So, what do you think?

42 comments
Story Text:

Today, after much much talk (and other threads previously) about it, we posted our first sponsored post as part of the new ad program.

I'd like to know what you think. It's all well and good talking about it before it's happened, but now it has, your opinions would be apreciated.

Good OR Bad

Be bold, say what you feel. You know i wont censor anything, or mess with it. I'll just answer the questions of those that have an interest in it, negative or positive.

Thanks :)

Comments

Glad you've used [adv.]

So I don't have to click them by mistake thinking they are actual posts/threads. :)

Can't argue that the

Can't argue that the information is good, but since it's motivated by business considerations rather than community considerations, it stands out like a white elephant in the corner of the TW living room. As soon as you put the [adv] label on something, it seems to become more "noise" than "signal." IMO

I like Andy and Patrick's blog and read it regularly. But I think a good, informational post like this is hurt by the fact that you can't visit any SEO/marketing web site today without seeing a Text Link Ads logo/advertisement. There comes a point where you just ignore it and what's around it. Again, IMO

Bad

FWIW, I imagine that many visitors may react quite negatively to Andy's ad as currently delivered. I do, anyway.

I know you ran that thread recently about having a few aff links etc, and got a variety of thoughtful responses.

But this ad, even marked with an 'adv' in the title, sites squarely in the middle of the posting section that I suspect many people will feel is rather sacred.

Personally, I'd have no problem with it, if it were formatted *not* as a post, but perhaps more as a sponsored article, and linked to from a highlighted spot in the right or left column. But to place it in the center essentially says that the site gives it equal weight relative to other non-commercial posts.

It's got a lot of great points, but knowing Andy's relationship with TLA, and the fact that the message is obviously biased, it's hard to swallow as currently served up.

I spent a little time in the ad world (20 years) and pushed the limits many times on behalf of my advertiser clients. Any time we came even close to what was done with Andy's ad, the backlash was quite overwhelmingly negative.

With good reason.

Keep the commercial stuff away from the unbiased user/community stuff (easily done; like I said, just link to these things from somewhere other than in the main posting section).

People have no issue with companies/sites wanting/needing to make money, so long as the line between content is commercial is pretty clearly marked. And that line needs to be particularly well respected in the case of sites/blogs that are clearly associated with the image and reputation of those who run the site.

My 2 cents.

;-)

I don't mind the ads on the

I don't mind the ads on the sidebar or under the initial post in a thread, in fact I like them better than the Adsense ads.

However the thread with a sales pitch does nothing for me. I just ignored it. I agree with pleeker it feels like noise. I disagree on the market saturation angle of ads on several blogs, it has caused me to mention Text Link Ads to others when asked. But that was just with the conventional button ads and not with the thread. Also when I click on an ad I expect and want to be taken to that advertisers website - not a thread. Sorry Nick, that is what I really thing.

It is worth experimenting with tho to see if the click rates and sales are better.

Don't mind...

Like others here, a former journalist, so I might be expected to agree with the verdict of content pollution.

In fact, I don't mind - it seems to me like the "advertorials" which you see in many publications these days. It's clearly marked (which is more than can be said for some of the print counterparts).

The concern I would have is on the advertisers' behalf - for me, something like that is an automatic "page-flick and ignore".

second that

.

if they want me to read it

they need to only write about half as much.

I don't mind the concept but I clicked out of interest, saw how long it was and decided I couldn't be bothered.

Also from the bits I skimmed are they selling to TW regulars? it all seemed a little basic - and I wouldn't call myself an expert on links by any means.

//added - OK I read it more carefully - frankly I don't want an article on links, if I click on something which is meant to be an advert I want to know what they sell, why they're better than other people and what special deal they're going to give me

Much too subtle

I want to know what they sell, why they're better than other people and what special deal they're going to give me

That's where I was a bit surprised. It was much to subtle. When Nick first proposed this I though it was to discuss the products or services -- a much more blatant advert if you will.

Actually, maybe if it were more of a "sell" piece it might not have garnered as much negative reaction. It's trying too much to not be what it really is. Hey, we're adults, if it's an ad, pitch the service.

My prime concern would be

My prime concern would be losing the experienced members, who have maybe turned restricted spare time to find and engage with useful information at Threadwatch, only to find they have to navigate around the very noise they are trying to avoid.

Soaking it up

Don't think im not paying attention :)

Just want to let this run a little before making any real comment ..

thanks, it's appreciated

Hey, an intelligent approach to advertising

It's good to see someone who has thought the whole thing through and trying to extend the concept of advertising on sites like this. Best of luck with it - it will be fascinating to see how it pans out.

Im with Gurtie and Jimbeetle (and Ivan007)

- we all know it's an ad, so lets discuss the product and/or the advertiser in stead: Smack it in our face. What's the pro's and con's of the product, what will it do for us, why should we be customers, are there competing products and what makes this product better than the competition, what are people's experiences, etc.

I think the current post is okay as a basic discussion starter, but it might as well have been a regular thread like it's written now. It doesn't really make me post thoughts or comments on the product that TLA is selling. I think TLA (and us) would benefit more if the discussion was more specific to their particular product than to the industry segment they're in. (I wonder, should I have posted this in the TLA thread in stead?)

Apart from that I still think it could turn out good - need to give it some time to see how it evolves. It is a new and interesting approach.

Regarding the recent post list - as long as there's only one advertiser discussion like now it doesn't bother me much (it's even clearly marked), but if there's suddently five or ten active ad discussions, then it will become a problem. In that case i'd prefer a seperate "recent ad-discussion list".

FYI

the little TLA in-between-posts ad near the top looks screwed up. There's a bit missing from the bottom. I guess it doesn't really fit the standard adsense slot.

Even with everyone here saying it is "noise"

It did start a good conversation, so it seems the idea has some merit. I do kind of wish the italics at the top said something like "This is a paid advertisement." Even with all the references, I somehow still missed it.

Instead of an "informational" thing, I wish the advertisor were talking "to" me instead of "at" me. The article had a generic feel. I'd rather have someone saying "I find this to be useful" instead of "Three useful things when looking for links are..."

It's noise :)

I don't think this strategy would pass either FTC (in the US) or "Forbrugerombudsmanden" (in Denmark - where you are localted, Nick, and most likely your legal ground) if any of them ever decided to evaluate it (which they probably won't because it's way below the rader of any of them).

And to me it makes sense. This is not a post - it's an ad and should be labled as such with much more than just the "adv" prefix. I think, like others have said, it should be moved to a "sponsor" section.

It's not that I care much about it but to me it definately ads to the noise over signal ratio

Some Thoughts

First some of what I feel are the Smaller points:

>FTC

Fuck 'em, it's clearly marked - and this should cover all similar points. It really doesn't come any clearer than having [adv] as the first few characters in the title - what else would i do with it? "****dont click**** it's an advert!**** ----- come on...

>section

I think that's a reasonable call, i'll make a new section called "sponsors" or something in the morning, and move posts of such nature to it.

And now more important stuff...

>posts/editorial

Well, like i said above, i really don't think it comes much clearer. It's linked on the left, and looks like an ad, it's linked under posts, and looks like an ad...

>length

I actaully broke my own rules there, the guys at TLA asked if it might work for the proposed new system and i read it, and genuinely loved it, i thought it was a great piece - it's actually a shame to label it as an ad, i should have just asked them to post it like anyone else would and had them write a "real" ad. My bad, sorry.

It's hard, (oh boo hoo..) to do many things at once, and i fucked up a little there, but we all learn from experience :)

Future

It's quite simple. Either I make this financially viable, or TW closes. That doesn't mean you have to stomach bullshit, but it does mean that a little tolerance would be appreciated.

Thanks everyone!

Didn't bother me a bit. It

Didn't bother me a bit. It was clearly marked. I would've preferred less text in the ad (my attention span gets tinier and tinier as I grow old 'n' weary), but it doesn't matter to me, it only matters to the advertiser, because whether or not the ad works is their problem.

I hate cluttered sidebars, so I think I'd prefer seeing a clearly marked ad in the middle of posts versus stuff on the sides. I will completely ignore anything not right down the middle, but I will occasionally read a politely marked ad in the middle of a page, especially when I have the choice to click or not click on it.

For what it's worth, I think it's an excellent way to incorporate ads. No popups, no ugly flashing stuff, just one line that tells me it's an ad.

You asked...

Nick you said:

Quote:
Good OR Bad

Be bold, say what you feel. You know i wont censor anything, or mess with it. I'll just answer the questions of those that have an interest in it, negative or positive.

So we gave it to you.

Saying this now:

Quote:
That doesn't mean you have to stomach bullshit, but it does mean that a little tolerance would be appreciated.

I don't think anyone said they wouldn't tolerate it, they were simply providing you with the feedback you asked for, in an honest and forthright manner.

Still...

...if my wife asks me: "Tell me, does my @ss look fat in this dress?" she won't like the honest answer ;-]

(all hypothetically speaking of course)

Quite right jill. Don't mind

Quite right jill.

Don't mind me, im just a wee bit exasperated with the monetization issues of TW is all, im sure i'll get over it :)

"Either I make this financially viable, or TW closes"

That is, as they say, the bottom line.

1. It should be possible to make a site with the readership in both quality and quantity as TW financially viable.

2. If you cannot make AdSense work, then it needs to be some other form of sponsorship/ads. Personally I think you have not explored all the options for making AdSense work.

3. SEW have a terrible "in your face" ad layout, but it must pay the bills and does not appear to stop people reading SEW

4. WMW & SEW make money from conferences. I think you have been right not to go down that route.

5. Personally I thought that the "advatorial" for the Text Links was a good, novel idea that worked well for me in bringing the product to me.
Still it has ellucidated so much negative thoughts in the TW columns, that it would be difficult to resurrect, unless there is a "silent majority", like me, that liked the idea, but never contributed that thought.

6. I suspect you are trying to be too democratic. One of the great things about running your own business should be that you can make your own decisions , without having to go to a committee for approval. You stand, or fall, by your own decisions.

Personally I think you have

Quote:
Personally I think you have not explored all the options for making AdSense work.

I had thought about putting one of the big units between the title and copy of posts older than a week - stories zip by here, and whereas there will be posts still being discussed after a week, it won't be many. Most topics are dead within a few days - so maybe that would be good to try.

>democratic

Agreed. Im not adverse to hearing negative thoughts and just doing it anyway though. I think the advatorial needs a little tweaking, not least of which would be to follow my own initial thoughts on it, but it will stay for the time being.

the concepts fine Nick

the idea of having an advertiser post a thread and it then being a discussion still works for everyone I think - it's just what the advertiser chooses to post - to me it has to be either an ad inviting discussion of the product or a short but controversial conversation piece.

Long well thought out articles are, er, long well thought out articles. What's to discuss? I don't know any more about what they do and I don't feel the need to engage them in conversation (and, btw, they don't seem to have come back and got involved in any conversation that did get started....)

To be honest I like the format (easy to ignore if I want to - what's not to like?) and it's not your responsibility to make the ads work it's theirs. I know you want them to work because it'll get repeats but they're just going to have to try different types of posts until they get a decent discussion leading to decent click throughs .....)

It might be worth considering making the [ADV} blah blah blah link a different colour than the normal links? just to make it really obvious?

btw, they don't seem to have

Quote:
btw, they don't seem to have come back and got involved in any conversation that did get started

I asked them to stay out untill a few replies had been made, i assume they'll post replies/address questions shortly - if not, it would be a great shame..

I do agree on the length and topic points.

Who says the idea is dead?

Who says the idea is dead? I think the format is worth experimenting with but 3 days and the feedback on only one ad is not a big enough sample. Try 6 mos.

My advice is to go right ahead and continue with the experiment I think it will be interesting.

Every single website, weblog, forum and web directory owner wonders how to monetize their site enough to at least cover costs so, succeed or fail your experiments help us all.

Frankly, visitors - myself included - will always complain about most any attempts at monetization just because - well, people are an ornery bunch who enjoy recreational griping about almost anything. :)

Just out of curiosity - was

Just out of curiosity - was the original small banner ad layout unworkable, or not so competitive?

Simply because a site with such a strong profile and targeting as this, I should have thought was a pretty hot spot to set up any kind of banner/link advertising on.

I agree

I agree with Brian. Also with whoever said the initial post should have been a discussion of the product/service instead of a tips article. Lastly, I think a specific section devoted to these posts would be best; you never know if someone coming along later might like to have a look.

I understand that, while some wish for an ad-free environment, asking the forum/blog owner to support same with time, money and devotion on little income simply isn't practical over the long haul.

Nick its great that you ask

Nick its great that you ask us for feedback, but I think you should now do whatever you think will work best, you wont be able to please everyone.

Are you really getting feedback from the right people?(no offence to anyone its great we all want to help) Guess it depends on whether you think you can make more money from regular members or new/casual surfers. Most commenting here are regulars and want to see you make money. These same people are probably already aware of most of the products you will feature, probably ad blind, and will stick around no matter what you do. Guessing there are lot more regulars that are not saying anything and that they don’t mind either way.

FWIW...

...I feel that a separate section for ads is NOT a good idea, nor the suggestions to make them stand out more (like using another colour for them). What good will they be to the adverstiser if they get a warning label ("Warning: real, dead, unboned, crunchy frog inside" - or something to that avail)? That'll take the value out of them in no time.

Of course I don't like deceit, but especially TW regulars will notice it's an ad with the [adv] bit stuck on. But it is intended to be read by people, regulars and lurkers and all, and making it stand out like a sore thumb won't help. Most of us try to more or less blend in our (adsense) ads into the content, right? Respecting the TOS, naturally.

Hmmm, I guess I'm trying to say that people who can't tell an ad from a post will not mind anyway, and those who can should really be proud that they could tell the difference and leave it at that. No need for TW to lead people by the hand.

The [adv] bit will do fine. I'd probably added just a *) to the end and a 7px disclaimer at the bottom of the page ;-]

Regarding Monetization

Personally, I don't think one can really ever make enough money on a forum or a newsletter or anything like that which is there to provide great info to people. You can make a little bit with ads that helps cover some costs, but if you're thinking you can make a full time job out of it, I'd think again.

Where one makes money on something like this is by selling their own services. People who like and trust the forum owner and the one who posts the most is generally through buying services (or perhaps even products) from them.

If you're not doing SEO services for others anymore Nick, then I'm not sure what to tell you. I really don't think you can make money on something like this other than through the credibility it gives you. That is extremely important if leveraged correctly.

That said, I really don't have any ideas for you other than selling something that is TW branded, be it services, conferences, products or whatever.

Comments

I think the ad, article & discussion format all look great.

Nothing's really changed on this site (there were ads there before anyway) so there's really nothing for people to complain about. And if they don't like it, they don't have to visit.

My personal comment would be to remove the [adv] - I find it jarring and makes me think of spam.

Perhaps instead, just below the article title have a short one or two line disclaimer perhaps in a different font/color - "This is an article and discusion bought to you by our sponsor..."

And my honest opinion is that I personally wouldn't even give people the option to turn off ads. If it bothers them so much, they can install an ad blocker.

This site has to make money to keep going, and if some people are upset by a little advertising and the opportunity for you to keep this site a viable entity, are they really the sort of visitors you want?

i love it!

personally i absolutely love it. in fact i almost think it's perfect, the only criticism i have is the one voiced by gurtie, in that the article should be shorter (although it was a great read nonetheless, so i'm really just nitpicking here). but perhaps that's more of an issue with TLA than with you. although maybe a word max would be a good idea? just a thought. anyway thanks TW and TLA, this is the kind of advertising that i actually want.

Not every post is going to

Not every post is going to be overtly interesting to everyone. To fit the needs of your audience you need to have some post that only some will like, so long as you are making 10 posts a day and there are only a few advert threads a month I do not think it should be too annoying.

One thing I do wonder about is the idea of reintroducing the advertiser again and again, odds are once or twice is no big deal, but if it was done 6 months in a row some people might start to say blah to it.

Keep it for now Nick...

I have to say I agree with the six months evaluation instead of one paid ad.

And, keep in mind, everyone is going to bitch about ads no matter what the format. That is a given. So, just do what you need to do.

Is there a reason you are totally against a subscription based model for at least part of the site?

My thoughts

I think you need to have another couple of tries at this before knowing. My initial reaction to the pieces was "will come back later when I have time", then I read it and didn't feel I had anything to say. Perhaps if questions were asked or something it might have launched more of an interesting discussion. I disagree it was a good discussion starter but it was a good article. A shorter post with more of an interesting lead into discussion topic would have worked better for me. How about "how could we improve our service" - got to be some value in such a discussion?. As a piece of advertising it helped position the company and also TW as a forum for this, though the ROI will be the real test. I thought the cashkeywords dealy was better but as I say, this particular thread didnt float my boat where another topic might.

Adsense

Thanks a lot for all the comments everyone, again sorry for a little foot stomping early in the thread - didn't have a great weekend heh..

Quote:
Is there a reason you are totally against a subscription based model for at least part of the site?

Yeah, i don't really like the idea of "them and us" - i've done a lot of things (small things) here to avoid any seperation or grouping of members becuase i feel it would not be good for a growing community. Rightly or wrongly, that's how i feel.

I do agree with the points about length, and about topic. I will be talking to Patrick and Andy later in the week and seeing how they think it went, and almost certainly inviting them to do something more inline with the points you've all made above.

Adsense

I know cornwall hates me for not doing more with my adsense :) but i've just done something...

I've put adsense in every post older than 2 days, for non-logged-in users.

The reason i've not just done it on all is that i don't want to alienate the RSS crowd. If you log out, and view a post from a few days back, you'll see it.

And yes cornwall, i did use a new channel :)

Nick, if you want to throw money away, well..

Adsense is a very sensitive little creature. You basically have to fiddle and test, in order to make money. Most "hints" on Adsense that you read in forums are cobblers - you have to find what suits your site

The two Adsense threads hightlighted in this current TW thread appear to contain but one nugget, the tip about the use of photos - and that would not necessarily work for everyone, but it does show how you can get an big increase in income by trying and testing. There are 150 odd posts between the two threads.

Even small changes like changing the background or border by one shade can make a difference, but you have to monitor to know what is working.

Yep, and im going to work on

Yep, and im going to work on it cornwall, promise!

Tracking

Are you using one of those adsense-click-tracking scripts? Might be worth a pop

No, im not using anything -

No, im not using anything - and have forgotten the urls and what was recommended - wanna fill me in chris?

Cant find on WMW

Can't find the free script on WMW any more but there are commercial versions. 'Course seeing as the complicated bit is javascript you could just find a site that is using it, rip it off and roll your own backend. I wouldn't do that of course, I'm honest me.

Monday a.m. catchup...

the idea of having an advertiser post a thread and it then being a discussion still works for everyone I think

Yes, but the problem was that the advertiser posted a thread and then the discussion was all over here in this thread. Maybe the better experiment would've been to leave the TLA post as is and for this one to never have existed. I wonder what kind of discussion (if any?) the TLA post would've generated had we not known it was an experiment....

Frankly, visitors - myself included - will always complain about most any attempts at monetization just because

I sure hope my comments early on, and the comments of others, weren't viewed as complaining. I was trying to supply the feedback Nick had requested.

Yeah, i don't really like the idea of "them and us" - i've done a lot of things (small things) here to avoid any seperation or grouping of members becuase i feel it would not be good for a growing community. Rightly or wrongly, that's how i feel.

That's smart, IMO. I'm of the opinion that WMW went south the minute that plan was put in place. I'd hate to see the same happen to TW.

Nick - you've got a great community here and I think it's terrific that you solicit input and opinions.

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