GORDON: Ladies and gentlemen, today’s Culture War Correspondence is brought to you by-
-well, we’re going to hash that out in just a second. Our topic tonight is advertising, on this blog specifically.
EVAN: If you all want to check over on our Contact page you’ll see that Michelle, “of BowlingShoes.com, BowlingBags.com, BowlingBalls.com and DiscountBowlingSupply.com” left us an offer to help advertise their products.
This isn’t the first time she’s contacted us either, as she sent the same offer to the blog’s email address, which I thought I replied back when I got it early November but didn’t.
As it stands, I’m going to have to publicly politely refuse her offer, as this blog isn’t the sort of place to find a) bowling paraphernalia reviews or b) other people’s writing. She did help us come to this topic, though, so my thanks to her for that-
GORDON: Which begs the question, of course, if you’d be up for other kinds of advertising here on the blog. What’s your gut reaction to the idea?
EVAN: If I recall correctly, we said we’d consider adding ads to the site after we regularly hit . . . was it 500 daily?
GORDON: I’m afraid I don’t recall that particular conversation. I’m going to presume you’re not opposed to the concept?
EVAN: Well, I’m going to let you all see how the sausage is made and admit that I pay annually for our url. Keeping “www.culturewarreporters.com” year after year has cost me a grand total of $51 thus far.
I certainly wouldn’t mind the site paying back a fraction of what I put into it.
GORDON: Though clearly, you DO have criteria for what you think is and isn’t and appropriate ad for the blog. Could you break that down a bit for us?
EVAN: We definitely did talk about this, but let me refresh your memory and once again grow slightly uncomfortable as I let our readers in on what my plans our for the site.
Ideally what I would like is to set CWR up with Project Wonderful ads. They’re good for both the advertisers, who actually bid for the ad space, and the publishers, with the following explaining why I’m so into it:
“Your site can be earning you money constantly. We take care of the annoying stuff (hosting, statistics, payment, those sorts of things!) while still giving you full control. Choose whose ads appear (and where!) while still being able to cancel ads if you change your mind. It’s a whole new way to do online advertising that’s fast, fun, and basically awesome.”
Having control is pretty key for me, as I don’t want to direct our readers to what I ultimately don’t support myself.
GORDON: Again though, what is it we support?
I mean, the individual writers here at Culture War Reporters all have pretty strong views (perhaps none so more than myself), but we’ve all generally made an effort to avoid claiming any greater agenda. In spite of our sympathies, we don’t seem to have thrown ourselves behind any single banner here.
EVAN: The thing about Project Wonderful is isn’t not big corporations and whatnot, it’s primarily the little guy. So you’ve got t-shirt vendors, webcomics, that sort of thing.
I think that if a small site, similar to ours, wants to pull in the hits and I read up on ’em and see that they’re doing good things then why not-
GORDON: Fair enough.
EVAN: Alright, so I know that you have a particular aversion towards commercials in general, and don’t get me wrong I’ve got AdBlock myself, but how would you prefer they be done?
They’re very much a necessity for businesses, so assuming that they’re not going anywhere what would you like changed? I’m going to say that Hulu’s Ad Tailor is probably a step in the right direction.
GORDON: Honestly, this is a tough question for me. On one hand, yeah, I rail on advertising, but internet ads (barring pop-up windows and the ones that play sound) I view as being about as innocuous as it gets. Honestly, if some company wanted to shell out cash so they could put up a sidebar for everyone to ignore, I don’t know that I’d have any issue with it. Heck, the knowledge that I’m taking money from ’em might even be an incentive for me.
Though maybe you shouldn’t tell ’em I said that.
As far as advertising in general though, I don’t know that I’d ever be able to make peace with it. They say it’s not about selling a product- it’s about selling an experience or a lifestyle. That’s why a yogurt commercial shows more about the pretty (but not TOO pretty) lady in a big, beautiful house with well-behaved kids. It’s why that arthritis medication shows the guy walking by some mountain lake or watching his grandkids play baseball.
EVAN: To everyone out there without experience with Hulu, the streaming site runs each ad asking “Is this ad relevant to you?” This allows you to tailor what ads they run, which I’ve used to set myself up with strictly movie, video game, food, and alcohol commercials.
You don’t have any particular thoughts about that? I’d say that the first two don’t really fit in with your view of advertising as propaganda, though it’s certainly true in many other cases.
GORDON: As far as Hulu goes (and other individually tailored ads, like what Facebook sometimes offers), I can’t comment all that much. I’m a person who avoids buying anything. I don’t eat fast food, I’m not concerned about my dishes shining like the surface of the sun, and I don’t care if my clothes smell like some alpine meadow.
I can’t sing the virtues of “tailored ads” because I don’t think that, for all the data they collect, they’re all that reliable or accurate.
I’d say movies and video games and inherently about experiencing a fantasy, but we’re probably splitting hairs at that point.
EVAN: What I’m trying to say is that when it comes to “art” like movies, video games, other TV shows they are portrayed as is. In other words, you decide whether or not you’re interested in them without them pandering to some sort of life you’re supposed to be living.
From my experience, I never would’ve watched Whites starring Alan Davies without seeing an ad, and I love that show.
GORDON: Hmm- did you see a full-on ad, or was it just recommended as “you might also like…”?
EVAN: It was an actual ad that played in between commercial breaks of whatever it was I was watching, probably brought on because I was watching a lot of British sitcoms at the time.
GORDON: Hm. That’s tricky. It WAS a good show, but if I had to choose between never seeing an ad and missing out on a few shows like that, I don’t know that I’d choose the shows.
EVAN: I’m gonna give you one last chance to chime in on how you’d like ads to be presented, with the hypothetical risk of life being like in the short story “My Flamboyant Grandson” if it isn’t, because we’re almost out of time.
GORDON: Beer commercials.
Probably the only kind out there with a sense of humor and some creativity. I’m not sure if it’s because of how restricted they are, or if they just have good marketing teams, but other than swill like Bud or Coors, I’ve never seen a beer commercial that wasn’t, at the very least, entertaining.
EVAN: I think the minimum concession we can give advertising is that the people behind them are growing progressively more creative, knowing that as a culture we’re not easily impressed.
And now we are officially out of time.
GORDON: Stay tuned for next week’s Fame Day brought to you by Kat and Evan, and don’t forget to drop off a comment below for next week’s discussion topic.
EVAN: Keep us on our toes, y’know? Throw something at us we’re not expecting.
Thanks for reading, everyone, we’re here all week.
Guys, I just had a fantastic idea! Maybe we could get a deal with Coke, Nestle and Nike??? But seriously, I definitely think you should be getting back money for what you have put into this blog Evan.We’re obviously all writing because we love doing it, but you have been paying money, as well as time, to do what you love. Project Wonderful sounds like a great alternative to featuring ads from companies that could contradict many of the values we share on the blog.
I’m rather surprised to see you guys considering ads on the site. I mean, it’s not the end of the world or anything, it’s just surprising. Gordon, when we discussed your post about pornography (https://culturewarreporters.com/2013/08/02/why-im-not-scared-of-porn/) you repeatedly said advertising is worse than pornography so why fight porn when we should focus on the real enemy? I mean, you’ve written about the problems with it before (https://culturewarreporters.com/2013/03/04/some-thoughts-on-advertising/). If I read the sentence “Cradle to grave, confronted by sales pitch after sales pitch- how can that be anything but damaging?” and then my mouse drifts over to a sidebar ad for t-shirts doesn’t that seem a little strange to you?
Now, you might think I am arguing very strongly against advertising on CWR and I’m not. I’m just pointing out the inconsistencies between your posts (mostly Gordon’s) and the inclusion of advertisements. I do however recognize that things cost money in our damnable Capitalist world and there’s really nothing we can do about that. It’s a fact of life. I’d like to think Evan is some billionaire playboy writing from his diamond encrusted penthouse but I know he’s not. I know that at the end of the day the bills have to be paid and faced with a choice between food, rent, and blog domain you’re going to really appreciate a little income to offset the cost.
Here’s just a few thoughts as a reader, as a consumer if you will. Sinfest and SMBC are a few of the other places where I have seen Project Wonderful advertising. One of my biggest frustrations with Sinfest in particular is that I will read a Feminist rant of a comic and then just below it is an ad for a webcomic featuring a degrading image of an overly-sexualized woman. That is terrible. Don’t do that. Feminism and respect for women are common topics on CWR and I would hate to see your advertising undermine you.
Also, on a more personal annoyance note, do not ever feature autoplaying video or audio ads on CWR or I will stop reading. I wish I were joking. Those are the most annoying ads in all of the internet.
I’m really interested in where you guys go from here.
Again, I’m not happy about advertising (as you yourself point out), but with the wonders of AdBlock, it’s not something I have to deal with so much (and hopefully, most readers won’t either). At the end of the day though, Evan is shelling out cash for the blog and if we can make this thing at least self-sustaining, that’s gonna ensure we can keep on doing this down the road. Internet advertising, though still advertising, is probably as innocuous as it gets- it’s not blocking out the sky with some billboard or running a two minute clip on how eating Cheerios is on par with having your dead grandmother back.
I just want to point out to everyone who might be reading this comments section that running AdBlock effectively prevents the sites you’re visiting from receiving any revenue from the ads they host. That being said, I’ve made sure to disable it on any site I truly want to support with my visits.
Also, Gordon specifically, you can’t call it a “two minute clip” when it’s clearly 31 seconds.
And they can’t call it “like having nana back”.
I will not disagree with you on that for a second.
Just a few things.
First of all, AdBlock does keep you from earning anything. So if your logic is “ads are fine because they are optional” you are being kind of self-defeating.
Also, I still want to state that you should make sure your ads never undermine your message. Here are some project wonderful ads that I hope not to see on CWR:
Gordon, while it’s true these ads don’t block out the sky (only distract on the sidebar) it’s not true that they don’t try to manipulate you emotionally. That’s what advertising is. It’s not selling you a product, it’s selling you an emotion and a dream. I’m hoping you really do have a very high level of control and can keep an eye on whatever ads get used on your site.
I do hope you guys can reach a state of self-sufficiency.
As to what you should discuss next I will pretty much always say gaming.
I would love to see a discussion about Steam, particularly Steam sales. EA, Notch, GoG, and several others have said that Steam sales reduce or dilute the perceived value of games and therefore hurt developers and engender a gaming community that holds games in contempt. The whole “why would I pay full price when it will be %75 off at Christmas?” attitude. I’m most interested in regards to video games and Steam but this could really apply the sale of any product. Do you agree? Disagree? Thoughts?
More where they came from if you want them.
I’d be interested in hearing you guys talk about Christmas- traditions, pitfalls, Krampus. You know, the usual. 🙂
That reminds me that I’m going to have to figure when to announce the annual CWR Christmas hiatus, and for how long to give us a break.
Here’s a Christmas post I wrote from 2011 to tide you over until we start to address that particular topic: https://culturewarreporters.com/2011/12/22/a-sinterklaas-celebration-and-sensitivity/
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