WordAds: WordPress.com Bloggers Will Be Able to Advertise

Making Money From Your WordPress.com Blog is one of the most-visited posts on this WordPress.com blog. “Can I run ads?” is one of the questions most often asked on the WordPress.com forums. The short answer to that question has always been “No.” The longer answer involved an exception for certain high-traffic VIP blogs.

Enter WordAds, which exists to provide advertising representation to WordPress.com bloggers. It is a partnership between WordPress.com/Automattic and Federated Media. It is optional for bloggers. It is also optional for WordPress.com, in that bloggers need to apply. In order to do so, they must have custom domains (as this blog does). Even so, not all applications will be accepted.

The post announcing WordAds is rather curiously worded.

We’ve resisted advertising so far because most of it we had seen wasn’t terribly tasteful, and it seemed like Google’s AdSense was the state-of-the-art, which was sad. You pour a lot of time and effort into your blog and you deserve better than AdSense.

I find this curious, because WordPress.com has for years run AdSense on blogs it hosts. The quote seems like acknowledgement of a criticism I’ve often seemed leveled at WordPress.com: that it makes money by marring its bloggers’ content with ads that aren’t, well, terribly tasteful.” It also seems like an unnecessary swipe at Google.

The advent of WordAds raises several questions. Update, two days later: Jon Burke of Automattic/WordPress.com was kind enough to answer my questions via email; hence the italics following each question. See also Matt’s reply to my comment on the announcement post.

  1. What will the terms be? In particular, how much of the ad revenue will go to the blogger? It varies.
  2. Will WordAds replace AdSense on WordPress.com? In other words, if a blogger signs up for neither WordAds nor the No-Ads upgrade, WordPress.com may run ads on the blog: but will it use WordAds or AdSense to do so? AdWords is only for blogs accepted into the AdWords program.
  3. Will there be a plugin to allow self-hosted WordPress blogs to run WordAds? Not in the immediate future.
  4. Will it be possible to run WordAds on non-WordPress sites? No plans for this.

I am fairly confident that the answer to the plugin question (#3) will be “yes,” and rather less sure about answers to the other questions. (Turns out I was wrong, certainly about timing, and possibly about the plugin itself.) If you have answers, guesses, further questions, or other remarks about WordAds, please leave a comment.

Super Bowl Wins Super Bowl in Super Bowl Shock

This was one of those rare years when the Super Bowl game outshone the Super Bowl ads, declared CMO.com. The declaring was actually done by my friend Constantine von Hoffman.

Kid care took me away from the TV, and hence the Super Bowl, at the end of the first half. That means I missed what seems to have been an excellent second half. On the bright side, it means that I was spared the BEP’s halftime show.

As for the ads, consensus seems to be that they came in second place, behind the game and ahead of the BEP. I’d seen the Darth Vader VW ad before the game, thought it was great, and even enjoyed seeing it again.

Then there was that other ad that got a strong reaction: the Tibetan Groupon ad. It struck me as clumsy more than anything else. I think that reasonable people (e.g., Marshall at RWW) may differ on this.

For the most part, the ads simply weren’t interesting. I’m glad that the game was.

Freemium, Ad-Supported Books?

The time for ads in books has come, according to an editorial in yesterday’s WSJ. Why now?

In short, physical books can’t compete with other print media for advertisers. Digital books can. With an integrated system, an advertiser or publisher can place ads across multiple titles to generate a sufficient volume. Timeliness is also possible, since digital readers require users to log in to a central system periodically.

For consumers, the free samples of digital books now available would surely include ads… Seeing ads in the sample may also convince a reader to pay for a premium, non-ad version of the full-length book. The old market segmentation of paperbacks and hardcovers will be replaced by ad-supported or ad-free books.

So books will be ad-supported and freemium. By the way, those two things go together. Why Ben Parr at Mashable thinks that ad-supported and freemium should be pitted against each other is beyond me, unless he was on a really tight deadline for a “web faceoff” post.

I don’t like the idea of ads in my books. But I am used to paying in order to make them my books, so I’d probably pay to get books without ads. And, come to think of it, if I can put up with DRM in books, I can put up with a lot.

The argument that advertisers like ebooks more than pbooks (or whatever we call physical/paper books) is a strong one. But as usual, if you want to see the future, you can go back in time: see Galleycat’s brief history shows that ads in books aren’t new.

New WordPress.com Upgrade: No Ads

WordPress.com is run by Automattic, a for-profit firm. The blogging service is a good example of making money from free stuff: Automattic uses multiple “free business models” to earn profits from WordPress.com.

One of them is advertising: ads sometimes appear on WordPress.com blogs. Another is the freemium model. Although it’s free to blog at WordPress.com, there is a charge for some premium features. For example, I pay $10 a year so that this blog can go by the URI changingway.org.

There is now a new premium feature. Matt posted today, explaining (yet again) why WordPress.com needs to run ads – and explaining the new feature:

it’s easy to imagine blogs that would never want ads on them… Because of this we’ve introduced a premium option that gives you control: the No-ads upgrade.

With this upgrade, no one, whether they’re logged in or not, will see any ads on your blog. Ever. (Or at least as long as you subscribe to the upgrade.)

The No-ads upgrade can be purchased for 30 credits a year ($0.08 a day)

This is very good news, especially since this upgrade costs less than many of us expected. However, some will be disappointed that this is not the often-requested “let us run our own ads” upgrade.

But enough about other bloggers: what about me? Or, to be more precise, what about this blog? WordPress upgrades prices are per blog per year. The cost of running this blog will, when I buy the new upgrade, go through the buck a week barrier ($10 for domain mapping, $15 for CSS, $30 for no ads).

So, as a result of the new upgrade, this blog may become more, rather than less, commercial. In order to keep it at better than breakeven, I’ll have to use more affiliate links. That reminds me, did I tell you about Amazon’s new video on demand service, featuring such fine shows as Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles?

Cost of Ad-Free Blogging at WordPress.com

This blog, like most hosted by WordPress.com, carries ads, albeit not all the time. Automattic controls the ads and gets the money from them. It’s one of the ways in which Automattic makes money from the free WordPress.com service. So this blog, like many hosted by WordPress.com, includes posts about ads and the wish that they were banished from the blog.

The same wish is sometimes expressed on the support forums, although not as often as the wish to be able to control and profit from the ads on one’s blog. People seeking such control and profit seem incapable of using the forum’s search box. The many forum threads include frequent reference to Automattic’s statement that: In the future you’ll be able to purchase an upgrade to either turn the ads off or show your own ads and make money from your blog.

This is course raises the question of how much such an upgrade might cost. I just saw an estimate from the redoubtable raincoaster.

But my guess (and it’s a total guess) is that if there were an upgrade to take Adsense off your blog, it would have to cost at least ten bucks a month. So $120 a year, just to replace the income WP.com makes from the average blog here.

Raincoaster doesn’t work for Automattic or for Google, and she did stress that she’s guessing. But I’d take her “total guess” over a confident prediction by many other people. In particular, I’m inclined to think that she’d got the decimal point in the right place.

I’m also inclined to think that most of us who were planning an upgrade to ad-free had in mind an annual cost of $15 or thereabouts, in line with other upgrades. If it would cost Automattic around 10 times that, we might be waiting a long time for an upgrade we’d care to pay for.

FeedBurner to Carry AdSense

Mashable Kristen seems positively giddy over the news.

Even before Google acquired Feedburner last year, integration of Google ads into Feedburner feeds was an exploratory wonderment that many wanted to blossom into fruition.

I see ads as weeds rather than flowers. I won’t be planting any in my feeds. If I were the polling type, I would ask: what’s more annoying, a partial feed, or a feed with ads?

Facebook: Apology and Everything After

About a month ago, Facebook launched Beacon. Today, Mark Zuckerburg acknowledged that his firm hadn’t been very bright about Beacon.

We’ve made a lot of mistakes building this feature, but we’ve made even more with how we’ve handled them. We simply did a bad job with this release, and I apologize for it…

Last week we changed Beacon to be an opt-in system, and today we’re releasing a privacy control to turn off Beacon completely.

Mark’s post hasn’t lacked for links. For example, today’s poll at Mashable is about “Zuckerberg’s apology and associated updates to Facebook.” As I write this, it’s a close thing between “Too Little, Too Late; Facebook’s Screwed!” and “Nobody Cared Except Us Web Heads Anyway!” with “Good Enough for Me; Let’s Move On” in third place. My own vote in the poll reflected the data I recently gathered.

Facebook: What Beacon Backlash?

It seemed to me that Beacon was one of the bigger stories of the last week or so. My favorite post title is Om Malik’s To Save Its Bacon, Facebook Weakens Beacon. Fred Wilson is more favorable to Facebook than Om is, and than I am for that matter.

My view… is that all of this privacy stuff is way over the top. You need to disclose what you are doing and Facebook has done that… But beyond that, tracking what we do and reporting it to our friends and using that data to target advertising and content is a good thing. In fact, its why the Internet is getting better.

I decided to talk about this today with my students: undergraduate seniors, business majors, in early 20s, fairly equal divide between the sexes. I passed round a sheet asking each student to indicate: Facebook account (yes/no); and extent of knowledge about the Beacon ad program (scale of 0 to 4, with 0 meaning “huh”?).

Here are the results:

  • Of the 64 students, 55 have Facebook accounts.
  • Each of the 9 non-Facebookers reported 0 knowledge of Beacon.
  • 50 of the 55 Facebookers reported 0 knowledge of Beacon.
  • Of the five who admitted to some knowledge: two students gave themselves a 1; two students gave themselves a 2; one students gave herself a 3; and no student claimed a 4.

When we talked about the program later, some students were a little disturbed, but none seemed outraged. One pointed out that every member has accepted Facebook’s Terms of Use, and that these terms explicitly give Facebook the right to change the terms. One of the students who doesn’t currently have a Facebook account remarked to me as he left that the discussion had helped him realize it was time to get one.

Of course, this isn’t research: it’s just anecdote with numbers. Still, I thought I’d pass the numbers along, and try to capture the tone of the subsequent discussion.

Ads on WordPress.com: Intrusive or Elusive?

Pascal van Hecke recently used WordPress.com as a case study in making money with AdSense without annoying your users. I found his post via that girl again, a WordPress.com user annoyed by, among other things, the way it uses AdSense.

Pascal’s post is mainly about “the hoops you have to jump through, in order to enjoy the privilege of being served ads on WordPress.com.” He identifies many such hoops; I have no reason to suppose that he does so inaccurately. Despite the hoops, I still feel that my purchase of the WordPress.com CSS upgrade should entitle me to an ad-free blog.

Facebook, Ads, and Privacy

Within hours of Facebook’s announcement of its social advertising plans, the backlash began. More recently, there have been posts such as Facebook’s Cruel Intentions and The Daily Poll: Are Facebook Beacon Ads Illegal?

Only about one in five of respondents to the poll consider the ads both legal and respectable. Now, there are good reasons for treating the results of that poll less seriously than those of , for example, the comScore Radiohead report. But, to put it mildly, there does seem to be cause for concern for Facebook and its users.

So, let’s sign on to Facebook, for the first time in weeks in my case! Let’s take a look at our privacy page and see what options it gives us relative to ads. I don’t see any. Let’s search the page. There we are! Oh, it’s a link at the foot of the page in case I want to run ads on Facebook.

Maybe there’s some information about ads on the Privacy and Security help page? No.

One of the ways in which Facebook might address the privacy-focused backlash against its ad network would be to make it easy for users to find information and options about the use of their data in ads.