All about those in-image ads

Updated Oct 30 2017


Normally the business side of running the Offbeat Empire blogs lives, well, here on the Offbeat Empire's behind-the-scenes blog. But today on Offbeat Home & Life, Megan did a post about her and my joint decision to add in-image ads to the site. It felt important to do over there, since it's something we anticipated the reader community would have LOTS of opinions about.

First, I want to give Megan major snaps for the way she walks the line on that post — she framed it as good cop/bad cop, and at first I was like, "Omg, you're being really negative about this!" and then I got to this part:

I'm like, "Oh look at me, I'm Ariel, I have employees depending on me, and I want my business to make money. Blahblahblah…" *fart noise*

Then I laughed and was like, "I'm fine being bad cop if people understand that it's so I can, like, PAY MY STAFF."

Anyway, while Megan's got the conversation taken care of over on Offbeat Home & Life, I did want to share the short-term results of adding in-image ads on the site, which you can see up there in that chart. In-image ads have been running on Offbeat Families since the site shut down, as a way to recoup losses. Generally, revenue hovered around $7-$8/day. We enabled the ads on Offbeat Home & Life around 10am PST on Friday, and even though traffic is lower on weekends, you can see that daily revenue jumped up to $33/day.

More importantly, reader response has been overwhelmingly understanding and compassionate. When I first tested in-image ads on Offbeat Families in 2012, the readers response was swift, vocal, and full of rage. Readers threatened to stop submitting to the site, because they didn't want ads "plastered on babies' faces." Since the site's content was primarily user-submitted, that was a threat that had very real ramifications. The test only lasted two weeks, and I only felt ok re-enabling the in-image ads on Offbeat Families this year because at this point the site is an archive, and not a community.

I know invasive ads are nobody's favorite thing. I'm a fan of adblockers. I TOTALLY get it. But the fact that Offbeat Home & Life's readers not only aren't complaining about the change, but are actually welcoming it? (Going so far as to flag when they're not seeing the ads, out of concern for our bottom line.) It's super warm-fuzzy-making, and more importantly, feels like it really confirms my longstanding belief that being transparent and open with your community creates a dialog that can be powerfully positive.

Yes, we all know this is a business. Yes, we all know that if these sites are going to stick around, they have to do more than break even — they have to be revenue-generating (or go the way of Offbeat Families). But completely separate from those business issues, I just love this fucking community. I want Offbeat Home & Life to get profitable, because I don't want it to go away. Because I genuinely, personally love it, and super genuinely, personally love the community.

  1. I really do think your honesty and transparency about it all is what helps your followers welcome it with open arms. It's really easy to forget the real people behind the screen who rely on this as their income.

  2. Hooray warm fuzzies!

    I also reinstated my Tugboat Yards contribution, which I let lapse when my credit card expired the same month I had a baby so that fell by the wayside.

    I really want Offbeat Home & Life to stay. I don't come around nearly as much as I did when Offbeat Families was around (which is a shame), but if H&L went away, there really would be nothing left for me (Bride isn't relevant to me anymore). And I would hate to leave the Empire entirely. It feels like home.

  3. I think this is a great idea (although maybe I don't get an opinion since not being in the US I'm not really impacted by the change).
    I'm intrigued though as to how much difference this makes. Does $33 a day make the site profitable? Is it significant in terms of other sources of income (which would be, if I'm remembering this correctly, income from affiliates and sponsored posts)? I know you said previously that 200 supporters at $5 a month would avoid ads – but is that including already existing revenues or would that alone be enough that the site doesn't need an OBB subsidy?
    I hope this doesn't come across as rude, I'm just curious about what the actual numbers involved are (and a bit scared that H&L might be close to the margin on disappearing and wanting reassurance!).

  4. I'm really curious how the ads help boost profit. Are advertisers paying just to be seen? Are people actually clicking on photo ads? I know I personally never see a pop up ad and think "Ooh, I should click that!", but it's entirely possible I'm in the minority.

    As always, I'm all for anything that helps keep the Empire afloat, and you guys have definitely worked hard to earn and keep the community's trust.

    • These particular kinds of ads are pay–per-view, so all you have to do is see them for the Empire to make money.

      Other ads on the site are pay per click, or flat rate pre-paid per month…. And yes, it's complicated! As always, I don't want readers to change their behavior… Don't feel like you need to click anything. Ultimately, the site is not sustainable if readers have to be trained to interact with it in profitable ways.

      • That's good to know! I habitually keep an adblocker on at all times – I'll see if I can undo it for the Offbeat Empire specifically. Especially since you don't use popups ::shudder::.

  5. Ariel, I really appreciate your philosophy on not training users to use the sites, but to let them use the sites in a way that feels natural to them. I've noticed that your philosophy is sometimes at the back of my mind when using other sites or Facebook.

    One example that comes to mind is that some of the pages I follow on Facebook are asking people to do a dot or smiley in the comments as an easy way to bring their posts higher up the news feed. I genuinely support these sites, including buying from them, but sometimes I feel weird to do the dot, since it's not my natural way to interact with the page. In my mind I know it's super easy to type a few characters but it mostly doesn't feel right to me so I don't do it.

  6. Bring on the ads. If it makes Offbeat Home a place that stays around, then I'll definitely put up with the ads. I can't imagine how sad I'd be if I lose Families AND THEN Home. I'd have to probably get an Offbeat Therapist or something 🙂

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