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Distinctions between Blogs with Ads and Blogs Without

Here’s a quote for the day from Dave Winer for us to ponder – I’m interested in your thoughts in comments below:

‘A blog without ads is itself an ad, interesting to a small number of people. Blogs with ads, like their print counterparts, strive to be as broad as possible, to reach as many people, and in doing so, lose their value as an ad for the author.’

I’m not sure I completely agree with Mr Winer on this one. In fact many of the blogs that I see with ads these days focus right in on a small target (quite the opposite of broad appeal) of readers who are interested in a niche. In doing so the author potentially becomes a real authority in the niche as a result of his or her blog. One of the blogs that comes to mind on this is Reiter’s Camera Phone Report.

Alan Reiter is the author of this blog which has become quite legendary in it’s niche. From what I can tell Alan has made quite a name for himself as a result of this blog which has ads and which has a very focused topic and readership.

Perhaps I’m misinterpreting Dave’s point – but to me it doesn’t make much sense. I’m interested in others comments.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. As someone with a targetted blog with ads, I have to like your point of view better! :)

    I think Mr. Winer’s observation is true of some blogs, but that doesn’t mean it has to be true of all blogs. It’s all up to the author of a blog how his/her blog will face the reader.

  2. Digerati Dave can’t be right about everything, Darren :-). I made the same point on another of your threads earlier today. Maybe the Digger copied it … but got it wrong!

  3. I guess its a two way street. It is easier to get more $/visitor on a narrowly focused blog, but on the other hand, general blogs have the potential to get more visitors. If you look at the top blog according to Technorati (Boing Boing, Instapundit and Daily Kos), these are all general blogs and I’m sure they pull in lots of money from ads.

    I also don’t get Dave Winer’s point about a blog with ads loosing all value as an ad for the author. Your blog has ads and is a great ad for you too!

  4. Ian McKenzie says:

    Dave seems a little oblique –or maybe- broad ;)– in making his point. My first interpretation, on reading his post, was the often-touted opinion that, publications depending on advertising revenue cannot afford to publish content that offends potential revenue as represented by advertisers. Therefore, content needs to be seen as meeting the consumer’s need for information, while avoiding any perception of alienating the revenue source; hence “broad”. Your topic could be narrow while the content seeks the broad middle road.

    I’m not sure this opinion is valid for push-style advertising, common to blogs. A blogger has limited control of the ads served by a company, such as Google. So long as the blogger is not violating Google’s program policies, any content, narrow or broad, is going to attract some type of ad placement.

  5. Yeah, Dave’s off on this one. My site will never be a mass-appeal board-audience one, because if you don’t care about local Portland politics (sometimes in mind-numbing wonkish detail), you’re not going to read it on anything resembling a regular basis.

    And yet I have ads, because, well I have to because this is supposed to be a full-time job for me and I need all the money from it I can get.

    And yet the site does also serve as an “ad” for me, because I’m routinely cited for the work I’m doing.

    So, yeah, Dave’s off on this one.

  6. Dave Winer is big hypocrite: his main blog has no ads but he is linking from it to his websites that have a lot of ads…

  7. JSLogan says:

    I’m not sure I understand too.

    The more specifc your blog, the more interested and specifc your audience, the more likely to find interest in targetted ads.

    The “be everything to everyone” approach to business rarely works…and blogs with a purpose of making money are no exception.

  8. I think Dave’s mostly wrong–first he misses the point that most successful weblogs with ads (and many of their print counterparts) try to focus on very narrow niches, since it’s very hard to make money on traffic alone. Second, he seems to be saying that his “blog without ads” is “interesting to a small number of people”–his Technorati ranking seems to disagree with that.

    Nonetheless, I think there’s a nugget of truth in there:

    IF you intend your weblog to be “an ad for its author”, you have to be a little bit careful with advertising because it can dilute your message, and there’s a chance it will influence what you write about.

    As an example, I’ve seen e-commerce sites that were plastered with AdSense ads, often for their competitors. That doesn’t inspire my trust in the company. Amazon, on the other hand, includes Adsense-like ads in its search results, but they’re small and it’s obvious that their primary mission is to sell me Amazon products.

    As another example: The Adsense ads here don’t seem to affect Darren editorially–otherwise he’d write about Tivo and digital cameras here. But recently a bunch of webloggers had contracts with Marquis that included regular writings about Marquis, and frankly that diluted their message almost constantly.

  9. Arieanna says:

    A blog with ads is still a blog. Effective advertising is a compliment not a deterrent. We all know Dave is against advertising and has built arguments around that. However, blogs that use ads can still be, and are, just as informative, interesting and influential. We are given a choice to use ads, and are given a choice to subscribe to blogs that have them.

  10. jim says:

    I think the distinction is in the intent of the blog and the experience of the blogger him or herself. You have, essentially, four categories (loosely definted) of bloggers.
    1) Inexperienced, looking to make money, writes about a bunch of disparate topics hoping to get some clicks.
    2) Experienced, niche-focused blogger looking to make money.
    3) Seasoned blogger who doesn’t have ads, doesn’t write to make money, just enjoys it.
    4) Seasoned blogger who has ads, doesn’t write to make money but decided to put on ads for beer money.

    I think Dave’s opinion has a bit of merit but the categories he’s using are too broad. I, of course, could be totally off.

  11. Griffith says:

    I have to say that in most cases I’ve seen, what mr. Winer says is true. Usually when a blogger decides to bring advertisement to his blog he tries to desperatly increase his number of visitors by writting articles about the most popular items and issues at the cost of his blog’s substance.

    I used to think that blogs with categories were superior to the ones without, but with each passing day I think that most those blogs lose quality due to the diversity of subjects (which is kind of ironic, since I’m an editor for such a blog myself).

    There’s a phrase which explains what we’re debating perfectly:
    - “Jack of all trades, master of none”

  12. IO ERROR says:

    I put AdSense on my blog expecting to maybe have a check once a year or so. What I write about has changed little; I still tackle controversial topics and I still post my own opinions and invite disagreement and debate. But much to my surprise I’m now getting a check every month. So what? I’d still be writing even without the ads.

  13. aword says:

    Inorder to have a good check coming in, you need to have good traffic. How do you get quick traffic? Well, here is a technique discussed in the blog article on Planned slashdotting

  14. Tommy says:

    I agree with some of the earlier comments. My task is to write articles about making money online. Therefore, I have ads to a limited extent. Certain topics make no sense without advertisements. So, I guess my whole blog is an ad! I just hope someone visits it soon. ;-)