In light of that incidence last week with those terrible pop up ads, I have a question for the assembled multitudes:

Running the blog at this point requires a decent amount of expenditures. Hosting, editorial assistance, research all costs some shekels, and that cost is covered with the current advertisers.

I keep getting pitched on “Advertorials” but I have precisely zero interest in that. And I have done the Subscription thingie, and it holds little appeal to me.

That pretty much leaves Advertising or Sponsorship.

If we stay with the advertising, it would mostly continue to be the current rotating list of finance related and luxury brands you see. I think I want to kill the Google Adsense. (I thought I killed those terrible text ads, but they keep returning like Herpes).

The sponsorship route is less noisy, but it means the site is pretty much “The Big Picture Sponsored by Ferrari NA“, or more likely, some finance related entity like Blackrock or Vanguard. Perhaps a less intrusive combination of sponsorship and advertising is possible.

Any thoughts, feedback, ideas?
 

Category: Weblogs

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

65 Responses to “Blog Finance: Advertising, Sponsorship, Advertorial, Subscription?”

  1. isolde100 says:

    Readers want information not useless ads. Some suggestions:
    - sponsored white papers or research papers or “investing tips”, how to manuals, webinars from companies and people you actually do trust
    - very short sponsored posts with link to trading software or trading platforms (see Daring Fireball for the least intrusive way to promote advertisers) that you like (note: you can have sponsors for just about any product you like e.g. cars, hotels, designer furniture, designer clothes, professional publications, luxury watches, etc.)

    You will be surprised that people do read sponsored case studies, research papers, how-to manuals, and other things that give information. I tried this on my site MuniWireless (which is for the Wi-Fi industry) and it works.

    • Readers want information not useless ads.

      Thats what I try to provide

      Sponsored white papers or research papers or “investing tips”, how to manuals, webinars from companies and people you actually do trust

      I have plans to create variations of the above ourselves. Prefer to avoid someone else calling the tune

      (see Daring Fireball for the least intrusive way to promote advertisers)

      I am literally wearing a Daring Fireball t-shirt right now, which makes your comment a little spooky.

      You will be surprised that people do read sponsored case studies, research papers, how-to manuals, and other things that give information. I tried this on my site MuniWireless (which is for the Wi-Fi industry) and it works.

      Point taken — thanks!

      • rd says:

        I haven’t had any issues with the advertizing etc. on the site to date. Right now I see an ad for a ProShares ETF and HP Elitepad.

        I think that it would be smart for companies that you have trust in and use in your business and personal life provided sponsoered things, that would be win-win advertising.

        I do find it amusing on many sites where they have a column touting how bad high fees are and how improtance it is to invest in low-cost index funds while all of the ads on the site are screaming “Buy my book to learn how to avoid the next crash!”.

  2. jball says:

    BR, You’ve done a stellar job so far, so I say whatever suits you.(And perhaps whatever’s easiest for you) It is, after all, your show.

  3. Petey Wheatstraw says:

    As long as your sponsor was outside the banking/financial services markets, I don’t see a problem with the sponsorship/sponsorship and advertising options.

    Your readership certainly covers a market segment that would appeal to a substantial number of hi-end product/service providers that would not give the appearance of conflict or loss of editorial freedom (Ferrari NA is a good example. BTW, BR — did you pull them out of a hat or is something afoot?).

    I’d also point out that your blog has matured and you have proven your staying power (your visibility in the media stands as a testament to that). Your numbers are probably highly salable. I’m sure you do rely on a substantial amount of help, and help does not come cheap. OPM is good.

    • A few years ago, there was an inquiry about advertising the Ferrari 458, including covering a track day (and seat time!).

      The car sold out 2 years of a production in the 1st day, and (heh heh) that advertising went away !

  4. jaymaster says:

    If you’re making enough money to cover costs with the way you have things set up now, that works for me. I don’t find the current ads intrusive or bothersome.

  5. A7LB says:

    It ain’t broke.

  6. coffeeteacoffee says:

    The ads you are seeing don’t necessarily reflect what everyone else sees because advertisers track you from site to site these days. I currently see three women’s clothing ads on your site (not luxury brands, but not bargain basement, either). Two of the ads are a little annoying because they keep scrolling, but I see those same ads everywhere these days so I mostly ignore them.

    I’ve never seen text ads on your site, or any pop-ups; have you checked your computer for adware recently?

    I find AdSense is the best choice these days for small publishers, but if I could get a sponsor instead I would.

  7. scecman says:

    I have no clue about the mechanics of running a subscription site, but I would totally pay a nominal fee for access. Maybe something like the NYT model works; 5 or 10 articles free for anyone per month, then you must subscribe.
    Completely cool with whatever you decide!

  8. thelistenerd says:

    The Deck (boutique ad network serving up Daring Fireball and Kottke’s ads) does it right. If this site (which is great) doesn’t fit with their design-focused audience and aesthetic, start a network that caters to an audience with your blog’s profile. Short of that, go premium – not fully sponsored, but one ad, good placement, carefully chosen, point readers to it.

  9. scottinnj says:

    How meaningful can the revenue be from Amazon click-throughs? I do try to support sites by clicking through the Amazon link (I’d do that here and I suspect others would as well). It may be drops in the proverbial bucket, though.

  10. JH says:

    Sponsorship beats Ads even for the sponsor. Many Quality people listen to public radio to avoid the noisy ads

    The sponsor should link to their charitable cause to get clicks with an offer to contribute per click

    Set the standard Barry…..once again

    Jay

  11. MOG says:

    @ritholtz It’ll be a work in progress. You’re content is excellent, so you won’t lose readers.

    Mitchell

  12. JG says:

    You can have a small $$ subscription for the Comments which may cut back the Cognitive Challenged who pay in gold/bitcoin.

  13. banksave says:

    A couple thoughts – I can only assume from my own setup, but I think most traders are pretty technically savvy & will be using browsers which block advertising and stop Google Analytics, SiteMeter, etc from tracking their visit. Thus, if you’re making enough currently to cover your nut, keep doing it – it’s not bothering anyone.

    Second, what might be interesting would be a soft dollar arrangement with some providers you use for a white paper or review of their product and why you use it. I think your readers would find real value in this – charting software, research & data providers, trading platform, even systems setup and why you use them would all be interesting to readers.

    In any case, you provide some great insight and we will continue to come back to read you and follow your pieces in the press.

    Thanks.

  14. tradeking13 says:

    How about a micro-donation service like Flattr (http://www.flattr.com/)?

  15. carl says:

    Have you thought about white label advertising? I’m sure there are lots of products / services you use or endorse that apply to your reader base. White labels would solve the “noise” problem but may take some work to establish.

    Good luck – I enjoyed reading your blog for the past 2 years.

  16. Tim says:

    Charge us Barry. Your blog is exceptional. Please give me a discount for suggesting this. P.S. I’m a management conslutant. (correct spelling :~)

  17. advsys says:

    Ads are okay by me. I am completely immune. I don’t even notice them. Not of course what your advertisers want to hear.
    Sponsorship leads to bias. Can’t be helped.

  18. Jamiter says:

    I pay to read your content, but whatever works for you.

  19. jimh009 says:

    My two cents…stick with Google Ads, books or similar and do a bit of “sponsored” stuff if need be. The problems with sponsored stuff is that it start to seems like you no longer own your own blog.

    But avoid the whole Advertorial thing – that would be a black eye on your blog in my opinion (de-legitimizes it in a big way, inmo) and probably a death sentence in the Google search engine in time (Google just started cracking down on websites full of Advertorials).

    As for the Google Ads, remember that the ads you see when viewing your own site are different than what others see. If done correctly, Google Ads really don’t detract from how a site looks. The problem is that since TBP is a blog, you get a lot of the same visitors returning over and over again (like me). Repeat visitors quickly become “blind” to ads and never click them (popular online forums have the exact same problem).

    As for subscription models, I personally don’t like them but…i can understand why you might gravitate towards that model. It just would be a big bummer to lose your very unique voice online!

  20. nofoulsontheplayground says:

    Barry, I think sponsorship could work, particularly if you split it up according to categories you have on the site.

    For example, you could have a someone like Blackrock or Fidelity sponsor the “Think Tank” portion, and a luxury brand sponsoring the Weekend portion. I’d leave the main site sponsor free, only sponsoring a couple of the sub categories of your site.

    Of course, if you’re using Amazon Web Services, maybe they could sponsor the entire site.

  21. tricky says:

    Advertising is fine but I agree with getting rid of the adwords which add little value to you or us..

    A skyscraper or smaller ads down the side would be unobtrusive, perhaps one at the foot of the post above comments. There are agencies and websites that do a pretty good job of matching your demographic and with your traffic should provide good $$$ without offending anyone. I wouldn’t do a subscription as your readership will disappear, there’s just too many things to subscribe to these days.

    So maybe sponsor the whole blog and then run discreet rotating ads automated by an agency

  22. S Brennan says:

    Don’t have the answer, but I’d guess a dollar spent on a well placed* ad at BP is worth $100.00 spent someplace else. Paraphrasing an ad campaign from long ago “Charge more…because you are worth it”

    * Quality goods and services

  23. changja says:

    Sponsorship can become a dangerous path, esp if they’re related to the finance field. While your integrity may not be compromised, there’ll always be a lingering doubt to others and even subconsciously it could happen.

    I highly suggest avoiding Sponsorships, too much COI potential in my opinion.

    • I would only consider sponsorships from those entities who would never suggest editorial interference — BMW, Virgin Atlantic, American Express, TD, Blackrock, Vanguard, Bloomberg, Financial Times, etc.

  24. Bridget says:

    What ads?

  25. HometownNJ says:

    Advertisements are fine.

    Your blog is amazing – always interesting. Certainly the best and most informative financial column on the web.

    Keep up the good work !!!

  26. mpetrosian says:

    Create a space on the site for taking donations. Maybe do an annual campaign. Plenty readers of TBP
    pay good money, like $1000 annually, to read Rosenberg or Keene’s Bloomberg letter. You’ve got many
    appreciative readers.

    Troll reader

    • I was never a big fan of a the tip jar, IMHO, it seems kinda needy and sort of unprofessional.

      • a2ricedgti says:

        “I was never a big fan of a the tip jar, IMHO, it seems kinda needy and sort of unprofessional.”

        Think of it as commission! The “pay what you can” model is great because people who support feel good about contributing to something as compared to gleaming a few pennies* per click from subjecting them to advertising.

        Granted, for me adverts are fine…I’ve gotten so used to ignoring them I did not actually realize your site was lacking in them.

        *Or maybe more than pennies: http://www.wordstream.com/articles/most-expensive-keywords

  27. gstream says:

    Put me down for the herpes if it keeps this site free.

    1) I like the idea of you/Fusion offering some of your own white papers and other long form reads. This doesn’t really do anything for you in terms of ad revenue, however it is related to:

    2) Any idea how many of your readers have turned into clients? Probably difficult to place an accurate dollar value on that, but it should be considered in the overall cost equation of the website. Perhaps some of your white papers will attract even more clients.

    • Earlier this year, on the asset management side, we started crunching numbers related to that. It will take a few quarters to get a good read on it, but the early data is small % of readers but a large $ maount.

      The white papers/analyses/how tos will happen going forward — figure 2014 or as design interns come on board!

  28. huguesm says:

    Sponsors look nicer and cleaner, but are not worth it if cognitive biases force you to hold your editorial tongue six months from now when one of them is caught in the next horrible financial scandal.

    This being said I am perfectly happy with the current arrangement and do not think that your site is broken in any way.

  29. lore927 says:

    The only commercial I see (I am EU based) is a small banner on top of the page. Almost don’t notice it.

  30. fallond says:

    If there was a way to (micro-)charge readers to leave comments on articles. There has to be value in been able to add a comment on a well read site?

    Declan

  31. Malachi says:

    No problem with current ads either although occasionally if I’m browsing on my iPhone (vs typically on computer) the popup ads can get in the way of me seeing the article or browsing forward.

    Sponsorship from non-financial company works as well.

    I also trust you Barry so I imagine whatever you decide will work well.

  32. JATranfo says:

    Howard Lindzon’s and Tom Peterson’s Social Leverage fund just invested in a business called Skyscraper to address exactly this need:

    https://www.skyscraper.io/

    This morning I reached out to Paul Burger, Skyscraper’s founder, and passed along this opportunity. I believe it’s worth a look. Disclosure: I’m an investor in Social Leverage, and therefore in Skyscraper.

    Good luck!

  33. D_H says:

    I am a big fan of the site as is and don’t perceive anything being broken.

  34. Joe says:

    If the ads cover it…. let it be. I see what interests me and the rest fades into the back ground.

    To the extent that you see the blog as a public service, a subscription sets a gate for the first time reader.

    Sponsership is risky conceptually and how do you feel about being contract to a single entity?

    As was said above, it’s working fine for me. Changes are on you….

  35. Willy2 says:

    - Currently the archive goes back to 2001 and with each blogpost the archive keeps growing. Limit the size of the archive to the last, say 2 or 4 years or to the last, say 100 or 200 posts.
    - Automatically kill/close comments, after, say 2 or 4 weeks, or after, say 20 or 30 posts.
    - Stop embedding videos that swallow up big chunks of TBP’s bandwidth. Instead, provide a picture that links to the original posting (e.g. YouTube). (Do those embedded videos actually pass through the TBP servers ?).

    Pick and choose whatever you like and what’s possible. Should shrink the size of the amount of hosting space significantly and therefore reduce costs.

    - Advertisements from serious (financial) companies (e.g between posts): absolutely no problem !! As long as they’re marked accordingly.
    - Add a “Donate” button. It would make clear how much people appreciate your work.
    - Subscription ? But then TBP should provide some incentive to subscribe. Extra videos ? Higher priority for videos ? Extra bandwidth ? Embedded videos ? ………. ?
    - Advertorials ? No thanks.
    - Google text ads (e.g. between posts or on the right hand side of the page) ? Depends on what stuff they promote.
    - Sponsorships ? Depends on how intrusive the ads/banners are. Perhaps as a last ditch attempt ?

  36. sakhalinsk says:

    Tough one

    But… the few ads work for me. A price worth paying. Unobtrusive on Chrome, even without any adblockers.

    I’d question the concept of firewalling it. Sure many current readers may just sign up, but you’ll get fewer new readers. Avoid, if you can. The other alternate routes might be better.

    Great blog. Always on my read list. FT Alphaville & Ritholtz, even these days where the financial fever has abated somewhat.

    I must admit, I’ve often wondered what sort of readership numbers you get, both now and at the height of the crisis.

    Good luck with whatever you choose!

  37. Alain says:

    I like the current set up and I don’t mind the ads at all. I have to better at doing the Amazon click throughs since I have bought quite a few books that were brought to my attention here.

  38. Chad says:

    I don’t mind the ads or even the pop-ups. The quality of the site is worth a slight inconvenience now and then. Though, I’m not sure if an extra click or a few extra ads are much of an inconvenience.

    You should be careful with sponsorship. Personally, I have read you long enough that I don’t think you would be influenced by a sponsor, but many would. Plus, it would give other people ammunition against you. As others have said, a sponsorship by a company that doesn’t appear to have anything more to gain than exposure is better than one that appears to be buying influence. Just keep it in mind.

    Whatever you do make sure you make something from this site, as it is valuable for us and you deserve it for the information you provide.

  39. DeDude says:

    I was not going to complain about those intrusive adds because it was your site (and as expected you got rid of them), but I could not help wandering who the heck (in advertising) would think it was a good idea. I was left with very strong negative feelings against the companies advertised (as in “who the heck are you daring to stand in the way and blocking my access to the content I was trying to access”).

    I understand your need to get more revenue to run the site and would be fine with more adds and goggle adds. It is kind of fun to get adds for water-heaters 3 months after you searched google and had a new one installed. Also, clearly marked sponsored content would be acceptable. So far, your judgement on what is acceptable or not has been perfect in my opinion. Some kind of “tip jar” may not be a bad idea. I am sure that whatever way you go to make things work, will be fine.

  40. Slash says:

    Note in case it’s relevant: I work in advertising.

    I hate pop-ups. If a site gives me too many pop-ups (like more than one per visit), I just leave. I don’t mind sponsorships, as long as I am aware of them. Another site I go to actually has sponsored links (labeled prominently as such) and those are OK too. I will occasionally visit them, if they have something that interests me.

    Not all corporate info is useless. I assume most of it is self-serving, but then again, most expressions by humans, whether finance-related or not, are self-serving.

    Advertisers do want to influence people, that’s for sure. But they also want to know what people really think. We actually pay a lot of money to get accurate insight from people on consumer motivation and attitudes, not just what they think we want to hear. Bullshit is not useful intelligence. And we would not advise clients to annoy the hell out of potential customers by filling their internet experience with annoying pop-up ads (I don’t think any of our clients use them). The kinds of outfits that use those are the ones you would expect. The ones that have to blink at you and make you chase them around to close the window because it’s the only way they can get your attention.

    I honestly haven’t noticed the ads (which may or not be a good thing). I haven’t experienced any pop-ups here, I guess I missed out.

  41. With or without adds, I find your blog has excellent content. I can put up with adds, if this guarantees the continuance of this blog. There are always trade-offs in life.

  42. iScott says:

    Your content is worth paying for. How about a two tier blog with a subscription level that has your personal analysis and recommendations?

  43. TomF says:

    I am happy with the ads and great content!

  44. Barry, isn’t the poor ad served by google a bearish signal for google’s ad biz?

    I think you should try both, and see what works. Making us pay is fine, but I’ll gladly click and view relevant ads. Stuff you promote. I’d think you’d check them out, and if you give it the seal of approval I’d give it serious thought (compared to generic ad pitches).

  45. Frwip says:

    Barry,

    I would start looking at what creates those expenditures and trim without remorse.

    Hosting a mostly static trimmed-down blog should be very low cost. There go most images, the dynamic database server, etc. If it means the comments have to go, then out there go the comment system and the comments. They are actually often quite good, but it’s your blog and the reason to come here is your POV and insights. The freer and the drier, the better. The rest should be regarded as superfluous if it gets in the way.

    But now, if most expenses go into creating the content – editorial assistance, research – then, yes, eek, that’s a tough one.

  46. skeptic says:

    I like your blog because of it’s diversity and eclectic material although I do not always agree with its views. I also like “free” but I understand that nothing is free and that producing the blog is costly both in terms of $$$ and personal time and energy. I don’t find adds offensive as I can always ignore them. Perhaps you should consider a free market test. Try various mechanisms to compensate for the cost and time. That which generates the least dropped subscribers is likely to be the winner. If the winner were a “for fee” subscription, then sadly I would decline.

  47. graphrix says:

    Just tell everyone who biatches about ads to DL Firefox and then to DL the ad blocker. I honestly have no idea what the problems are with ads on your site, because I have never seen them… ever. However, I understand that means it does not generate any revenue to pay the bills (even though I have never clicked on an ad and bought something ever, because they just annoy me and reduce load speed, just something to consider).

    Maybe consider a minimal subscription cost (say $12-$25 a year, as you have enough readers who could afford that if not more) for people like me who never click on ads, but where you provide an incentive of an insightful once month or weekly newsletter exclusively for subscribers. And those who repost the said newsletter within 30 days get their subscription revoked immediately. I don’t love the subscription idea, but if it were affordable and provided an incentive… I’d be down, and I’m sure others would. Maybe an ad free site just for subscribers. Ugh… I just made the cost of the site go up. I’ll stop brainstorming with myself and move on to more recent posts of yours.

  48. intlacct says:

    I’d pay for herpes-related content. Just sayin’

    Seriously, it is a great blog, Barry. The ads disturbeth me not.