strategy either site is using and I would be interested in reading something meaningful on the topic.

posted by Michele in California to Work & Money (2 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I know someone who has had a fairly good experience starting to use Patreon for her blog:

She has people donating X amount for each "significant" post that she makes (which she defines above). I think the reason this worked well for her is likely because she has been at it for a long time before she started doing this and so she already had a lot of readers devoted to her thoughtful/researched blog posts. Right now it's around $190 per post, but you won't be able to do a strict multiplier, because people can set limits on how much they can donate per month (reasonably). So, if somebody is set up to donate $1 per post, they could put a limit on that to $5 a month, and so even if there were ten posts the resulting donation would be $5 and not $10.

If you already have good success with donations, this could potentially be a good way of getting your most engaged readers to donate on a routine schedule.
posted by foxfirefey at 1:17 PM on February 19, 2015

You could consider only using what Adblock Plus (which is, I think, the most popular ad-blocker) calls "acceptable ads," which would allow users with that extension to see your ads. More here. (Users of Adblock Plus can opt out of seeing any ads at all, but I think that most don't.)

I've also seen sites that can tell (not sure how) that I am using an ad-blocker, and instead of an ad, they show a message saying "Please turn off your adblocker to support this site!." Personally, I never do - because those sites tend to have annoying ads - but if instead the message asked me to donate, I would consider doing so if I found the site valuable.
posted by insectosaurus at 3:55 PM on February 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

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